As it It turns out, I am by no means cool enough to carry on a normal conversation while an almost perfect stranger touches my breasts. (I imagine that if I could have thought of a funny Porn Career joke this is where I’d insert it.) In less than 2 months this is going to become very normal. By the day of my operation I’ll have a lengthy conversation with a rather bemused nurse, having forgotten to put my top back on – a top I whipped off far too readily to begin with.
This first time though, I’m lucky it is Dr W, she was my mother’s doctor so there is no need to explain the family history here. With only the briefest of preambles, I’ve got my arms above my head and a decidedly blank mind.
Dr W is concerned that her hands will be cold, I have since observed that no matter how awkward or painful the examination that is about to occur, there will always be apologies for cold hands or cold instruments. I always want to point out that this is perhaps the least of my worries but they always apologise while rubbing their hands together and I always murmur something along the lines of “oh, not at all, I’m sure they’re fine”. Yet, should I make some equally apologetic remark about my breasts, perhaps it is they that are too warm? Medical professionals I’ve found, often lose their sense of humour when faced with boob jokes and actual boobs.
Just one of the funny dances we do, the etiquette of a breast examine. I guess it’s something to talk about, it’s more on topic than the weather.
It has led me to wonder if those who go into the medical professional have a predisposition to cold hands. Perhaps studies should be done on that.
Safely cocooned again in my bra and sweater, Dr W is swift to reassure me that by the look and feel of the Lump (and due to my age, of course!) it’s probably nothing. I will have to go to the Breast Care Clinic to be sure and thanks to government directives this will happen within 14 days. She is kind and quotes statistics, the same from the websites – everyone is keen not to to panic you where cancer is concerned. I find this amusing, I know the facts and figures but I know the reality too. I thank her and try to take with me the comfort that this will all be over in under 14 days because joining my loved ones - I’ve now got a doctor who says so too.
It’s 4.30am and I’ve just sat bolt upright in bed, I raise my left arm above my head and my right hand instinctively lands on a lump. Bullseye.
I don’t know what made me do it. I am not normally awake at this hour. While I do self examine, I tend do so after I’ve showered at a more regular hour. I don’t think it’s divine intervention or some spirit of my dead mother. I’d like to think that it’s my subconscious coming late to the party. Remember the scene in Speed, where Dennis Hopper is looking over black and white video footage, his stumpy hand to his mouth, his howl of fury as he realises that Keanu Reeves has managed to outwit him (like that would ever happen). I like to think my brain has been running over video footage, to be frank I’m so flat chested simply washing is all it would really take, for a day or two when – Boom! It’s remembered it felt something it previously hasn’t. And now I’m awake.
It’s 4.31am and I’ve just found a lump in my left breast. All of a sudden, I’m not alone in my little flat anymore, it’s me and the Lump.
Normally, it’s at this point I’d be nudging A, my boyfriend awake, but he’s in London working. I imagine that he’s probably going to be grateful for that when I tell him about this later and I release my grip on the phone. I am in fact meant to be on a train later today to visit him and several other dear friends. Valentines Day is coming up, we aren’t big celebrators but this is different. A and I will be travelling extensively for the first half of the year, time together feels very precious. But should I be going to the doctor’s instead? I use two fingers to wiggle the Lump – back and forth, back and forth, as I contemplate what to do.
It’s 4.45am and without turning on the light, I’m googling. I’ve my Doctor’s office hours, various Bristol to London timetables, the NHS and Macmillan websites laid out in front of me by 4.55.
By 5am, I’ve learnt I can see my Doctor first thing on Monday, and that lumps in women my age are almost always benign, especially because I have no other symptoms. I comfort myself with this. I try hard not to be a drama queen. I push all other thoughts and what my gut is yelling at me to the back of my mind. I fall back to sleep.
Later that day I head to London where the Lump and I have a really rather fabulous weekend.