Never ever worry about bothering your Doctor over a Health Niggle

I rarely go to the doctor. For most of my life I seem to have been blessed with good health. OK, I could bore you with a list of minor ailments that have joined me on my journey to being 70, but I don’t think that’s going to make for exciting reading. Suffice it to say the majority are in the “getting old category” ie nothing unusual or that seriously affects my quality of life.

However, earlier this year, I noticed a tiny change in one of my breasts. My left nipple had a miniscule area of crusty skin – perhaps 1mm square (I told you it was tiny!)  Being of the “just get on with it” generation, I put some Savlon on it and it cleared up. Or so I thought. Then a fortnight later, it appeared again. Call it my intuition/guardian angel but I decided to make an appointment with my doctor. This was at the time when most consultations were held on the phone or perhaps Zoom – but amazingly, I got an appointment at my surgery the very next morning.

The consultation was interrupted when the doctor got a phone call from her husband. Apparently their Aga had stopped working. So when she put the phone down, I gave her my very reliable engineer’s phone number. She then organised an emergency referral at the local hospital’s breast clinic. Emergency because I would get an appointment in two weeks, rather than having to wait much longer. Not because she thought there was anything wrong she said. I left the surgery under the impression that we had both done a bit of back scratching.

Never ever worry about bothering your doctor over a health niggle

The breast care clinic. At the end of March, after battling my way through traffic and the dubious architectural pleasures of Worthing, I found the hospital, parked and was soon being greeted by friendly nurses who (gently) squashed my 36E’s between two plastic plates. Several times. Both of them.

Then I was called for an ultrasound. You know, the one where they plaster you with cold jelly and you can’t see the monitor because they rather cleverly put it at an awkward angle. Even though regular yoga keeps me reasonably flexible, I couldn’t quite position myself to get an educational glimpse. “Mary will take you to see the consultant now and he will tell you what is going to happen next”. This was my first inkling that perhaps all was not well.

Calmly and clearly the consultant explained that they could see some irregularities which might be cancer. Anyhow, to be sure he injected me with some local anaesthetic (ouch) and then performed a biopsy on my left nipple (crunching noise but no pain). Sorry, that’s probably too much detail.

Shooting needles. A week or so later, I was back at the Breast Care Clinic for another biopsy. This time they were shooting needles into my left breast to collect samples of the calcification they had spotted behind my nipple. Sounds alarming but the half an hour process was completely painless. Was told I would get the results of the two procedures in two weeks.

The results. Mid April and I was back for the results. I had been seen on the dot on previous appointments but this, the most important to date, I had to wait for almost an hour before I was called. Luckily I had brought Jane Gordon’s amusing book How Not To Get Old which I can’t explain why but I considered to be a lucky charm. Anyhow kept my mind off things until I was called in to see the consultant.

The club that no-one wants to be a member of… ever. Well, he did not beat about the bush, calmly and clearly explaining that I did have Paget’s – a pre invasive cancer – but that they had found it early. Every time he said the word ‘cancer’, which he did often bless him, I shuddered inside. He said he could operate in three weeks time – a new type of partial mastectomy and reconstruction. I felt strangely calm – always one to look on the bright side, my thoughts were that at least this problem appeared to be solvable.

Ironically, I was in a new relationship. A relationship where my breasts, after years of hiding unnoticed in various sturdy bras, were now centre stage in full view of another pair of eyes. OK, not a massive consideration as health has to be top priority, but felt a little like sod’s law.

Keep it to myself? No-one wants their family and friends to feel sorry for them. Also their kind words can make the whole thing seem more worrying, tragic, all encompassing. So I just got on with life as best I could. Working hard as normal really helped take my mind off my situation. I just got on with it and kept schtum. But when I got the date for my operation I needed to ask Marvellous-Mother-In-Law for some practical help – which was to pick me up from the hospital on the day of my surgery. Apparently these days they hardly ever keep you overnight – even if you are having a full mastectomy – and you are not allowed to be on your own the first night in case you have any complications. Needless to say, MMIL was an absolute brick and hugely supportive.

