First stop, GP. I hadn’t seen this doctor before. She was young and friendly, quite matter-of-fact. She examined me and told me that she didn’t know what the lump was, so she was going to refer me to the breast care centre. The appointment would be within two weeks. This, in itself, was nothing to worry about. Everyone gets seen that quickly. God, I love the NHS (or what’s left of it).
Ultrasound and fine needle aspiration
I went to the breast care centre alone, which turned out to be a mistake. The letter said I could be there for up to three hours, so we agreed that Paul would stay at home and do the nursery pick-up. In the waiting room, I saw an older couple holding hands. He had a bandage covering the part of his face where his nose should have been, and it looked like he probably didn’t have one. I watched his wife covertly, thinking that it would be too cruel for her to have breast cancer.
A nurse took me to a changing cubicle, gave me a shopping basket for my clothes and looked me up and down to see what size gown I would need. And just then, something cracked in me and I was painfully aware of the fact that I was pregnant, alone, and being tested for breast cancer. I started to cry and I couldn’t stop. The nurse held my hand, brought me tissues.
I cried through my appointment with the doctor, and when I lay on my back to be examined, the tears slid into my ears. She sent me for an ultrasound, and I cried through that too. The woman performing the ultrasound said she wanted to do a fine needle aspiration to remove some cells for testing. She said they don’t use an anaesthetic for it; that it feels like having blood taken.
So I was shocked by how much it hurt. Later, I was told it was because of the position of the lump. How close it was to the nipple. But while it was happening, I didn’t understand. I closed my eyes and tried to stay quiet. And when I got outside, feeling tender and sore, I sat in the car and phoned Paul, and cried some more.
The core biopsy
The results of the fine needle aspiration were good and not so good. The cells they’d tested were benign, but the doctors weren’t happy that they’d seen enough, so they wanted to do a biopsy to be absolutely sure.
Paul had had a biopsy in the past and he told me it felt like being punched. But I knew they were going to use anaesthetic this time, so I wasn’t too worried.
It did feel like being punched. I was told they’d need to use the biopsy gun either two or three times; it ended up being four. Throughout, a nurse held my hand and asked me questions about Joseph and the baby. I remember telling her that he was insisting on calling the baby Emily, after his favourite train in Thomas the Tank Engine. It was a big improvement on Dave.
Before the fourth time, they asked me whether it was ok to do it again, and I told them to do it as many times as they needed to. I was ready for some actual results and desperate not to be called back for more tests.
And then I put it all to the back of my mind. It was Easter weekend and we were seeing our families and doing egg hunts. I thought it was possible that the whole thing was almost over.