Breast cancer lesson 166: Why we’re all allowed a wobble

When I said goodbye to active treatment, I remember being told that there would come a time when I would feel the fear. There would come a time when I would obsess over a breast change, worry about a persistent cough or be reduced to tears by a headache. While I felt positive at the time, I remember thinking that I knew the day would come. The thing is, I didn’t expect it to come so quickly.

I guess it comes from the fact that, while I love the bits I have left, I no longer trust my body. In January, I felt fit, well and happy – and we all know how that played out. Roll the clock forward ten months and I have just spent the morning at the breast clinic hoping and praying that the firm bit of fat I can feel just above my left breast is nothing more than a firm bit of fat.

I knew it would be nothing and it was – fat tissue and a rib bone I can feel more because the chemo weight has dropped off. But, a little part of me was scared it might have been something more sinister. And, that fear is not something I would wish on anyone. I have just started to get my life back. Curveballs aren’t part of the plan!

I am slightly embarrassed to admit though (especially given I deliver talks about breast awareness and the importance of knowing what’s normal) that I was more worried about wasting hospital time than I was getting checked out. I didn’t want to be typed as someone petrified of the future, because I’m not. What I failed to realise though is that, after all I’ve been through, feeling the fear and questioning your body is not just a natural reaction, it’s pretty much expected.

Today wasn’t just about fear though. A trip to the breast unit brought with it the memory of a cold Friday back in January. Today, I wasn’t just seeing my amazing surgeon and breast nurse. Today, I saw the window ledge where I tried to get mobile reception to call my parents that day. Today, I saw the room in which I was originally told I might have cancer. Today, I sat in a waiting room surrounded by frightened faces. Today, the experiences of the last ten months came flooding back. And, I had to draw on every little bit of strength I had not to let them back in.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I ended up having a bonus arm measurement (part of the clinical trial), which put me at ease and was the source of much banter (even if I ended up having to undress twice and flash my knickers in the mirror at the end of the examination table). I also came away having had my boobs examined and my left boob scanned so I feel like I’ve had a bonus thorough check-up, which is really reassuring.

As I left the hospital all I was focused on was how I had wasted everyone’s time (they were all so nice to me) and how I was desperately in need of a biology lesson. Then I realised that this emotion is the exact emotion that stops women going to the doctors when they feel something, the exact emotion that prevents some women being diagnosed at a treatable stage. And it is the exact emotion I will try not to feel ever again. Today is was nothing. But, why should I ever take the risk? My team didn’t mind – and nor should I.

So if you’re reading this and you’re sitting on something you need to get checked out (boobs or otherwise) make Monday the day you pick up the phone. Don’t let anything stand in your way!

7 thoughts on “Breast cancer lesson 166: Why we’re all allowed a wobble

  1. Over the years, Dr. Goggle and I have self-diagnosed lung cancer, ankle cancer, foot cancer, hand cancer, and a brain tumour. When one part of your body fails, it’s not hard to believe other parts will fail to. Dr. Google and I are finally learning not to self diagnose (until the next time a bone breaks or a new pain arises).

    1. Thanks for posting Sharon and so sorry to hear you have had the fear on many occasions. I completely understand why and send you lots of good wishes and hugs! Our bodies can be wonderful, but also frightening. J x

  2. Debbie

    Lesson 166, if it hadn’t been written then I swear someone had read my mind and wrote it. Word for word I am experiencing the same feelings, I have my radiotherapy follow-up tomorrow and have worrying symptoms I was going to discuss at my breast clinic this month but it was cancelled. Been worrying since then and they have got worse but don’t want to bother by getting another appointment when I have one coming. I know they are probably side effects of all chemo, surgery and radiotherapy but there is that horrid fear of hearing those life changing words again. I am going tomorrow knowing I have a great oncologist and an amazing breast care nurse and they will get me through it. I hope luck follows me through the door and all who are facing similar issues.

  3. Nellie

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m in exactly this position right now and the encouragement to just check is so needed, thank you!
    I have some swollen lymph nodes in my armpit after finishing active treatment in June. I’m terrified both of being nuisance if it’s nothing and it actually being something! Not sure the consultants words help this feeling, she’s said she doesn’t think it is recurrance but will do an ultrasound for ‘reassurance’. I wish she’d said ‘just for certainty’ or something like that. Probably super sensitive, but small wording makes a difference I think.
    Hope you’ve kept on checking! Thanks again for sharing

  4. Karen rowley

    I hi I’m Karen I’ve just read Jackies story and was reduced to tears as I was diagnosed with breast cance stage 2 luckily I’m ok so far but fear every single day it returning, like a gun to my head. I also remember that window sill trying to call family in a rage of panic. And every time I go to that waiting room for check ups I feel so sick and frighten. Everything is the same same pictures on the notice boards as if time has stood still. I don’t think it will ever get better. Just something we have to live with.

  5. Annieapple

    I feel so relieved revisiting this site. 17 months ago had lumpectomy then radiation that finished 14 months ago. All went v easily, no side effects or pains at all. I forged no relationships just got everything done, didn’t want to talk about it. Now I ache, feel lumpy and have pain in my ribs. I read from posts that this will probably be ok and others feel the same.
    I don’t know what to do – drs? BCN? I never had same nurse twice so no relationship there

    1. Susan

      Hi Annie. Just read your comments above and I can’t believe you are suffering the same as myself. I have finished radiotherapy 18 months ago and I was absolutely fine but now on a daily basis I live in fear that the cancer will come back. I also have an ache not a pain in my ribs and I can’t stop thinking worrying about it. .My consultant and the staff at my Breast Cancer clinic were wonderful during my treatment can’t fault them at all but it doesn’t help when you are constantly worrying about things.

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