The only time I couldn’t keep my voice steady was when it came to telling my son. The fact that my prognosis is reasonably good made it a little easier. It took MMIL a couple of days for her to process my news, which is fair enough, as I’d known for weeks and had had time to get used to the idea. However, I won’t ever tell my 92 year old parents as my mother worries incessantly about really minor issues – ie when the Tesco delivery man brings the wrong size milk. Shouldn’t be a problem as they don’t have a computer or mobile so won’t ever see this article.

The day of the operation I felt strangely calm. Post op I felt great (thanks to the much improved anaesthetics they use these days). My left breast was a little sore, but nothing that a few paracetamol couldn’t cure.

What does my breast look like after my partial mastectomy now that it’s healed? Well, not too bad but nonetheless will take some getting used to. At least it’s roughly the same size as the other one, albeit higher, somewhat lumpy and decorated with rather a lot of stitches.

I cannot fault the treatment I received from the NHS. It was exceptionally good in all respects. But I had to wait a tortuous month for the results of the op which, thankfully, confirmed I was now free of cancer. However, they booked me in to have five days radiotherapy – a belt and braces exercise to try and make sure it won’t come back. I’ve just had my last session.

So ladies, please check your breasts regularly. Anything unusual should be reported to your doctor, it doesn’t have to be a lump. Oh and Breast Cancer Awareness Month starts 1st October and 21 October is Wear It Pink Day. Just saying…

Never ever worry about bothering your doctor over a health niggle

Lots more Wellbeing articles can be read here

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Anonymous
Anonymous
1 month ago

Grace, thank you for sharing. It’s helpful to hear what happens when a scan isn’t normal. I can relate to your concern about telling your parents. Great news that they were able to get all of the cancer. I hope you continue to have good health!

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Thank you for your lovely message. Best wishes, Grace

Judy
Judy
1 month ago

Oh Grace, what a time you have had. Thank you for writing so brilliantly about the whole experience, and three cheers for the NHS and hugs to everyone who helped you and supported you through this. MMIL sounds a dream, you are so lucky to have her! Onwards and upwards, take care of yourself and thank you again.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Judy

What a lovely message Judy, thank you so much. And, yes, MMIL is a star and a true friend. Best wishes, Grace

Lynn
Lynn
1 month ago

Wishing you all the very beat Grace.
Love and hugs XOXOX

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Lynn

Thank you Lynn! Best wishes, Grace

Lynn
Lynn
1 month ago

Grace, sending you lots of hugs xx (have been a follower of you two for years)

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Lynn

Hi Lynn, thank you for your very kind words. Best wishes, Grace

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
1 month ago

Many thanks for your article on your recent health issues, it has made me promise myself not to put off contacting the GP.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Hi Elizabeth, delighted to hear that. Best wishes, Grace

Fiona
Fiona
1 month ago

Grace, I really don’t know what to say because what can anyone say that sounds right in these circumstances. I was still rejoicing having read about your new relationship. Thank you for sharing, thank you for raising awareness and thank God you went to see a Doctor. Please look after yourself. Love Fiona xxx

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Fiona

You said all the right things Fiona, thank you! Best wishes, Grace

Jan Whittall
Jan Whittall
1 month ago

Thank you for sharing your experience Grace. This proves that you never know what someone else is going through. Take care. X

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Jan Whittall

Thank you Jan. You take care too. Best wishes, Grace

Jane Holland
Jane Holland
1 month ago

So interesting to read your article Grace. I went through a very similar experience in March 2019 but my tumour was a Grade 2 and 5cm long in a milk duct. I too couldn’t fault my NHS treatment and happily my breast has healed very well and looks remarkably like the other one now so fingers crossed for the same for you. Just had my yearly mammogram and i’m happy to report that i am still cancer free.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Jane Holland

Hi Jane, thank you so much for your message. Am absolutely delighted to hear that all is well with you. Another excellent outcome… best wishes, Grace

June Ratcliffe
June Ratcliffe
1 month ago

I’m sorry to hear about your ordeal here Grace and very pleased you have been dealt with properly and now on the other side of it.
It will have taken you a lot of energy and thought to decide to share with us all, and we all appreciate the warning to be vigilant.

