Stories of Cancer
Giving Voice to Real Experiences

Bleak Midwinter

Terry was sitting in bed reading when I got out of the shower. If he’d still been asleep I might have left it.

“I’ve got a lump in my breast”

“Have you just found it?”

“Well, it’s been there a few days now”

“And you’ve been ignoring it?”

I burst into tears, can’t handle any sense of criticism right now. He holds me and comforts me and confirms that yes, there is a lump there and tells me I have to go to the doctors right now. Just leave the work and go, now. Once it’s been spoken it can’t be ignored.

A few hours later my GP hears the words breast, and lump, and jumps up out of her chair to do the examination. Her fast and efficient response meant that by the time I left the surgery I was starting to realise that maybe I should be taking this seriously. As I walked home I was feeling – nothing at all. I’d gone into some sort of stoic and pragmatic state, thinking about what would happen next and the appointments I’d need to cancel and the people I needed to tell.

I held onto the possibility that it was a cyst. The doctor had said it was a good sign that it wasn’t fixed to the chest wall. I would come to know later that there were other signs that weren’t so good. The right breast was bigger than the left, the lump was hard not soft, not moving, and there was a vein growing across the breast that hadn’t been there before. At the time, though, I was determined not to pay attention to any bad signs.

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