Breast Cancer – Being aware

I wasn’t going to write anything about Breast Cancer Awareness. But having read May’s wonderful post about her friend Shirley and watched Tabitha’s fabulous Vlog I feel compelled.

A year ago next week I had a right mastectomy for Lobular Breast Cancer. I had progressed through my adult life thinking that Breast Cancer was a disease that would happen to someone else. I took the pill for a limited time, I breast fed my son, I haven’t taken HRT. But of course the disease is less selective than that. If I were to believe everything I read, then my lifestyle – diet, weight and alcohol intake – are to blame. But since my cancer was hormone dependent, it is surely more complex than that.

Early detection

In the UK mammograms are offered every 3 years to women over 50 as well as annually to those who have a previous history. However, many breast cancers aren’t detectable, mine wasn’t and nor are many of those found by younger women. Nor, unfortunately is an ultrasound conclusive, so if you find a lump it will have to be biopsied. 

That means you need to spend time regularly feeling your own breasts, which I know isn’t a particular problem to many people. Certainly not to me. What’s more, your partner (if you have one) can help. Finding something unusual is only possible if you know what is normal. And if you discover something – lumps, bumps, a discharge from your nipple – then see your doctor.

Stupidly I was too scared, too blasé that it was nothing and too busy with work and moving to a new house to go to the doctor as soon as I should. I’ve been told it probably made no difference but seeing someone sooner might have resulted in a lumpectomy. Not mastectomy. So, my advice is to check your breasts regularly and use Tabitha’s vlog to help you.

Being Open

There are still people out there who don’t know I have had breast cancer. By that I mean some family and friends I haven’t seen in a while. Also those I’d rather didn’t know. But that number is small and shrinking.

At the time of my diagnosis I was anxious about having to give bad news to people. I found it upsetting to have to say the words: I have breast cancer. My natural instinct is to try to caveat bad news with positivity and it’s wrong to do that when you just don’t know. Also I didn’t want to be the subject of some people’s gossip, not that that didn’t happen. Friends and family of people I told later came up at social events to ask how I was and commiserate with me. But I guess that is human nature.

But what is very clear is that you can’t manage a cancer diagnosis alone. There are so many doctors appointments and decisions to be made. Although the medical and nursing staff provided their opinion of what I should do, ultimately it was my body. I consider myself the property of my Master, but these were decisions we had to take together. And ultimately I signed the consent form for my mastectomy, I underwent the numerous scans and X-rays and I had the thing done.

Helping others

This blog is the one place I have been able to express myself fully (other than with Master). Sometimes I have done so here as a rehearsal for discussions with others. Friends and fellow bloggers accompanied me on my journey, many of you who will probably read this post. But also others have contacted me through my blog and I hope this will continue to happen.

A breast cancer diagnosis is horrible. Indeed the uncertainty of finding a lump or being recalled from a mammogram is no fun either. So if my willingness to share my thoughts and feelings helps others then all this is worth it. And if I can link to others who are willing to promote breast cancer awareness to their fellow humans with breasts then we can break down the stigma that cancer still holds for many people.

Examine your breasts, seek help if anything is amiss and don’t keep your worries to yourself.

All of my breast cancer links can be found here.