Also, good luck in your new relationship!

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  June Ratcliffe

Thank you June. I thought it was important to share my experience – you never know who it might help. Best wishes, Grace

Mrs Sheila Winter
Mrs Sheila Winter
1 month ago

Thank you for sharing your experience, Grace, and wishing you “All the Best!

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago

Thank you Sheila. Best wishes, Grace

gillymlGilly
1 month ago

What a relief Grace, and thank you for sharing your experience.
I never check my breasts as there is no history of Breast Cancer in my family.
Maybe I will start now……..

Take care.

Gilly

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  gillymlGilly

Dear Gilly, so pleased to hear that. Best wishes, Grace

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 month ago

Oh dear Grace, so sorry to hear you’ve had to go through this! Thank you for sharing your experience, I’m sure it will help others.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Thank you for your message, much appreciated. Best wishes, Grace

Terissa
Terissa
1 month ago

One of the best, informative with a touch of humor, articles I have read on your site.
Keep up the good work ladies !
From an avid reader in the U.S.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Terissa

Thank you Terissa, we try our best! Best wishes, Grace

Baerbel Obermueller
Baerbel Obermueller
1 month ago

It is always a pleasure to read your entertaining, informative and funny reports.

Sarah Hewlings
Sarah Hewlings
1 month ago

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and describing the process you went through calmly and with no emotional hysterics! I’m so glad you have had a good outcome. Most women have a complete horror of the thought they may get breast cancer and as a result don’t check their breasts. A feeling of I’d really rather not know – thank you. I worked as a nurse so know how many women don’t check their breasts. Your article is really helpful. Thank you.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah Hewlings

Hi Sarah. You are so right. The Macmillan nurse told me that 30% of women who are offered a mammogram don’t have one – apparently they are worried it will hurt, feel healthy so think they don’t need it or are afraid of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Best wishes, Grace

Elaine Tant
1 month ago

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article primarily for its positivity and bravery. My mother had Paget’s nipple and, at 89, never told us until after the operation. She told us the same – check everyday to see how your breasts look. We talk about examining them by feel but sometimes a change in shape, colour and texture is also a warning sign. Keep well Grace and thank you for bringing attention to this form of breast cancer.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Elaine Tant

That’s interesting Elaine because apparently more women over 70 are getting breast cancer and yet the mammogram appointments stop at age 69. I believe there is a move to change this however which is good news. Thank you for your kind words. Best wishes, Grace

Sandra Reekie
Sandra Reekie
1 month ago

My heart goes out to you, a cancer diagnosis is most people’s dread. I am delighted your operation was successful but may I ask a small favour of you? Please be kind to yourself over the coming months, physically you are well and healed but emotional healing takes a little longer, if you have sad feelings that’s when you must be kind to yourself. I love receiving your magazine and can’t thank you both enough for all your hard work. Do you remember the days when we had a pile of old magazines in the corner because you couldn’t part with them? Well, that’s my inbox now! Thank you both and very best wishes.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Sandra Reekie

What a lovely message Sandra. Very much appreciated. Best wishes, Grace

Pamela Voice
Pamela Voice
1 month ago

Grace my heart goes out to you. I have just finished chemo, radiotherapy and now having bone therapy at Sussex Cancer Centre in Brighton. I do hope that you have had as kind and supportive professional care as I. My cancer was found on screening ( I had no lump or symptoms) and I would urge anyone who is thinking of putting it off- don’t! If I had done that things would be very different now. My daughter is 32 and although she works abroad has been so supportive and I think it is important not to hide anything but be open and honest. We’ve had a lot of help from Macmillan and as a little thank you she ran 100km in the Alps in the Summer and has thus far raised over £11k for the charity. Focus on goals and projects really helps everyone although I would be lying if I said there weren’t crappy days. I wish you all the very best and send you love. Pamela

