I tried to think of a clever title for this blog but I want to make this post as simple and down to Earth as I can. I hope to raise awareness, confidence and share my own experiences in the hopes it may be able to help other people with breast worries, as there still seems to be an air of hush hush surrounding breast health and seeking help.
In December I started experiencing some changes in my left breast. I assumed, stupidly, that it was some kind of infection in my old piercing canal, as it never really healed properly after taking my piercing out 20+ years ago. I had an intense itchy feeling, swelling, reddening of the skin, lots of pain and a blister appear by my nipple. After around 10 days of taking it easy and bathing with warm salt water things started to feel a little better. It was Christmas and then New Year, I was stuck inside my 3rd floor flat unable to leave due to a broken lift so I just left things as they were.
January passed and I felt ok, things weren’t back to normal but weren’t bad enough for me to feel like I needed to seek help or advice. Really, I should never have left this in the first place. As well as the excuses I used earlier, the biggest reason I didn’t seek help was because I was scared. And I hate that.
I have always tackled my various health complications head on. I confronted the possibilities of Lupus and Thyroid Cancer during investigations which finally lead to my diagnosis’ of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, POTS and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I dealt with complicated genetic testing to discover the Alport Syndrome that has spread through my family line and myself, to my own children. I have blood tests, smears and everything else whenever I need them without worry. This was different though. I was scared to seek help and worried to talk to anyone about my boobs and I don’t know why.
I’m stubborn though and at my core am very aware of my health issues. I gave myself a talking to and forced myself to call the GP finally last Monday, as the pain had returned but this time worse than before. I still had the blister and something just felt wrong. I know that there are people out there who aren’t as stubborn as me or aren’t as able to shake themselves up to do something that scares them, which is why I’m writing this post. Please, if you feel something isn’t right, no matter how scared or worried you are to take that first step, just do it. Reach out. If you can’t bring yourself to speak to the GP, speak to a friend or family member. You are strong enough.
My GP appointment was a phone call. She was attentive, listened to my situation, asked some questions about my breast and also asked about a family history of breast cancer and cysts too. She then explained she’d like to put me on a 7 day course of antibiotics, whilst also referring me to a fast track two week wait breast cancer appointment. She stressed to me that she isn’t saying I have breast cancer but she wanted me seen asap and this particular pathway was the right way to go. I was really comforted by this. She explained how the letter I receive would mention it’s an emergency appointment, it would mention breast cancer and the phoneline I have to call to confirm my attendance will refer to itself as the two week wait emergency breast cancer clinic. At the time I thought she was being overly concerned about my worrying but now having received the letter and appointment 5 days later, those words do echo in your mind and burn into your eyes when you’re trying to sleep at night. Seeing it written down and having to call these special clinics makes it super real and I think it’s that I was most scared of back in December.
Breast cancer… all cancer… isn’t something that you can bury your head in the sand over. I made that mistake and I don’t want anyone else to. It isn’t something that shouldn’t be talked about. It isn’t something for whispers and closed doors. If more people knew the support that was out there, the fast-track appointments and how it actually all works, how things are worded, what the process is etc. then maybe more people wouldn’t be so scared to seek that initial help. I have an amazing friend who has encouraged me to post this and has massively inspired me through her own open-hearted and honest sharing of her cancer experiences. Through good, bad and impossibly hard; talking, sharing and connecting is so important.
So, my appointment is this Wednesday. Yes, I’m scared of what it may bring but I am glad I stopped trying to pretend everything was ok. I may come away with the all clear, or knowing my body as I do, something weirdly random… or it could be something more serious. I will face whatever it may bring head on and hope to bring awareness, support and information with my next few blog posts.
If you have a spare couple of quid this month, please consider donating to this wonderful and much needed charity, raising money for Brain Tumour research: The Brain Tumour Charity.