As a woman we face so many challenges. We give birth, we breast feed, we suffer through mastitis. We raise families, we break glass ceilings of prejudice. We fight stereotypes and demand equal rights to men. We get breast cancer and ovarian cancer. That's where my pen stops. I have recently been faced with the frightening process of biopsies and mammograms. Of waiting for results and worrying. Of being terrified of what could be. What if I have breast cancer? What if I died and left my four children motherless? What if I have to get chemo and undergo radio therapy? These terrifying possibilities have haunted me for the last 6 months as I found lumps in my breast. "Oh by the way," I told my doctor, "can I get a referral for a mammogram?" I brought up casually,"I found a lump." Little did I know the next 6 months would send me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. A ride that took me and my family to the depths of despair and the heights of joy. Ultrasounds, biopsies, fine needle and core follow. The waiting for results, "be ready", the Dr warned, because if they are cancer, you will need an emergency mastectomy on Monday. It was Thursday.
The lumps are benign; "Let's follow up in 6 months." The Doctor advises me as he gratefully closes the door on that chapter. Breast cancer, access denied! Yay team Sisi!
Then I toddled back to my pristine life, no mastectomy needed here I told the powers that be. Grateful and relieved to the point of giddiness. Best news of my life.
Three months later standing in my doctors office in tears. The water from my eyes pouring down my face; I had found blood coming out of my nipple.
The terror came back. The fear of cancer, of dying and leaving my family came flooding back. More tests, more ultrasounds, more painful tests. They found a papilloma with atypical cells. these particular lumps are suspicious and seen as precancerous; they are usually removed.
Surgery.They also found calcifications that would need a special kind of biopsy called a mammotome biopsy.
I needed to be admitted into hospital and wait in a waiting room with women in a similar position to mine. Women who had been stolen from their normal lives to sit in a pastel room wearing a hospital gown thinking anything but pastel thoughts. My mum came with me and kept me company (please read kept me from rocking in the foetal position in the corner) while the lady next to me regaled me on all of the religious reliquaries that she had in her bag. I didn't have Jesus in my bag, I made a mental note to get something religiously inspirational for my bag, like a bottle of semillon blanc.
I finally get called in and lay on a bed, put the boob in question in a hole and hold very still while they administer a local anaesthetic and prepare to squish my boob in a vice and drill it with a suctioning cutting blade in a tube. There's a nurse there to stop me from going crazy and trying to get up. Don't worry I wasn't moving!! I finished that procedure, walked into the waiting room and proceeded to blanch as pale as the pastel puke walls. I shook so hard I couldn't talk.
I talk to the surgeon, everything has gone numb, my mind, my emotions. I should be relieved but I am going to have surgery to remove the papilloma and will lose a large portion of my breast. "Cut it out" I said, "I don't need it!" In truth my kids needed me more than I needed my entire upper ductal system. I was outwardly stoic and inwardly bereft. I talk a good game! Real tough but I am scared of surgery, of losing half my breast.
I don't have cancer and that is the best news I could hope for, but to reduce the risk of developing ductal carcinoma in the future, ol' lefty has to go under the knife. Cancer, even in its absence has left its mark on me, indelible, irrevocable.
That part of me that I associate as being inherently female is being scrutinized and dissected. My fear is I will walk out less. Stupid I know. Beauty is not dependant on whether I have both breasts intact. I get that. I love my body for all its bumps. For the children it has bore me and nourished. But I love my children and my husband and my life much more than those lumps, calcifications, cysts and bad cells.
There have been so many women affected by cancer and who have lost their lives and left jagged holes in their families where they belonged. I will not be one of them.
I'm grateful to have the choice of early detection.
Prevention is the cure!
So get grabbing and make sure you know your boob as more than just the hunk of flesh that you roll on when you're in bed or the accessories you wear when you go out. Get to know every Rocky Mountain and valley of those babies and have mammograms and be VIGILANT!
Peace people. I will get over this hurdle and I pray for those faced with worse. As my beautiful father used to say, whatever you're going through, this too shall pass. Hang in there and love and light to you all. Xx Sisi