Those three words... Is it cancer? From the moment you find that lump in the shower. The second before you make that call to the doctors. The days that follow before your appointment. To being referred to a specialised unit. Those three words compacted into one question have the ability to change everything.
The month of December, in the run-up to Christmas started perfectly normal. Stressful, yes. But normal. I had a little bit of last minute shopping to do, a few more gifts to wrap and was working my arse off at work so I could enjoy the festive break. There was nothing I couldn't cope with... Then it happened. I found a breast lump. An innocent check in the shower; which I'll be the first to admit I did not do half as often I should have been doing, turned quite quickly into "WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO?!" Apologies for the language. But I think eloquent thinking kind of goes out of the window in situations like these. So there I was, trying to make the decision of whether to ignore it and just hope that it was hormones doing their thing; after all, I am only 23 and still developing (right?!) or admit to myself I knew it was weird and it needed checking. I knew I had to go for the latter.
There is no way to really sugarcoat the whole experience that followed. I haven't cried as much as I had over those two weeks in a really, really long time. I genuinely thought I'd make the appointment with my GP, I'd be seen and be told it was nothing to worry about it and be sent on my way. I mean what do I know about what is normal and what's not when it comes to boobs? For crying out loud, I'm the girl with no boobs. But that didn't happen. He confirmed there was a 2cm stationary lump and it needed to be investigated further. The unit I was being referred to was described as a one-stop clinic; meaning they would go through all stages of what they needed to check there and then and you would receive all your results within a day. And, it was only a two week referral time. Why do some complain about the NHS again?!
So as I stood at the reception desk, with the referral slip in hand waiting to book my appointment, those three words popped up again. This time, I couldn't stop the tears I'd manage to hold together when I was in the GP's office. On my own, overwhelmed with the idea that in less than two weeks time there is a small chance I might be told I have the big C and there's nothing I could do about it. Those who I told offered to come with me, but I refused all offers. To take someone with me would suggest there was something I needed to be supported for and I was sure I would be in and out and it would all be over as quick as it had begun. But of course, those two weeks from the first appointment to your referral begin to take its toll. When you suffer from anxiety, giving you time to overthink is never going to be a good thing. Those three words. When I was in my car on my way to work. Having a laugh with friends. Watching the TV. Before I went to sleep. Those three words just wouldn't leave me alone. When you receive the letter in the post with the date of your appointment the word cancer is sprawled across the pages. I understand it's to prepare you for the worst; because there is a possibility of that being the final result from the checks you receive on the day, but it's still an unbelievably scary prospect to be faced with on paper. I had been holding it together in front of everyone, projecting the attitude of "it is what it is, I'll take it as it comes" and I just couldn't do it anymore. The night before my appointment I had completely unraveled. It was a week before Christmas, I wanted to be happy and looking forward to spending time with loved ones and instead, I was consumed with fear. I didn't want to be strong anymore, I just wanted the problem to kindly fuck off. I would cry and then stop. Then those three words would come back and I would cry again. It was time to let someone come with me. Regardless of the outcome, you need someone for support.
My GP had given me the impression that the first stage they would take would be to attempt to drain the lump; as it may be a cyst, and if it was to disappear immediately then I would be done and could be on my way. So after waiting an hour with posters plastered around the room with the word cancer screaming at you from every angle, to be seen and told I needed to be a radiographer when I returned I was a little overwhelmed and had another breakdown. By this stage, the waiting room was filled with women of all ages; some who evidently had cancer, those coming for further scans after beating cancer and individuals like myself, waiting to find out what the hell was going on. Needless to say, it's a place I never ever want to find myself sitting in again. Even talking about it now is making me feel nauseous. Four hours went by, I had my scan and luckily my lump wasn't anything that needed further investigation and I could breathe a sigh of relief.
Now, you might be thinking after all of this why would you waste time writing this post? And you're somewhat right. I'll be honest, I didn't really know if I was ever going to find the words to write this post. I mean really, how do you explain to the worldwide web that you had a cancer scare? I know I'm not the first person to go through this process and I certainly won't be the last. But awareness is everything. What if I hadn't been so lucky and had just left it? Then what? When it comes to cancer, your age is just a number. The importance of checking your body regularly is just so important. It can save your life.