Te Aroha shares her cancer diary (part 2)
September 6, 2017
After waiting 7 long, nerve-wracking weeks the day had come: the 15th of December, 2016. As I walked into the breast clinic, I was anxious about the news that I was going to hear.
I was the youngest in the waiting room. After waiting for about 30 minutes, I was called in for my appointment by the doctor. She asked me why I’d been referred and how my breast had been since I last saw her. I told her that I’d taken the full course of antibiotics, but that, if anything, it had increased in size and visibility. I explained that I had been very uncomfortable and had stopped sleeping on my stomach and left side due to the pain. She asked to examine it.
I put on a hospital gown and instantly regretted wearing a dress to the appointment – pants would have given me some dignity. As she began to examine my breast, she asked the same questions as the hospital did about breast feeding. She said that she’d have to take some blood from the area and began preparing to insert a very long needle into my breast.
Next came the ultrasound. I saw that large black mass again but I wasn’t too worried because it looked the same size as last time. The lady then scanned under my armpit.
What I saw on the screen, I’ll never forget. Another large black mass was there – a new black mass. I didn’t understand; I couldn’t feel it, I couldn’t see it and I wasn’t sore… where had it come from?
I was left on my own for a couple of minutes so the lady who had done my ultrasound could speak to someone. As soon as she was out the door I broke down – all I could think was that it was cancer and spreading quickly. When she came back into the room, I stopped crying so I wouldn’t look like a total dingbat in case it turned out to be nothing.
She sent me back to the waiting room for a mammogram. I wondered why – aren’t mammograms for older people? All the TV ads seemed to suggest so.
I got called into the mammogram room and felt scared and nervous in the shadow of this big, scary machine. The mammographer lady calmed me down – she was lovely. She then proceeded to do the mammogram. I had thought it was going to be really sore, but it wasn’t at all.
As I sat in the waiting room, again, so many scenarios ran through my head. I saw patient after patient walk out of their appointment with happy, smiling faces. I hoped and prayed that I would be in the same boat. I’d been waiting for about 20 minutes when the original doctor I saw came over with a senior doctor and introduces me to her. I was then told that they needed to do a biopsy of the breast tissue. I asked whether it was cancer. They reassured me that it was unlikely, given my age.
A biopsy is basically where they insert a large needle into the breast and take tissue from the area. They gave me local anaesthetic so that I couldn’t feel anything when the needle was inserted. The lady doing the procedure explained everything as she was doing it. She took 5 tissue samples, every time there was a loud snap noise. I felt the first one, but the others, not so much. I felt brave because I actually watched the needle going in and out from on the ultrasound machine. It was a big needle.
After the biopsy was done they cleaned up where the small incision was made and then I returned to the waiting room. I saw more people receiving good news. I prayed over and over again for that to be me, too.
My husband joined me and then the doctor arrived, with a nurse and the senior doctor. My stomach sank and I was scared, but knew to brace myself.
Once in the appointment room, the senior doctor said the blood work had come back inconclusive from the pathologist. She continued, saying they were quite concerned, but weren’t sure what it actually was. I asked the question again – is it breast cancer? She replied that it cannot be ruled out and that the biopsy was the only thing that could determine yes or no. She said the results would take a week, and that they’d like to see me in 7 days to go through them. She then reassured me that if it does come back as cancer, I’d be one of the youngest in the region to be diagnosed; if it is cancer, the good thing is that we'd be able to talk about treatment.
The only thing in my head after that was CANCER. Everything they said after that was a blur - my mind was elsewhere.
They gave us their contact details if we had any questions once we got home. When we got to the car, I broke down in front of my husband. He could see the pain, confusion and emotions that had built up when we were sitting with the doctors.
He reassured me that whatever the results, he’d be there for me and God has our back.
I felt overwhelmed, but then content.