Testing testing 123

Wednesday 28th August 2013

I didn't get a call from the Linda Mccartney centre so I rang them on Tuesday.

They explained that they don't have a breast clinic on a Tuesday but gave me a time to go in the next day.

So I did.

Filled with trepidation, but still full of hope, I entered the LM centre for the first time. And saw heads (plastic obviously) in a glass cabinet. Bald heads with scarves tied round them in a variety of ways (none of which appealed to me btw. I would look ridiculous)

Getting the lift to the 3rd floor a woman not much older than me, with hair clearly in the early stages of regrowth, got in after us. I told myself that I was only here because it's "protocol". Only here to have my abscess confirmed. Nothing more. Nothing less.

My old fears returned as David and I took our seats in the waiting room.

"They won't find anything else will they?" I asked him

He squeezed my hand "Of course not. They just have to rule everything out"

"Okay" I said and turned back to the TV showing BBC News 24

A few minutes later (this part of the NHS works well) I was escorted to a second waiting area in which a few women in gowns were already seated.  David wasn't allowed into this bit. It's women only on test days.

I was shown to a changing room which had a bench, a pile of wire shopping baskets and a stack of gowns.  I was told to strip to the waist, put on a gown "like a jacket" and take a seat with the other ladies.

Hmmmm no problem with the gown on like a jacket thing. Makes sense, I thought, to open at the front. Easy access and all that. No unnecessary delays in the test room. 

Tying the damn thing, however, is an art that I have yet to master. They should have mannequins of these things in the foyer not bloody heads i thought. Maybe a few different styling options you could try out before you got your own gown.

I eventually settled on what I call "The Kaftan" and emerged, triumphant, from my changing room. I half hoped the other women might congratualte me on my handy work and offer such praise as "nice gown work" or "love what you've done with the back" but, alas, no.

I was a little unsure about what to do with the shopping basket so I followed suit and kept it by my feet.

As the women were called into side rooms they took their baskets, filled with handbags,coats and umbrellas, with them. I looked down at my basket at the T-shirt forlornly lining the bottom and....nothing else. Oh God this is hideous, I thought, why don't I just carry the T-Shirt? Is it too late to put the basket back? Does it have some, as yet unrevealed, other purpose? I fluff up my T-Shirt in a bid to make my basket necessary. It doesn't work so I ignore it.

I curse myself for travelling light as me and my basket make our way to a side room.

A nurse asks my symptoms so I tell my story of the abscess and how i'm just here as a precautionary measure. She asks if I have any family history of breast cancer. I tell her my nan on my dad's side died of it but hastily add that she was 62. She said that wouldn't put me at any greater risk of cancer. I said "okay".

She then asked me to get on the bed and had me remove my gown whilst i bent forward so she could look for any irregularities. 

Feeling rather ridiculous I tried to take myself off to my "happy place" but then realised I didnt actually have one so I just willed her to hurry up. A further physical examination of the abscessed boob and I was done..

Or so I thought

"All signs suggest it's an abscess but theres a bit of swelling underneath so we'll just see how big it is and maybe drain it. We'll need to do an ultrasound"

"Hmmmmm" I thought "Drain it. That sounds painful. Maybe by the time they send me an appointment through the anti-biotics will have kicked in and I won't need it draining"

Feeling hopeful that I would have seen the abscess off before they could book me in to be lanced the nurse spoke again'

"If you just take a seat back in the waiting room we will sort your ultra-sound"

"Today?" I asked

"Yes we're not busy so you shouldn't be here too long"

Dammit to hell, I thought, as I refastened my kaftan, picked up my basket and went back to the waiting area.

Ten minutes later I found myself on the bed in the ultrasound room with a doctor looking at images of my left breast on the screen. I craned my head to my right to look at the screen myself then realised i didn't have a clue what i was looking at so went back to staring at the ceiling. Silence.

God, I thought, I really need a happy place.

"Ok", the doctor said "this is the abscess. We can drain a lot of that off today and send a sample to the labs to make sure we treat it with the right anti-biotics"

"There's an area under here though" she gestured to the lower part of my breast on the screen "that i'm not sure about. We'll just take a sample and give it to the lab for testing. Should get the results back in about an hour. If you come back up at about eleven we should have the results then"

And that's how it all began.

Ten minutes later I was down in the foyer cafe perched on a high stool with a cup of tea trying not to look at the heads in the cabinet. I stared ahead,a little numb and bewildered, and read "Linda McCartney Centre". Christ, I thought, this place exists because she lost her fight against breast cancer and this is her legacy to the City. I don't belong here. I'm 36. I'm not even from Liverpool for God's sake (I'm a Mancunian and moved here to be with David)

Speaking of David he had to go to a previously arranged appointment but was on his way back. So I waited. And I watched. And I convinced myseld that this wasnt my destiny. I wasnt going to be coming here for months to learn how to tie a scarf round my head.

I was a working mum, I had a 4 month old baby. Of course my breasts would be lumpy. Its common after giving birth. Dr Google said so.

David returned. I had a little cry, pulled myself together and took the lift back to the 3rd floor.

Half an hour later I was back in my kaftan with my T-shirt in my hand. Basket be damned. 

I went back in the ultrasound room and was told my test result was "inconlusive" that the sample wasn't big enough and that they needed to take more.

First there would be a mammogram to see if that gave any more detail.

Having never had a mammogram before I think I coped rather well with having my right breast squished to the size of a pancake in a vice like contraption.

My left breast was quite a different kettle of fish. Imagine, if you will, a severely abscessed breast being squeezed from above and below with the mammographer saying "just a bit more. just a bit more". Bearing in mind I was stood up for this torture I had visions of me fainting and being held up by my breast alone. God the shame of that thought alone got me through this horrendous procedure and i was secretly pleased when my infected boob leaked on her expensive machine as she finally released me.

Back in the ultrasound room the word "biopsy" was mentioned. I was injected with local anaesthetic and the sonographer took several samples of tissue from the afore-mentioned area with a clicky needle that I could feel but that didn't hurt.

She told me there would almost certainly be some bruising afterwards but the pain should be manageable with painkillers.

And that was it. 

She told me the results clinic was on a Friday but that my results wouldn't be available the coming Friday and that it would be Friday 6th September.

I said "Okay" but inside I was devastated. I just wanted to get back out to David and wail about the unfairness of it all, about how i would never last ten days, that I could barely make it through the next ten minutes.

And I put my T-Shirt back on, went back to where David was waiting, summonsed the lift and that's what i did.

I sat on a bench outside the LM centre and I put my head on his chest and I cried and cried.

Then we went home.

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Latest comments

20.12 | 20:45

Hi Dave,
Thanks for the kind words.
I did indeed work in North Cyprus back in the day - Turkbet?
Donna

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18.12 | 11:06

Hi Donna, remarkable, uplifting and inspiring read.
Did you ever work in North Cyprus around 10 years ago?
Dave

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15.10 | 17:15

Hi Donna, you are so inspiring. I have just had my 2nd mastectomy 8 days ago out of choice, first one was 5 months earlier as small cancer found.well done you

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30.09 | 15:12

well done for finishing EPI!

I can't send a longer response on here but would like to share my experience of CMF at dvfox76@aol.com or the forum on macmillan.

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