After being diagnosed with a cyst in her breast, Aoife Read wasn’t too nervous about her appointment to see a consultant at the hospital. But it didn’t go as smoothly as she thought it might.
There’s something about sitting on the floor of the bathroom, with your mother washing your hair because you can’t raise your arms over your head, that makes you question your mortality a bit. The relief I felt after last week’s hospital visit was now thoroughly down the drain.
My appointment to see a consultant in the breast clinic in Beaumont was on a Tuesday morning. While I was a bit nervous, I wasn’t too jittery because I was under the impression that the lump was a cyst.
The doctors and nurses in the breast clinic in Beaumont are wonderful. They are friendly and informative and do their best to keep you calm, making it as easy on you as they can. Still, though, despite their best efforts I felt as though the whole hospital clocked eyes on my boobs that day.
When I was sent for my first ultrasound scan, I found myself in a changing room where I was told to take off my top and bra and put on a hospital gown. This, I’m sure, is all well and good for ladies with a smaller bosom than I, but the last time I walked around in public with no bra on, I think I was about nine years old. It’s a weirdly exposed feeling as you walk past people in a corridor with your girls set loose. You feel vulnerable. On display, almost.
I was still under the impression at this stage, that this was a cyst. The very first doctor I saw said they wouldn’t be doing a mammogram because it was just a cyst, so my first sinking feeling began when, during the ultrasound the doctor looked solemnly at the nurse and merely nodded. A few painfully silent moments later I was informed that I would have to have a mammogram after all.
So, as I was led back through the corridors, breasts bobbing everywhere under starched, scratchy cotton, I began to feel a rising panic. It all felt so surreal, like I wasn’t really there. I had the mammogram fairly quickly, no real wait. It was an unpleasant experience in and of itself, but I get the feeling that mammograms are slightly easier on a woman of slightly larger proportions, so I won’t complain too much. Then I was immediately taken back around for another ultrasound scan.
I was told then, that I was to have three biopsies. That I would have a numbing injection first and then the procedure would be performed. I got up to leave, thinking they meant it would happen another day, but then I was gently pushed back down onto the bed and my boob was quickly lathered in iodine. Of course, this was probably the best way for this to happen, no time to overthink it and back out, which is what I probably would have done if I’s been given any time to think.
While I was being painted with iodine, the doctor showed me the instrument that they were going to use to perform the procedure and made me listen to the snapping sound it makes so I wouldn’t jump when it happened for real. What happened next will surely go down as one of the more unsettling and unpleasant experiences of my life.
When she said “numbing injection”, I assumed that she meant my whole breast would be numb. She didn’t. Only the skin was numb, so I could feel everything that was going on inside. Due to their size and the position of the lump, they had to open me up more than usual for a biopsy, and they had to dig. They had to dig inside my boob to get to the lump. And they had to not only take one sample, but three. You know it’s bad when the doctor performing the procedure is apologising to you with every movement she makes, and making exclamations like, “this is so difficult” and “I just can’t get to it”, while pulling my breast to one side with her free hand and rummaging around inside with the other. It was horrendous.
After I had gotten over the shock and put my clothes back on I had to go back to the consultant. I wandered through the hospital like a zombie, led by my mother, so arrived at the consultant’s office I felt completely disconcerted by his happy tones and smiling face. Did he not know what I had just been through?
He sat me down and told me that it doesn’t look like a cyst from the scans, that he couldn’t speculate as to what it is, and that my results would be back this day next week. “We will have a proper chat then and see what is going on,” he said, reassuringly. I was not reassured.
Now it’s Friday and I feel like I’m in recovery after some sort of accident. The biopsies were more like mini operations. I’m in constant pain, I’m not sleeping and I can’t even wash my own hair. As I write this I’m waiting on my girlfriend to arrive at my house, and I am living for it. All I want is to be held and told it’ll all be okay. It has to be okay. Tuesday is looming large.
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