Grace Part Five.
When I was twenty three years old, while in the shower I found a dreaded lump in my breast! I never check as I don’t want to find anything and I wished I could have turned back the clock and not found this lump. I don’t quickly go to the doctors, so instead I fretted, prayed about it, asked for prayer, did some more worrying and hoped it would all go away! Well after six months of this, I decided to go to the doctors. It was then I told a friend, she said, “My Sister found a lump and went straight to the doctors and within three weeks her breast was off!” And I’d waited six months!
I took Mum with me to the doctors, she stayed in reception and it was a Saturday, it was clear by the notices in the doctors surgery that Saturday was for emergencies only! But it was today that I’d made up my mind to go, not yesterday or tomorrow or next week, for by then or any other day my courage would have failed me, so it had to be today.
I went into the doctors room, an Asian man, he didn’t look up from his desk, he said, “How can I help you today?” I said, I found a lump in my breast,” He said, still without looking up, “You realize today is for emergencies only?” I replied, “Yes, I know,” Looking up at me he then said, “So why have you come here today?” I said, “Because I found a lump six months ago,” He raised his eyebrows and said, “So why have you come in today?” I replied, “Today I have built up my courage, and tomorrow or next week this courage isn’t guaranteed, it may fail me.” He said, “Please lay on the bed,” He quietly examined me, and then he said, “You really should have gone to the doctors straight away!” I was worried and said, “Is it good or bad?” He said, “I can not tell, but you are naughty for leaving it SO long!” He was a lovely man, caring for my welfare and firm in his doctors role. He said, “You will need to have a tiny operation just to test that all his well,” I told him, “I don’t want an operation, for I’d heard stories of people who had had operations and it had not been good for them afterwards, but if they’d been left alone, they would have still been alive today.” He was having none of that! And said, “I will send a referral letter to the hospital, for you to have the operation as soon as possible!” That was not what I wanted to hear, and I said, “Surely you in your experience can see if this lump is bad or good, just by looking and your examination?” For if he’d said it was good, I would never again go to the doctors for it, that would have been me sorted, peace of mind was all I needed. He said, “I will send your referral letter as urgent!” This didn’t fill me with hope. So I left the doctors that day none the wiser.
True to his word, I got a letter very quickly from the hospital, for my appointment. It was a day I’d dreaded. I went on my own. An older gentleman examined me, he said, “You have lots of lumps,” He seemed quite shocked. He said, “You will need to have an operation to test one of them,” I asked him, “Do you think the lumps are good or bad?” He said, “I can’t tell and that’s why I need to have a small one removed and tested.” I said, “OK.”
I really didn’t want an operation. I did have the operation and was told they are all harmless, they were milk lumps. I was asked, “How many children do you have?” I told them, “I don’t have any children,” So that got me thinking, Uncle Stan touching me there and else where when I was SO young over many many years, could have produced the lumps, this is my theory and I’m sticking to it.
But ten years later, the lump that I’d first detected, had grown a lot it had manifested itself now with sharp stabbing pin pain, occasionally I’d see a spot of blood in my bra which caused me great concern, and it was about three inches wide! My skin had changed colour, it didn’t look very healthy, I never ever wore underwired bras as I didn’t want to make the lump more angry than it was already. At the end or start of our meetings sometimes there would be hugs but I didn’t want a hug, as some peoples hugs was too much for me, but sometimes I got hugs anyway even when I put my hand out for a handshake, for some that encouraged a hug instead. And there is nothing wrong with a hug. It was just me trying to protect my lump.
Now I was at university and thoroughly enjoying it. I’d again went back to the doctors and was told, “You need to have this lump removed,” I told the doctor, “I don’t want an operation, can’t you just tell by looking?” He replied, “No, I will send you for a mammogram and also refer you to the hospital for an appointment.” I’d never heard that word before, so I asked a friend and to my horror she said, “It is awful, they put your breast on this metal thing and slam another metal thing down onto it!!!” I had nightmares and was scared to death! There was I trying to protect my breast from hugs and underwired bars only for the medical people to harm me in this way!!! I wasn’t looking forward to it, I thought what happens if my breast pops open right there and then, surly I’d die! But after weeks of worrying (as worrying is my middle name) another person told me, “It is nothing like that, they are very gentle and it is not painful at all,” Phew! Thank goodness for that, peace again reigned in my head.
I had the mammogram and it was just as my friend had said, there was nothing at all to worry about, I did ask the Nurse, “Do men ever get this job?” She replied, “No, it’s always a women,” As they really do manhandle you breast to get it in the right position. But the main thing was it was completely painless. The results of the x-ray didn’t give anything away, and I had to go to the hospital, I was on a bed with curtains either side dividing us into ‘rooms’ but as it was only a curtain that separated us, as I waited in my hospital gown the one with no back, I felt sorry for myself, but then, I heard the plight of the woman to my left, she was in a bad way as she explained to the specialist about down below, what happens when she does a number two and how she would like him to fix her, then I felt less sorry for myself. As mine would be more straightforward.
I was told I had to ring up and arrange the date for my operation and it happen to be on a day I went into University, “I asked the secretary, “Please can it be on a different day?” She replied, “No, this is the only day that he does this operation,” So eventually and reluctantly I set the date for my operation.
