"Oh, I'd also like to talk to you about alternatives to the usual contraceptives. Like, sterilisation."
"OK, well let's get this looked at first and we can talk about that at a future date."
The doctor ushered me out, as if she couldn't get rid of me quickly enough. She was to request an appointment for me at the hospital's 'one-stop-shop' for all things breast related, so I could have a lump that I'd found investigated. She was probably thinking that contraception was the least of my worries.
I could tell that she knew right away, as did I, that this was no cyst. When the hospital called a day or two later saying they could fit me in that Friday, I knew there was a reason for the urgency. I now know that they keep several 'emergency' appointments open and I had just become an emergency.
It was a late afternoon appointment, around 3pm-ish. I was there for over three hours. First, a questionnaire to complete - symptoms, bodily location, family history, etc. Both on the form and when talking to the doctors, I told them there was no family history, but that my mum had had a big cyst the year before; trying to convince them as well as myself that there wasn't, couldn't, be anything wrong with me. Even though I already knew, and had known, since the second I felt the lump.
I discovered it by accident; I rolled over on the bed and my right hand just happened to be in the way of my left breast. For a second I thought there was something under me. I felt again. There was definitely something hard there, but it wasn't under me, it was in me. I got Hannes to feel it and he said it felt a bit odd and to check with the doctor, just to be safe.
I almost didn't. I was immediately terrified and waited a couple of days, to see if it went away. It didn't. And everything began to fall into focus - why I'd been feeling so unwell, why I'd been exhausted for no apparent reason, why my armpit had been feeling so uncomfortable and swollen. That in itself petrified me - if it had spread to my lymph nodes, I knew that was bad news. But that was the extent of my knowledge, because there's a weird information blackout surrounding cancer. All I knew, or thought I knew, was if cancer spread to the lymph nodes, you die.
So, there I was, in a hospital gown, gabbing on at doctors and nurses with years of experience, trying to convince everyone that I was fine. I think I had the mammogram first. I don't remember much about that. What I remember most is going in for the ultrasound and laying on the bed, whilst the doctor slid the probe thing over my chest, armpit and breast, focusing on the area where the lump was. They took a biopsy from both my breast and armpit.
They were talking in hushed, concerned whispers, with their backs to me. A nurse was by my side and placed her hand on my arm - I didn't even realise I was shaking.
"Are you OK, love?" she said kindly.
"I'm scared." I managed to get out, between shallow, tight breaths.
"I know, honey." the nurse replied, softly, knowingly - no reassurance. I stared at the clock the whole time, watching the red second hand tick round and round and the minute hand glide through 4:50pm, towards 5pm, trying to see if I could see it move, but it just seemed to happen invisibly. The way cancer had.
The ultrasound doctor and a nurse told me to fetch my mum and Hannes from the waiting room. As I walked to the corner to beckon them in, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for what I was about to put them through.
"The images look veeeery suspicious." was the first thing the doctor said. "Sometimes in young women it looks really bad, then we send off the biopsies and it turns out to be benign. But this time, we're about 75% sure that it's cancer." Actually, I think they were 100% sure.
My mum was already crying. Hannes was silent. I just stared at the doctor and said "OK." Pretty much everything they said after that, I just replied with the same; "OK." The rest is a blur - I know I was told I'd have to come back in a week for the official result, but I knew there was going to be no miracle before then. I knew they were going to say the same thing: I had cancer.
I'm pretty sure I went to work the next day. The following week came around and the diagnosis was made official and my life became an instant whirlwind of appointments, more scans, plans, information overload and more medical staff than I'd ever met in my life. I couldn't take it all in, so I chose to focus on one thing that they told me: "We are aiming to cure you."
I walked out of hospital that day with a new feeling of knowing. I'd already known that I had cancer, but now I knew that I was going to beat that motherfucker. There was no other option. I was twenty-nine years old, had already been through more than my fair share of shit and was finally happy in my life; there was no way in hell that I was going down now.
That was three years ago today. I'm skipping over all the most awful parts; the treatment, the ongoing recovery and all the ways I'm still affected by it daily, because today, here, now, I am alive. I came through it. And whilst nothing is ever guaranteed, right now I am well and I am cancer free.
That's what I want to focus on today and revel in, because most of the time I still can't believe it. I am thankful every single day and need to remind myself that I may not be exactly where I want to be, I may not be able to do things as quickly as others any more, but I am here, I know exactly who I am, I am strong and I am living my life. There is a whole legion of women like me, who have been through, or who are still going through the same ordeal. Hidden heroes everywhere, somehow holding a life together whilst dealing with the possibility of death. It's a life that you can never, ever comprehend and I hope you are never in a position to understand.
To all the other cancer patients out there, you are super heroes. Fellow breast cancer patients, you can all call yourselves Wonder Woman. My heart is with each and every one of you.
You may be a having a hard day today - I hope this gives you a little perspective. That is not to belittle anyone else's problems; shit is shit, no matter how big the pile. Just do me a favour: go look in the mirror. Look yourself in the eye. Smile at yourself. You're OK, aren't you. Yeah, you are. While you're at it, check your bits.
Now go do something you love, with every ounce of your heart.
This post is dedicated to JoJo, a kickass girl
who sadly passed away this week. Shine on, beautiful lady.
All images used are taken by and are the property of Tiny Grey Cat, unless otherwise credited. The use of any image from this blog without express permission is strictly prohibited.