Squashed boobs, dangling boobs and the waiting game

Today I had my first routine mammogram and MRI following treatment. This will happen every year for five years. It was interesting to reflect how a year ago all these procedures were unknown and a little daunting to me, but now I feel like an old pro. That’s not to say there aren’t still surprises and amusement to be had…..

Mammogram

This was first. I checked in to the imaging department, got my pizza bleeper, and waited my turn.

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The radiographer saw me promptly. I felt the need to apologise for my clamminess as a hot flush chose to heat me up as I entered the room. I was grateful that I got to take half my clothes off and cool down.

The mammogram itself is uncomfortable rather than painful. Each breast is squashed between two clear plates, and two images taken of each. I had to resist the temptation to look down to see what my squashed boobs looked like.

The radiographer showed me the images of my breasts on her screen and showed me how my right one is now denser because of the radiotherapy. She said I may be called back for an ultrasound if they see anything they want to investigate. Mmmmm, no news is good news then….

MRI

I am having MRI’s because my tumour did not show up on my mammogram last year. Whilst they are unpleasant, I’m reassured that I have MRI’s too.

There’s a small reception area where all patients wait their turn. In the background, the banging and clicking magnets of the MRI scanners can be heard, and we all sit with expressions a little like lambs on the way to the abattoir. Your name is called, and you’re given two gowns, and an NHS plastic bag for your clothes (oh, the glamour of it all!), and instructions on how to wear the two robes. One chap, sporting his two NHS gowns, socks and trainers,  popped out of the changing cubicle, and asked the receptionist in an unintentionally audible whisper, if he could keep his pants on. Yes, he could.

The MRI takes about half an hour, and half way through a dye is released in to the bloodstream so the radiologists can identify any potential cancerous cells more easily in my dangling boobs. It took two technicians and two attempts to get a vein in my hand for the injection, my poor collapsed veins.

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During today’s MRI, musical distraction was provided over the headphones by Magic.  No Lionel Ritchie this time, but there was an advert for Cancer Research UK. Blooming marvellous, there I was, successfully zoning myself out to a relaxed headspace, when I’m reminded why I’m there!

The face down lying position is quite uncomfortable, and the head rest certainly left its mark.

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So, now I wait. My appointment with my oncologist is 20th February, when I’ll hear the results. Not feeling too anxious at the moment – let’s hope that continues.

Happy New Year!

New year is a funny old time. Every year, it seems to be the same conversations about not going out, because it’s all a great big rip-off, so let’s stay in and have a quiet one. Then all the conversations about resolutions, dry January, weight loss, gym attendance, not smoking, less stress etc etc, most of which are soon broken.

Generally, I don’t make resolutions, although last year I had decided 2017 would be a dry year (I’d made the decision before my cancer diagnosis). And I’m really proud that I haven’t drunk alcohol since. I feel so much better for it. It is one of the factors that cause breast cancer (amongst many other cancers), and that’s a risk I don’t want to take anymore. I figured I’ve had 30 years of enjoying booze, and now’s the time to stop. It also helps that I can’t stay awake past 9.00pm these days, so I’m not going out much anyway…..

I spent this new year in Devon and Cornwall. There’s something truly healing and energising about the open countryside and wild beaches. My friend and I elected to have an early night (I slept through midnight), and instead celebrate the new year by having a wonderful day on January 1st. I had felt ambivalent about saying goodbye to 2017, which seemed rather odd given it was such a tough year. Then I realised why – it’s because the events of last year aren’t over.  I can’t just say goodbye to cancer and everything it brought with it. The impact and change will live on forever, for me, my family and my friends.

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Widemouth Bay