Thursday, 6 February 2014

Scars and Secrets

"Scars are just stories in sexy places"

This is what a friend of mine said to me recently and I have to say that it has really stuck in my brain for a few reasons.

Let me explain.

About two or three months ago I went to my doctor for a routine check up and PAP, while there she did a breast exam and found a lump in my right breast.

"It's probably nothing but I'm going to send you in for an ultra sound just to make sure." Is what she told me, and I agreed, secretly happy that I have a good doctor who is so thorough and not one to just let it go un-noticed.

Fast forward to January, where I got up much earlier than I was used to (I wasn't working at the time and was used to sleeping in) and went to Mount St.Joseph's hospital with my boyfriend to get the ultrasound done. It was kind of weird, laying there with goop all over my boob and having this weird machine sliding around on me. But it was okay, soon it would tell me everything was fine.


"I'm not happy with these results." The very nice and very pregnant doctor told me, frowning. "They show a dark area but I can't tell what it is, so I'm going to sneak you in to get a mammogram today."

Part of me was thankful for such prompt service, not really wanting to have to come back another day for it but the other part of me suddenly nervous.

"Not happy with the results."
"I can't tell what it is."

These are the words that clanged around in my head as I sat there in the hospital waiting room, naked from the waist up save one of those super stylish gowns. After a while I went into the testing room where my poor boobs were squashed and smooshed in all sorts of horrible ways. Heads up to those of you who haven't ever gone, mammograms fucking HURT, anyone who says they don't is lying or has a very high pain threshold.

Afterwards I sat out in the hallway again with my boyfriend, trying to take my mind off it all by doing crosswords and reading the news. At last the doctor arrived and she was still frowning.

"The mammogram wasn't able to tell us anything else, the results are still inconclusive. I'd like you to come back tomorrow for a biopsy."

My stomach fell somewhere around my shoes and I felt dizzy and on the verge of hysterical tears.
This wasn't supposed to be how it went. I know how stupid and childish that sounds but I felt betrayed by my body, I was supposed to go into the hospital and get the ultrasound and get the all clear, or maybe a 'oh it's just fibre tissue or a swollen gland'.
I don't remember much else for that day except that my boyfriend drove me home and as soon as I knocked on my sister's door I started to cry. She opened the door and I literally fell into her arms crying.

I didn't sleep at all that night.

I got up early the next morning and went back to the hospital, this time with my sister. The bus ride there was hard on us both, I felt sick to my stomach and I could tell she was nervous too. Our eyes met many times and I'm sure she could see the desperate plea in mine of "please, let me be okay."

Once again I was stripped from the waist up and forced to wait in the hallway in a hospital gown that no matter what, always makes you feel vulnerable and scared. Finally the nurse brought us into a small room where I lay down and the biopsy happened.

I have to say now that it wasn't the worst thing I've ever had done to me, it didn't hurt thankfully to the freezing, but it was probably one of the scariest moments I've had so far. I was fully awake when they stuck the needle into my breast to extract the test tissue and I started to cry after a while because I felt helpless. There wasn't anything I could do but lay there as they poked around in my body, the best way I can explain it was some sort of unwilling entry.

But it wasn't the worst part.

The absolute worst part was waiting for the test results. For over a week I broke down crying at any given moment, it didn't matter where I was or who I was with because I was just so scared.
I can't even begin to explain how terrified I was, it was crippling and yet I also felt ashamed in a weird way. Like it was my fault somehow, like I didn't take good enough care of my body. It makes no rational sense but I couldn't help it, I remember sitting on my kitchen floor one night crying until my eyes were sore because I couldn't do anything else.

I couldn't think of a way to change the fact that I might have breast cancer.

Finally I was called in to talk the doctor about the results.

"Your results from the biopsy came back and it's not cancer."

My heart rose and I felt a huge weight slip off my shoulders, finally I had an answer, finally I was okay and...



"But we still don't know what the lump is and we are recommending that you get it removed."

I was stunned into silence and as my sister asked the doctor all the relative and important questions about it and the results I just sat there.

"Shawna, you've been very quiet about all this."

I couldn't help it, I started to cry again. Not because I wasn't happy to learn I don't have breast cancer, I was VERY relieved. I was crying because in some weird way I felt still somewhat cheated. It was like having a crappy consolation prize after you've been shown something amazing.
I had to have surgery again, something that is frightening and painful.
I was going to have another scar on my body.

But after a good cry and a bit of time with my sister I have accepted these things. I am very happy to learn that I don't have breast cancer (although part of me won't FULLY believe that till they take out the lump and have it fully tested) and after talking to the surgeon today about the procedure and recovery I am feeling positive and confident about it.

Through these past few weeks I have learned that not only am I strong but that I am surrounded by people who are willing to help me. To help me be strong, or to let me be scared, angry, or upset.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

And as for the scars?
Well, like a friend of mine said: "Scars are just stories in sexy places."

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