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Pamela Voice

Dear Pamela, thank you so much for your message. I was treated at Brighton too and agree wholeheartedly with you about the staff there. You must be justly proud of your daughter who, I imagine, ran that huge distance thinking of you. Wishing you fewer crappy days and lots of positive ones. Very best wishes, Grace

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 month ago

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. What a worrying time it must have been for you and what a reminder to all of us to be alert to changes. Delighted to hear that you are cancer free. Wishing you continued health and happiness. Liz xx

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Thank you Liz, really kind of you to write and say. Best wishes, Grace

Vee Lillis
Vee Lillis
1 month ago

WOW – This is such an inspiring article Grace – thank you and a real reminder to us all to check so carefully and regularly. Thank you so much for sharing and being so honest. Take care of yourself going forward.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Vee Lillis

Thank you for your lovely comment Vee. As they say, if it only helps just one person…. Best wishes, Grace

Mrs Joy Miller
Mrs Joy Miller
1 month ago

Dear Grace, thank you for letting us know about your scary breast cancer, now gone! You are so positive and funny, an inspiration to us all.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mrs Joy Miller

Hi Joy, thanks so much for your kind message… best wishes, Grace

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 month ago

What a clear account, thank you very much Grace for sharing this with us. It must have been a frightening experience. I am very pleased to learn that you are OK now. Stay well. Kindest regards, M.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Thank you for saying, you’re very kind. Best wishes, Grace

Viv Mitchell
Viv Mitchell
1 month ago

Wow Grace, what a journey you have been on. Thankyou for sharing, sending you a very big hug, for being so brave. We all have crap to deal with in our lives, but few share the big stuff, only the shrapnel. Your story and recovery will resonate with many and prod a few into taking some advice on niggles. Well done. Get well properly now and carry on the good work.
Smiles
Viv X

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Viv Mitchell

Hi Viv, thank you so much for your kind message. Am feeling great now. You take care too. Best wishes, Grace

Mary K Shaughnessy
Mary K Shaughnessy
1 month ago

Thank you for this informative article. I wish you all the best from the US. Medicine has come very far in breast health since 1970 when my mother was diagnosed at 48. At that time little was known. I like your matter of fact approach.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago

Thank you for your lovely message Mary, much appreciated. Best wishes, Grace

Mel Martin
Mel Martin
1 month ago

I am so pleased that all your treatment went well. And thank you for sharing your experiences. It can be easy to forget to check things like this and could even go unnoticed. You never know how many people you have helped by writing about it. Wishing you every health and happiness.

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mel Martin

Dear Mel, I do hope it helps someone… fingers crossed. Wishing you health and happiness too. Best wishes, Grace

Sherrie
Sherrie
1 month ago

Wonderful story about your breast health journey And so happy to hear it’s all turned out well! I had a scare as well this summer with my regular mammogram well overdo because of the pandemic and they called me back as well for an ultrasound. I was stricken with fear and had to take some CBD to calm me down and it turned out all negative and all is well with me. Fear can cripple you!

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Sherrie

So pleased that everything turned out well for you Sherrie. Apparently only 2-3 women out of 1000 who have ultrasound are found to have cancer. Obviously 2 – 3 women is too much and it’s a daunting prospect to be tested, but most of us will be negative. Continue to be well… and brave! Best wishes, Grace

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 month ago

Thank you for your article about breast cancer. My very robust husband pronounced it very good.

I am waiting for results of a biopsy which will come in 2 weeks time. I just want to say to older ladies that the over seventies are not offered an automatic mammogram. You can request one through your GP. The government obviously thinks that we don’t need one any longer. Just make sure you prove them wrong!!! Catherine

Annabel & Grace
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Hi Catherine What a lovely message, thank you. The Macmillan nurses told me that there are changes afoot to include women in their 70s for mammograms due to the increased number of 70+ women who are being found to have cancer. Needless to say I wish you a good result in two weeks time… best wishes, Grace