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!