I’ve always been aware of #breastcancerawareness but after this, I am a lot more serious about it. Ladies (and gents), please check your boobs for irregularities regularly. If you don’t know how, speak to a local healthcare practitioner.
It was a normal Monday morning shower. Until it wasn’t anymore. There I was, warm water cascading down over me, yet I was ice-cold with an indescribable feeling of dread; I had felt something unusual in my right boob – a hard lump. Could it be cancer? Nah, surely not?! But maybe… no, don’t be stupid! There’s no history of breast cancer in the family…but what about on your biological father’s side? It could be cancer… you’re at that age… These are just a few of the things that milled through my head the entire day. Needless to say, I hardly slept. I kept waking up during the night poking my boob. As sure as the earth rotates on its axis the knob was still there, feeling to me to be about the size of an old one Rand coin.
Fueled by a lack of sleep and continuous thoughts of possible mastectomies, I called my GP’s office the following morning to schedule an appointment, but he was already fully booked. The joyful brain fog didn’t allow me to think is there another doctor I could see today. So, I went to see my doctor yesterday morning at 08:15.
On the way to his practice, I had a minor fit of road rage because the stupid woman in front of me was fiddling with the radio or looking for something, without her foot on the brake, merrily rolling back. I lay on the hooter (that’s the horn, for my American friends), and with literal centimeters to spare, red lights flooded my windscreen. Well, if I don’t have cancer, I could have possibly been maimed as the front of my car imploded around my legs, trapping me in a metal coffin…I think I need a louder hooter… The light changed green, and I finally got to town.
The exam was fairly routine, with the doctor feeling this way and that – “it’s almost like a mouse, it moves around, but it’s substantially larger than what you think. You’ll need a sonar and a mammogram of both your breasts.” Suddenly this nugget is going to cost me a goldmine. “Doc, my medical aid lapsed, so what am I looking at?” He looks at me with the compassion that only doctors have and says, “let’s just do the sonar in the meantime then.” I left the practice after settling the account, with a referral note in hand, and an appointment at 15h30 at the local radiologists. A sonar? I’ve never personally had one…don’t lie! You have, when the gynae checks the insides of your lady garden with his dildo cam – that’s a sonar, dummy! Oh yes, you’re right… I was so stressed while at work, but I tried to focus. Soon enough, it was time for me to leave the office and head off to have my boob ultrasound.
Not knowing what to expect, I entered the building with some trepidation. After filling out some mandatory forms, including a COVID-19 questionnaire, some information about my boobs, and a POPI Act consent form, it was time to take my tatas out of my bra and cover them with a pink waistcoat-like top. A young lady set up the equipment, told me the radiologist would be in to see me shortly, and left. I lay there, on the narrow bed, scared that (s)he would tell me I had cancer and that they would have to amputate my boob. As I counted the ceiling tiles, 22 of which were grey, and two white ones, and looked at the one light burning, I kept hoping this was all a bad dream. Out of a door behind me, a young man entered the room, “I’m Doctor Conradie…” He did say other things, but I don’t remember much. He proceeded to examine my right breast, immediately feeling the hard mass. He checked the other side too, “you have a lump in this one too.” I was clearly gob smacked, ”Really? I didn’t feel anything.” So he told me to feel again. There it was: another hard mass – as if I wasn’t already worried enough! A few questions followed, and soon it was time to view the critter that had robbed me of my rest the two previous nights.
He put some gel on the probe, which reminded me of a razor, and some on my breast (it was cold!) and started moving the device around. It didn’t take long to find the squatter that had taken up residence in my boob. It was massive – almost 8cm wide! The one on the left was also large, close to 4cm. As if reading my mind, Dr Conradie said, “it’s a dark mass, which means it’s filled with fluid. It’s not cancer. I’m going to drain it with a needle. You won’t feel much because I use the same needle to inject the local anestethic in and draw out.” He could have cut me open with a chainsaw at that point, I wouldn’t have cared, I was awash with relief. The process was relatively painless; he told me to look away, asked if I was ready, and pierced the delicate skin with the needle. I watched, somewhat mystified by the process, how the needle moved around. At first, it didn’t look like anything was happening, but he said, “we’re at 10ml already…”Soon the 20ml syringe was full of an off-white, viscous fluid. Dr. Conradie said that the colour was normal, and that there would be no need to send it away for analysis. He went on to prick my right boob twice more, filling two more syringes. Sixty milliliters in total. There was no longer a big black mouse on the screen. The smaller mass was a bit tricky to break, but once the needle was in, it shrunk in less than a minute, with only 10 ml of fluid inside. While the procedure was happening, he told me that I should have started having mammograms when I turned Fabulously Forty, but I explained the situation of the lapsed medical aid, and other more important fiscal responsibilities. It turns out that every year, in October, Dr Conradie and the other radiologists have a special tariff on breast cancer screenings, so I promised I would go next year. Once the procedure was over, I wiped all the gooey gel of my boobs and got dressed. It felt surreal. The fear that had gripped me the two previous days was gone.
Back at reception, I went to settle the account, praying that I would have enough money in my account.