Come with me to spring 2009. I was in my final year at university studying chemical engineering. In particular, I was in the middle of my research project. This project is a big deal. However, around this time, I happened to notice a lump in my breast. I can’t remember how I found it, if I went looking for it or if I stumbled on it, but I found it. Cue in dress and fear and everything else you can think off. I knew very little about lumps then and to me it had to be cancer. I tried to stay calm about but mulled over it and did nothing about it for weeks (I do not recommend this approach by the way).
Eventually, I decided to stop wondering what if and do something about it. I went to see my doctor who confirmed it was a lump and referred me to Royal Marsden Hospital (closest breast specialist to my university). This cued in even more fear on my path! So, I called my mum who is a nurse back in Nigeria. She tried her best not to panic and went on to ask me a whole load of questions about the lump. Is it mobile? Does it hurt? Is it smooth? How big is it? The trouble was, I couldn’t immediately tell if my answers to those questions gave her comfort or not. Eventually she told me not to worry and it sounds like it is not cancerous but to let her know how he appointment goes.
So, appointment day arrives and my aunt accompanied me. She is a pharmacist. To be honest, I find it helps to have someone medical / knows about medicine to go to such appointments with you, they tend to know the right questions to ask, especially if you were clueless like me at that time. After the consultant checked for the lump, she decided she would like to do a biopsy on the same day to definitely rule out cancer. I don’t think I had the time to be scared it was just kind of a is this really happening situation for me. The biopsy was unpleasant but I wasn’t uncomfortable for a long time as it happened very quickly and I was given local anaesthetic. We were told to come back in a couple of hours for the result so we went to a local cafe for lunch.
My aunt prayed with me and try to distract me from thinking about it. Two hours couldn’t go any slower if it tried! We got back to see the consultant and thankfully, she confirmed the lump was not cancerous. However, due to the size of the lump, I could either take it out or leave it in. In my mind I wanted to leave it in because the doctor had confirmed it was harmless so why bother. My mum wasn’t having it. I had a lecture over the phone about how my body is not meant to have lumps in it so why leave it in there. She then went on to say if you are concerned about what your husband (or did she say boyfriend, I don’t remember now) would think, then he is not meant for you if he has issues with the scar you will have on your breast. I ignored that statement because there was no way I was having that conversation with my mum! Lol.
We booked an appointment to have it removed. It was going to be a day surgery under general anaesthetic. My dad was able to fly in from Nigeria to be with me along with my aunt during the procedure. I once again pushed it out of my mind as much as possible. I took a week off university to get this done and recover, I so one realised I didn’t need that long. The procedure went well and I was home before I knew it. The scar also healed nicely, you wouldn’t realise I had a scar except you took a double take. I went back for a check out and everyone was happy with progress.
Fast forward three years and it was back. Oh no, not again. This time as a newly wed I just couldn’t be bothered to go through it all again. However, my husband being a doctor was in the same boat as my mum and so I went through the whole process again. This time I knew what to expect and it took a similar number of days to recover.
So why the reason I have just shared this with you is to let you know you won’t be alone if you find a lump. I have friends who have had similar experiences as I did, we are #teamlumpybreast. It is not sexy I know but I guess the doctors/consultants can’t help themselves and use that term to describe our breast when they are checking us. I remember at the last ultrasound I had, the lady told me that if she were to pick 5 random ladies and did an ultrasound on their breast, she will find one person with a lump in hers.
Ofcourse I know not all lumps will be bening like mine were and that is what often stops some women from checking their breasts or going for check ups. What I would like to say however is this, the chances of cancer being treated is higher if it is caught early. So please check your breasts regularly or have it checked by your doctor if you do not know how to do this. You can click here for tips available on the NHS website on how to check your breast.
I hope this blog will encourage you to check yours and you in turn will encourage a friend to do the same. Accompany each other for appointments if that’s what it takes or ask your partner to come along with you or check for you. Ignorance is not bliss, be pro-active about it.
Good luck and feel free to tell us about your experience.