NO LUMP, STILL CANCER! Please listen to your body’s warning sings.

7thDecember 2018, the dreaded day had arrived. I woke up very anxious about the possible result. I must admit it was one of the most unpleasant mornings of my life. The whole morning went in stress and denial. 

With my optimistic attitude, strong willpower and ability to face any situation on my own, I decided to go alone for the screening without telling anyone about it. I set off from home feeling rather brave, but as I approached the breast screening I was lost in deep thoughts of denial with my typical optimistic attitude. Without any realisation, my driving speed reduced scientifically.

A loud horn from the car behind broke the link of my thoughts and with brave heart I took the turning of my life in to the screening unit. I bravely walked in through the main doors and walked to the reception. A pleasant receptionist greeted me and requested me to take a seat. My anxiety was at peak. I looked all around and saw many women from various age group waiting with worried faces. Some were trying to put brave smile, whilst some were avoiding any eye contacts. I kept on telling myself that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, and soon I will be out of here with no problems.

A nurse called my name and like a little child I walked behind her to the imaging room. She explained me about mammogram and put me at ease. This was then followed by the mammogram itself. The nurse carried on talking, as if she could read my anxious mind. “Have you got anything nice planned for this week and coming weekend?” all the time she was getting on with her job in very gentle, calm and professional way. The mammogram was soon done and I can honestly say it was not the most pleasant experience I ever had. It was a bit uncomfortable but not painful. I didn’t actually enjoy it but there was nothing dreadful about it.

I was asked to be seated in the waiting room. Little while later I was called again and this time it was for the ultrasound. Initially I felt it was probably their routine practice so didn’t question the reason and went with the flow. The radiologist started to mark the areas. My heart sank and the chill went straight down my spine. I was certain that the marking would only be done if they found something which required to be marked.

I was curious to know the details, and why they were doing one scan after the another. My heart had started to realise that there was definitely something wrong, but in my mind, I felt it might be just a routine process.

I was then called in to meet with the surgeon. As I entered the consulting room, I saw some images of mammogram on the screen and the surgeon was flicking through them. It certainly wasn’t an ordinary scenario for me as the images were of my mammogram and ultrasound. The look on the surgeon’s face was serious and I could never forget that silence in the room. It felt as if we just looked at each other for centuries and those eyes were telling me that there is something sinister. My heart sank and legs became powerless. I couldn’t utter a word and just slumped in the chair in front of the surgeon. Those images on the screen started revolving around me, and for a moment I felt those images were flying everywhere in the room.

Hello Mrs Kamble! the surgeon greeted and suddenly I came to my senses.

The link of my thoughts interrupted and the reality struck me to realised that my surgeon had worried look in to her eyes, in her voice and on her face.

“Your mammogram and ultrasound scan are NOT completely normal” she said. One breast is absolutely normal. She added. She paused. But the one, which had discharge has some abnormal area. The mass looks suspicious and doesn’t completely look benign.

I realised that the things are not as simple as I had thought. Something more serious and something very wrong was happening to my body.

Mrs Kamble, I am afraid we will have to take a biopsy from the abnormal area.

What, a biopsy? I asked! Today? She said yes, today.

I asked a big needle, that too in my breast? For a second I thought, she must be kidding, this certainly couldn’t be happening to me. I thought loudly in my mind.

Throughout my life I have been severally needle phobic, so the thought of needle sent chill down my spine. I hate needles and would do anything to get away from those needles! Like a little child I am scared of the smallest needle, and now we were talking about multiple pricks for local anaesthesia followed by a big chunky biopsy needle!

As if she understood what was going on in my mind, in a soothing voice she tried to assure me that they would make everything possible to make the entire process as bearable as possible.

Is it really necessary to do it? I asked!

Can we not wait? Could I come with my husband at a later date? I bombarded her with questions.

She explained that the biopsy was necessary and soon as possible. Christmas was around the corner and the surgeon did not want to wait much longer. She explained me that if we do not proceed with biopsy on the day, the things could delay because of Christmas and new year’s break. She wasn’t keen to wait and neither wanted me to wait much longer. She called the oncology nurse specialist in the room.

She explained that they would help me, be with me through the entire procedure and would make sure of my wellbeing. Both managed to successfully convince me to have biopsy. I put on a brave face, made my mind stronger and decided to go ahead with it. I convince myself that I have been through labour pain twice and this biopsy certainly couldn’t be worse than that. Besides this, even if I come with my husband later, I still have to take needles in my body and not his, so it might not make much difference.

It is always wise to face any situations with strong heart and brave mind. The entire breast unit was caring and compassionate. Oncology nurse specialist along with the consultant surgeon explained me the biopsy procedure and she also offered me her hand to hold whilst I have my biopsy. With the ultrasound scan guidance and under local anaesthesia cover they removed some tissue from my breast.

This was the first time in my entire life I was had a needle prick without any family member, and on this occasion multiple needle pricks.

Neither the breast surgeon, nor the radiologist could feel my lump hence they had to take the biopsy sample through ultrasound guidance. I realised how important it was to get myself referred, examined and investigated.

Throughout the procedure I squeezed that nurse specialist’s hand but despite the discomfort she did not move till I had my biopsy done.

I truly felt like I was in the midst of someone else’s bad dream, and I couldn’t wake up.

I was invited by the surgeon the followingFriday. She insisted that I come with my husband. She accommodated an appointment for husband to be able to attend. I was desperately hoping that and saying to myself that “It’s not going to be breast cancer.” I am still young, no family history of cancer, never exposed myself to smoking, drinking or much chemicals and took medicines if it was absolutely necessary. I have preferred a vegetarian diet and have breast fed both my children. I felt I was certainly risk free.

Even though the whole process looked scary, I knew that I would have to go through it to catch the problems at an early stage, so that I could be appropriately treated and be cured. With positive attitude, brave heart and stress of wait for the biopsy result I left the breast screening centre.

It turned out there are other symptoms of breast cancer, without a lump, that most people don’t know about.

My advice:

I cannot emphasise enough how important a mammogram and the screening is in the fight against cancer. I believe that early detectio n is vital until they find a cure or even better preventative measure. If I had not gone for a mammogram, I may not have had the chance to live beyond two or three years. If I had waited until 50 for the national breast screening, it would have been too late for me.

I am lucky because I have access to breast screenings. I was able to seek a screening, mammogram, followed by ultrasound and biopsy all in one day and my diagnostic results in less than 2 weeks after my initial screening mammogram. My treatment plans were decided immediately.

If you have even a small amount of discharge, or event slightest sensitivity of your breast, please get yourself screened without any delays.