Nine days ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer (an apparently small, early stage tumour, but cancer all the same); three days earlier I discovered I was pregnant.
Both were completely unexpected. For the past six weeks I’d been told by every medical professional I’d seen that the small cyst they had found in my breast was nothing to be concerned about, and indeed very common in women in their forties.
In fact, the radiologist I was referred to for a second biopsy was extremely reluctant to do it at all. “I don’t know why you’ve been referred,” she said. Had she read my notes she’d have seen that an earlier, needle biopsy had found a few potentially dodgy cells, and that was why a bigger sample had been requested.
When you’re lying semi-naked on an examination table the last thing you feel like doing is insisting that someone sticks quite a large needle in your already sore breast and takes out more bits of you (even if it is under a local anaesthetic). To have to ask someone to do it three times before they assent is a bloody nightmare.
Good thing I did though, because a week later I had a call from the specialist nurse saying that the dodgy cells were looking dodgier (still nothing to worry about though), and I needed a third biopsy, this time a vacuum assisted one. I kept thinking of a Dyson.
I was furious. I felt completely misled by the doctor who had (eventually) done the second biopsy, and appalled at the thought at what could have happened if I had been less bolshy that afternoon.
One of the things that has struck me most over the past few weeks is the importance of communicating effectively with people when you are telling them that they potentially have a serious condition (no surprise there), and how completely rubbish some of the medical professionals I have come into contact with are at it.
Anyway, the vacuum biopsy was not as awful as it might sound, and I felt pretty confident that that would be it. I thought I would try and forget about it until my appt with the consultant ten days later.
It was then I realised I hadn’t had a period for a while. I put it down to the stress of the past month and resolved to do a pregnancy test in the extremely unlikely event that my period didn’t start in the next few days. It didn’t, so I dashed to Boots at lunchtime next day to buy a test.
I did the test in the loos at work. It was positive and I couldn’t believe it. Three days later I went for the results of my biopsy. I had a small but malignant tumour and they wanted to remove whatever the vacuum biopsy hadn’t already sucked out.