Shared below is a story of a loss journey from a loss survivor. It is shared with you to let you know that you are not alone and whatever loss you endure, you can find support.
I felt a small lump (like a blind pimple or ingrown hair) in my armpit whilst showering. I told my partner about it during our breakfast and he said to go to the doctor to get it checked out. That was nearly a year ago.
I remember lying on the examination bed in my local doctor’s room. She inspected the area and pressed the lump (as if to dissipate it!) I didn’t want to prompt her with my thoughts and so I just lay there and waited for her response. But after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, all she said was to get dressed and come back to the patient chair.
Tapping away at her computer, she said to me that there could be many possible reasons for the lump and rattled off a series of explanations. I listened but truthfully I could not comprehend anything – either because I didn’t know what she was talking about or because my mind was refusing to accept it. She referred me to the hospital to get a mammogram and a biopsy.
I think the worst thing to deal with is the time periods between the initial assessment of an illness, the specialist appointment and then the outcome of the results.
This timeframe can vary in duration and you as the patient just have to accept it and carry on living your life as best as you can. It’s a time when you know you have an illness but you don’t know what it is and your local doctor cannot tell you and ‘Goggle’ provides too many possible answers that it scares the living daylights out of you!
Its frustrating that even though you are ill, you have to function as normal – manage the family household, go to work every day and assume a happy persona; when your kids are sick, you tend to them but no-one is tending to you because no-one knows what is wrong with you; your partner wants to support you but chooses not to talk about it because it will ‘upset’ you but actually you want someone to talk to about it and ask how you are coping!
One particular day at work I was feeling terrible and was just staring at the computer monitor but not reading the email on it; my mind was far away. I called in an early lunch hour and went shopping. I enjoyed walking through the shops and finally decided on a beautiful top that I could not afford at the time, but felt overwhelmed when I tried it on! Returning to work, my manager complimented me on the top and asked if I had worn it earlier today. I happily said no and that I had just bought it (I don’t know why I continued to speak but I did); I said that I needed cheering up. She inquired and I told her what the doctor had said and what I have to do at the hospital.
She was amazing in her immediate support and told me that she too had a similar experience and it ended up being cysts and not cancer. Another colleague was passing by and overheard the conversation. He was a trusted friend and naturally felt obliged to offer his support. Looking back, these two people helped me through the first of many tough times on this loss journey.
Finally the day came for me to go to the hospital. It was a bit surreal and I didn’t like the attention. My partner took the day off and took the children to school and then came home and waited with me for the time of the appointment. I felt ridiculous; I was fully functional and it would have done me well to keep busy attending to the usual household routines but they had all been done for me. There was nothing to do. The clock hands seemed to stay still and I had my fill of tea!
At the hospital, I was alone but in a group – a group of other people there for the same type of tests. We were all wearing the same pink surgery smocks and pretending to read the year old magazines in the main waiting room. It was then that I realised I had my smock on the wrong way! Obviously too many nights watching ER, I had put my smock on with the tie-ups at the back.
My name was called and it was OK. I had heard so many other names be called out and wondered when it was my turn and so when it was my turn, it seemed strangely comfortable. Maybe the long wait does dull your senses. The lady in the mammogram room was lovely and explained to me how the machine worked and how I had to rest upon it. (She didn’t mention the smock). The mammogram did hurt and she apologised when I grimaced.
I cannot remember if I left the room and had to wait more or if the same lady did the biopsy. At the time, I did not know what a biopsy was and was not prepared for it. I had to sit on the examination bed, bear chest, and just stared out the window until the doctor/nurse was ready.
I remember her cold fingers feel around my breast and then she told me that the needle was going in. It wasn’t a needle – it was a needle with a hollow centre; designed to suck up my inner breast tissue. It hurt a lot.
After the examination, I remember sitting on the metal bench seat outside the hospital entrance, waiting for my partner to pick me up. I was shivering and quiet tears rolled down my cheeks. (I think I was in shock more than pain). I could not do my bra clasp up and I felt it just hang loosely around my sensitive breasts. I sat forward and lowered my shoulders to release any feeling around my breasts and completely hated the situation I was enduring alone.
My partner turned into the hospital entrance, with the kids in the backseat and a beaming smile for me. I smiled back but do not believe it was sincere. I immediately went into my strong mother role so as not to let the kids know what pain I was in. I went to step up and into the car but as soon as I did my body failed. I sat back down again and realised I could not just stand up as usual; I had to lean on things for support and somehow get to the car. My partner realising, quickly came to my support and helped me get into the car.
It was some weeks before the results came back and my doctor let me know that it must have been a cyst.
I was a lucky one and I know so many other loss stories of others who have continued the story that I have only just started.
My prayers are with all who suffer the insidious illness of cancer and thank the support of their partners, family, friends, colleagues, complete strangers and our wonderful doctors and nurses.
Everyone who cares does make a difference to someone who is suffering.