A lot of hands have been groping at my breasts lately. And I’m not talking about my husband’s. Sometimes the world sends you plenty of signals that there’s something you need to do, so I did it, and suddenly my breasts are the focus of much attention. Here’s why.
Recently I’ve been surrounded by health issues. First there were stories of loss from heart disease at the St Vincent’s Hospital fundraiser. Then there was the farewell for Sam Johnson as he set off on his epic uni-cycle ride around Australia in support of his sister, Connie, who is suffering breast cancer. (Please donate at www,loveyoursister.org) Read Sam’s diaries there too – his words are truly inspiring, not to mention funny! And finally, a story about a young woman who died from cancer two weeks ago. She’d been engaged to get married but didn’t live long enough to make it to the altar so was dressed in her bridal gown at her funeral. That made me weep and I didn’t even know her.
Enough already. I realised it was time. I wasn’t completely sure when I’d last had a full health check, but it must have been more than ten years ago. And I’d never had a mammogram. (Thanks Sam for reminding us all to be ‘breast aware’) So I made an appointment with my local GP and the process began.
Dr Steve did the usual stuff – blood pressure, a long list of health questions and a urine test on the spot. Then there were referrals for a lung test (spirometry test) and blood test, to check liver, kidneys and cholesterol. Then he asked if I’d checked my breasts lately. I felt foolish saying ‘no’, but to be honest, it just isn’t something that occurs to me, despite knowing how important it is and hearing the constant reminders through advertising and health awareness programs.
Up on the table, he said and an examination got underway. I babbled away incessantly to distract myself from the embarrassment, but never for a moment thinking anything was likely to be wrong. So it was a little bit of a shock when he said that I should have a mammogram to investigate an ‘IRREGULARITY’ in my left breast.
AN IRREGULARITY???? REALLY??? What the frickin’ hell does that mean in real language? He reassured me it was ‘unlikely’ to be anything serious, but it was worth checking out.
Years of working under stressful situations as a newsreader or on the road as a journalist in terrifying situations have at least stood me in good stead in one regard. I’m well-trained at not panicking. Staying cool, calm and collected. On the outside.
On the inside, it’s a different matter. Nodding to Dr Steve and smiling, I said I was sure it would be fine, thanked him for being so thorough and left. Inside my head, thought patterns were going crazy at a million miles an hour.
There’s lots of questions you have to deal with internally. Should you tell anyone? It’s only an irregularity anyway and you don’t want family or friends to be alarmed for no reason. So I didn’t even tell Fletch for two days. I preferred trying to ignore the whole business. The timing was difficult too. I’d seen Dr Steve on a Friday and wasn’t able to have a mammogram till the following Wednesday. That meant FIVE full days of torturous ‘WHAT IF’ lines running through my brain like a broken record.
Having the actual mammogram was better than I’d expected. The sweet young girl putting me through my paces at the Cabrini Hospital in Brighton was warm and sympathetic and explained the process well. It still didn’t stop me feeling affronted when she did what she had to do – squeezing my boobs into place in the steel machine. Very unsexy. She then forewarned me not to be upset if she needed to ask for a second opinion, as that was quite common after the pictures had been taken.
Despite her explanation, of course I feared the worst when she frowned slightly and said in an over-bright voice, ‘Just going to check with the doctor. I’ll be back in a jiffy!’ It was a very long jiffy. One that I felt sure would seal my fate as a cancer victim.
After the mammogram, there was an ultrasound with another doctor. This would be the third person to manhandle my breasts. You really do start to feel like it’s open slather on your boobs. I thought about walking down the hospital corridor with an open shirt, calling on anyone who wanted to cop a feel, to go ahead.
For the ultrasound, a male doctor rubbed gel over my breasts before using a cold steel probe to circulate and look for what those ‘irregularities’ really meant. He ummed and ahhed, but said it seemed the patch under concern seemed to be showing a couple of tiny cysts that were nothing to worry about. I started to feel relieved but also wished he could try sounding a little more positive.
When all was done, I was sent on my way after being told I was ‘probably’ in the clear. For me, ‘probably’ was good, but not good enough. I was keen to hear the final verdict from Dr Steve. That meant waiting another day until he received the results from the hospital.
The upshot is this. Dr Steve thinks that I’m probably okay. God, I hate that word. But he does want me to see another breast specialist. Really, I said? I mean, if the mammogram is clear, then I’m okay, right? Why do I need yet ANOTHER doctor to be groping my frickin’ breasts? Well, it will make ME feel okay, he said. Great. So I’m off to ANOTHER boob man in two weeks. That’s how long it takes to get in to see a specialist.
So that’s why I haven’t been blogging so much lately. I’ve busy hanging out with my boobs. I’m sure we’ll be okay, but I will let you know, hopefully FOR SURE, in a couple of weeks.