The day of the operation, during the night, I’d dreamt that I was in the hospital bed, and there left by accident was my medical notes, it was after I’d had the operation and I knew in there was their true thoughts, was this lump a good one or a bad one? I leant over and took hold of my notes and opened it up, only to find out it was all written in Chinese! Which I don’t read! And then the Nurse saw me and took it off me!
I was in a small room with the gown, the one with two strings at the back and nothing else, I’d begged them, if I could keep my own underwear on and was told, “No as the materials has to be 100% cotton,” So I was given their version of a ‘pantie’, it was like two very very large triangles with the crutch bit and at the sides it has two strings at the front and two strings at the back, they had to be tided together at the left side then the right sides, but because it was SO big I had to tie the materials, I think it was one size fits all, from me to a vary large person. I didn’t want to be exposed while I was under the knife.
The nurse and doctor came into me, and he said, “Did another doctor try your lump with a pin?” Fearfully, I asked him what he meant, I had heard such rumours but I thought it was just scaremongering fiction, surly this was a joke! I said hesitantly, “No,” He said, “I’m going to stick a pin into your lump and if it goes through it, you can get dressed and go home, but if it doesn’t go through the lump then I will take it out now.” I laid down, the Nurse held on to my hand with my bust exposed and she turned my head away as the Doctor asked me, “What is your name?” As I opened my mouth to reply, he stuck the pin in!!!! It really hurt, I broke out into an instant sweat, as he said, “It is solid, I will remove it now”. I said, “I’m single and one day I’d like to marry, can you bear that in mind when you sew me back up?” He said with a lovely smile, “Yes of course, I’ll do you proud.” To me it’s always a scary moment when you know you will be put to sleep, some people never wake up for their operations....... I’d already said my prayers that morning. Only God knew what would happen next.
My first memory after my operation, was my eyes closed and been in the lift and that I was alive! I’d survived been put to sleep! I was aware that I was smiling. On the ward it was men and women with rows of beds, it wasn’t a big room and opposite us all was windows. I was helped onto the bed, but I think a part of the process of waking us up, was to get us to go onto the bed ourselves with some help from the porters. I did it, with some help and after everyone had gone, I looked to the left and there, just like in my dream was my file! I couldn’t believe it I instantly remembered my dream that I’d had a few hours earlier while I was in my bed at home, I was a bit slow, as I didn’t want to hurt or rip out any stitches, I stretched out my arm to try and get it, to read what was inside, I got it! I was just about to open it, when a nurse appeared and said, to me holding her hand out, “You can’t read that, please give it to me,” I gave her my file, so I never saw what was inside. Things are different now. Then I turned my attention to me, I looked down into my cotton ‘nighty’ with no back to see if I could see anything and was alarmed when I saw that all of my beast was in a heavy bandage! For a second I panicked, I could see they hadn’t removed my beast, can you imagine if that had happened and not know about it till afterwards? I also had a tube attached to my bust with a bag on a pole, the pole was freestanding with four little wheels. This was explained to me, as the wound was big a needle, was inside my bust which was draining the blood away into the bag that I could see, they told me, “You need to be careful that you don’t pull it out, it will have to stay in for twenty four hours.” I replied, “OK.” The Nurse who has seen me when I was about to go to sleep, came over to me and said, “The surgeon has done a lovely neat job, all your stiches are underneath,” I said, “Thank you and please thank the Surgeon too,” She said, “ will.”
I don’t know what had happened to my massive ‘panties,’ for I had none on! When I was in the bed, when I did go to the bathroom I could see that they had put a large plaster on the top of my legs, it wasn’t there now it looks like it was about eight inches high and four inches wide, so they had to remove the ‘panties’ to put this plaster on, so its just as well I was ‘out of it.’
Soon after, another lady arrived on the ward, she was to be in the bed to my right, she was about fifty to sixty years old, she was opposite to me, I was informed later some people can be tearful just after their operation and some cheerful, she was tearful and the porters wanted her to help herself get onto her bed, she didn’t want to! She was crying like a young child, I watched in horror as she with nothing on underneath her cotton gown with two strings at the back, did the splits legs wide apart as she got herself from the trolley to the bed as the two male porters encouraged her to get onto the bed, yet they just watched her from the bottom of the bed she was on her back, it made me quite unwell as I watched! I was disgusted with both of them! That poor Woman! We were then offered toast. We had all fasted, I thought I was going to starve to death! It felt like the loveliest toast I’d ever had in my life! Sylvia next to me had some, but she was sick in an instant! Then I had to struggle to keep mine down after watching her be sick!!! After an hour or so Sylvia cheered up and said to me, “I always cry after an operation,” She then asked me how many children I had?” I told her, “I don’t have any,” She too was shocked that I had milk lumps and no children. I was the youngest on the ward. It was almost impossible to sleep knowing there is a needle, with a tiny hole all the way through it, sticking into my breast, and that I must be careful not to let it come out! And later on I had to go back and have the stitches remove, it wasn’t nice! But I was grateful the lumps were good lumps and not bad.