I’m alive and kicking after Friday’s surgery, and I’m sure you’re super excited to hear all about my biopsy excitements … yay!
Last Week, on Lumps & Bumps … I talked about finding my breast lump, seeing the GP, going for an ultrasound scan, and our panic/don’t panic Cancer culture. Fast-forwarding a couple of months now, I was generally just avoiding the whole left-boob-area entirely. Apart from anytime I was in the company of female friends who, I would insist, had to have a grope, so they’d know what to look for themselves.
Aside from me being just a bit inappropriate on several social occasions (on a summer holiday, the entire female front of the boyfriend’s family had a feel, cousins included) I genuinely wanted to flaunt the lump as much as possible. I had had NO idea before what a lump would be like, and (I’m sure others can sympathise) had experienced the occasional almost-mistaking-a-mammary-gland-for-a-lump error. But honestly, once you feel it, there ain’t no mistaking it. And I wanted everyone to feel it. I didn’t want anyone else to make my pea-to-olive mistake when it could turn into something nasty.
Before going on, I want to add in a short ‘from experience list’ at this point.
My ‘from experience’ list of lump related trivia, which should not cause you panic:
- If you find a breast lump, you shouldn’t necessarily panic.
- If your breast lumps grows to the point where you can see it popping out of your skin, you shouldn’t necessarily panic.
- If your breast lump hurts like a bitch, you shouldn’t necessarily panic
- Sub-bullet-point: the female hormone cycle is a wonderful and mysterious thing. My lump could predict when I was about to start my period, and would kindly let off what I termed ‘burning rays’ to warn me. Karen Smith’s rain predicting boobs ain’t got nothing on my lump.
- If your breast lump hurts when you exercise, you shouldn’t necessarily panic.
- Sub-bullet-point: I had to take to wearing two bras when running in order to strap the bastard down. It was link the double bounce effect. Like shaking a tin with a Ping-Pong ball inside it. Except the tin is my boob and the ball my lump, and the tin has the ability to feel pain.
- If you start drawing funny faces on your lump and moving your boob around so it looks like an alien poking out of your skin, you shouldn’t necessarily panic, but you should probably reassess your life.
- Note: I never did this. But now I wish I had.
Back to chronology: a couple of months on and I gave myself another scare moment. Looking in the mirror one day after a shower, I noticed my boob seemed more blue than it had previously.
It was the vein over the lump which was being pushed to the surface by the lump’s rapid growth, which I’d hitherto ignored. It no longer felt like my friendly neighbourhood Sicilian olive, more like a small fig; but rounder, more perfectly formed. It had only been a couple of months and I’d been sure to touch it as little as possible (apart from those educational sessions) because of what the doctor had last said.
My GP trip had little use, but referred me straight away to the consultant. I kept myself calm this time, reminding myself that I’d had the scan, and they’d said it wasn’t cancer from that. So I casually sauntered to the hospital after work one day for my appointment, sandwiching what I thought would be a quick check between end of the day and dinner with a friend. What I very much wasn’t prepared for was the look on the consultant’s face when felt the lump. The subsequent tape measure didn’t help either. He confirmed it had doubled in as many months which was (queue those ever comforting words): “not normal”. The way in which he ran down the corridor after me to make sure I went back to his office after the tests also put the fear of god into me.
So chilled Charley turns into chicken Charley who wants to cry and can’t understand why her Mum isn’t there to hold her hand. I was taken straight down the hall to see another doctor who would perform a second ultrasound. This ultrasound apparently wasn’t enough, and while they had me lying down and topless, they thought they might as well perform a biopsy.
By the way, I’m not so fond of needles.
They explained the procedure, which would involve making a small incision in my skin, and then poking down what she described as a ‘small tube’ into the centre of the lump, then extracting a sample from it. She called it a core biopsy, but I’ve also seen it written as ‘needle biopsy’ or a ‘tru cut biopsy’. I like the sound of the last one – it sums up what they told me it would achieve – the most accurate results possible.Needle biopsy (from Cancer Research UK website): Needle biopsy is also called a core biopsy or Tru Cut biopsy. You may have this test under a local anaesthetic. The anaesthetic numbs the area and allows the doctor to take a core of tissue from the lump using a needle that is the same thickness as a pencil lead. In this type of biopsy the pathologist can see the cells in place within the piece of breast tissue that has been removed. So it is possible to tell a non invasive cancer (DCIS) from invasive breast cancer with this test. It can also show how abnormal the cancer cells are (the grade) and whether they have receptors for hormones or particular treatments.
It starts with a local anaesthetic, which is just an injection into the area. Then, after the incision, I assume the tube is inserted. I have no idea, since I kept my eyes closed the entire time, and hummed a medley a Disney tunes, whilst the doctor repeated asked if I was ok. “I’m fine” – the constant reply through gritted teeth. “Fuck off – I’m not fine – You’ve put a tube in my boob and my mummy isn’t here. Also I’m going to die of breast cancer and I only just a job I really like. Leave me alone. Let me pretend I’m in Disneyland at least.”
The next part, for which I’m eternally grateful to the doctor, was the demonstration. Again, with eyes shut throughout the ordeal I can’t tell you what was going on visually, but the doctor told me that she’d be using a ‘gun’ to ‘suck out’ the ‘extract’.
I know, these doctors, they really do have a way with words, don’t they?
But before she did it on me, she pulled the trigger (I can only assume there was a trigger, since she called it a gun) to demonstrate the noise. “This will stop you wiggling,” she said. I think she meant would stop me from jumping off the bed in shock, because the noise was loud. Very loud. It kind of sounded like a gunshot. If you have a have such a biopsy, try and bear this in mind, and if you can ask for a demonstration before they do it. If not the noise is very likely to startle you, and the list thing you want to do is ‘wriggle’ – that’ll be quite painful.
After three shots of gun, it was over, and everything was removed. I thought I’d done a jolly good job of not crying, when the nurse then leant on my boob with what felt like her entire body mass. I could tell she felt very bad about the situation, but the doctor kept assuring us that it was only thing that would help stop the bruising. I honestly don’t know if this is true or down to my mental powers of displacement from reality, but that was the most painful part of the whole thing. The bruising is pretty bad and lasts quite a while – I was all shades of the rainbow for about a month – but hey, if you’re going to go into battle, then you do want a battle scar to show off, right? The whole thing took about 15 minutes, with the needle being in for just over 5 probably. But honestly, the time flies by if you close your eyes and imagine you’re in Disneyland.
I toppled out of this extended appointment and right into the arms of my poor friend Fran, whom I was meant to be having dinner with that night. We missed dinner, but she immediately plied me with a large glass of wine, and lots of hugs. She was most definitely the next best thing to having a Mum’s hand to hold.
Luckily for me, the fantastic news came back that it was *still* a fibroadenoma, although now termed a GIANT FIBROADENOMA! My body doesn’t do things by halves, obviously, and that’s just another joyful piece of doctor terminology to add to the ever-expanding list.
And so what do we learn from this weeks lesson, class? All together now – Don’t panic! I had another week between having the biopsy and hearing the results, which was just another week in which both myself and my family were exposed to the mind-numbing dread of the C word. Next time I can give you all kinds of awesome tips on how to deal with post-surgery-boob, since I’m quite the expert now.
Keep checking your lumps and bumps ladies! And go visit the wonderful people at Coppafeel, who we met at the Lingerie Awards.