Tonight I am pleased to offer a guest post from a friend who contacted me on realising that I was 50 yesterday. She wondered whether I could use this fact to draw attention to breast cancer screening that’s available for some of this age and to urge women to take the opportunity to get themselves checked. Over to you Janet. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to post this. I wish you a full and speedy recovery:
This post is mostly aimed at women of a certain age. Gita’s recent Special Birthday got me thinking about what it means to be a woman in her fifties. My own 50th birthday passed relatively painlessly 3 years ago with a lovely weekend in the Lake District paid for by my children. A month later I received the obligatory ‘Welcome to your fifties’ invitation to go to a Portakabin in a car park for my first mammogram. Nothing to it really; each breast gets squashed in turn on a machine and it’s a bit uncomfortable and 2 weeks later you get the letter telling you you’re ok. It all seemed like a bit of a waste of time. After all, 50 is a bit young to get breast cancer.
This year didn’t get off to a good start. We had to have our beloved 20 year old cat put down in January and my partner’s mum had been diagnosed with cancer just before Christmas and my job as a primary teacher was getting increasingly stressful. My partner’s mum died in March. In the middle of all this, I received my mammogram letter and an appointment for Friday 13th March. I nearly didn’t go! It was an inconvenient time and it didn’t seem important. I did examine myself regularly and hadn’t noticed any lumps. But I made it there in the end and then forgot about it.
Two weeks later I got the letter telling me it was ok. Except it didn’t say that. It said there was a change since my last mammogram and that I had to go the Breast Clinic at Macclesfield Hospital. They gave me an appointment for the day of the funeral so I had to change it. They brought it forward so I didn’t have long to wait. I already knew what they were going to tell me.
As soon as I arrived in the waiting room I realised I had found my tribe. I had never seen so many 50+ year old women in one place! In my head I’m nowhere near 53 but my body knows different. I expect all those women felt the same.
I saw the radiologist. He already had my mammogram up on a screen and there it was. A big white splodge in my left breast. Even I could see it didn’t look right. He did an ultrasound scan and took a biopsy and encouraged me to ask questions. I asked him what was the chance of my splodge actually being cancer and he said no-one had asked him that before. He thought about it for a moment and said 70%. I also asked him if he could feel it as I had never felt a lump. He said yes and when I felt in the right place I could feel it too. Not a lump under the skin like a hard pea which was what I had been feeling for but an area of firmness.
A week passed. I don’t know how, but it did. I cried like everyone else when it was confirmed by the surgeon. Invasive lobular cancer. Why me? I asked. And the answer? My age.
So there it is, dear reader. I’ve had a lumpectomy, I’m on Tamoxifen for 5 years and I’m currently having radiotherapy at The Christie. And hopefully that should be it. Fingers crossed. It turned out I had two tumours, the smaller one hadn’t shown up even on an MRI scan and other microscopic bits. They got it all, they think. And it hasn’t spread as my lymph nodes were clear.
So, please go for your mammogram! Mostly it will turn out ok and you can go back in 3 years. For those of us for whom it wasn’t ok, we’re very glad we went.