We have been reading a lot about the importance of getting checked out for early signs of breast cancer, and there has been immense coverage on television, which is commendable. But very little coverage on the scariest part, which is the wait after the mammogram to be given the results.
So I would like to talk about that openly, and you the old saying ‘if you look fear in the face’, and in this case I would urge you to do the same.
As someone who has breast cancer in the family, I had been putting off having a mammogram, which I do know was not my best decision, but apparently a very common one.
Several friends urged me to go year after year, saying that they would come with me, and we could make a day of it afterwards either shopping or going to the local cinema. But I just couldn’t face it. I couldn’t even bring myself to say it to my nearest and dearest, but the mammogram itself didn’t scare me – but the wait for the results did.
Why I didn’t seek counselling or at least talk to someone about it I have no idea, but over ten years passed until I plucked up the courage to go. It was a random letter from the local Healthcare Breast Screening Unit with an appointment was the offer I couldn’t refuse.
I went for the Mammogram alone, and the practitioner asked me the obvious question and when I told her it was just over ten years, she said she would put me down as having my first one, as the film would have been destroyed after ten years. She also advised me that I may be called back for an ultrasound as they would have nothing to compare it to.
I then received a letter to say I had been recalled. I was naturally panicked, but read the letter carefully and apparently 4 in 100 women are recalled and only 1 in 4 are diagnosed, so the odds are 75% in favour of a good outcome. Did that make me feel better, perhaps a little, but I still went to those dark places until the day for the ultrasound arrived.
My very closest friend offered to come with me and I agreed this time. I needed a friend as it was a bit like going back for a second interview for a job, but this time I didn’t want to be selected.
The ultrasound was uneventful and they had spotted an area of concern, but couldn’t diagnose until they had done a biopsy. This was then done and was uncomfortable but not painful, and I was then told there would be another short wait.
In the meantime, I prepared myself for the worst, and spoke to girlfriends and family members who had been through breast cancer and discovered that even if I were to be diagnosed, the chances of survival were extremely high. Also, the progress of the treatments in the past few years had made everything a lot easier and with incredible results.
This was probably the most anxious time, waiting for the result, but fortunately for me it was in my favour, and I resolved to have annual mammograms, although they offer them every three years.
I am telling my story because the fear of the outcome is almost scarier than the diagnosis itself, good or bad. But as someone who had avoided being checked for so long – I could have avoided putting myself through such angst by a simple test and living with the short discomfort of waiting for the result.
I also wanted to share it even though it wasn’t a walk in the park, so that those of you who share my concerns about waiting for the results, and haven’t had a check for years, if I can do it so can you.
So I am urging all of you ladies out there who are sweeping it under the carpet. Please take advantage of all the wonderful support we have today, and whatever the outcome you can do this, and chances are it will be a routine check with a positive result.
For help, advice and support check out https://www.macmillan.org.uk/
And look out for one of the macmillan coffee mornings near you
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