There has been silence here for far too long, I know, for no real reason except that work was crazy for a few months, and then because I had fallen out of the habit of writing blog entries it was difficult to get back on the wagon. A fair amount of fun has been had which, as usual, I have totally failed to write about here – among other things, we did a short trip to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, long trips to Laos, London (with a side trip to Pavement’s ATP) and New York, I had a wonderful 30th birthday party at my beloved Black Forest (soon to close because the building is being redeveloped!), and we discovered the ultimate TV bliss of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
But what finally forced me to get back here was something decidedly unfun, which I still felt I wanted to tell you about: for any of you who’ve been here a long time, you might remember that in 2005, I had minor surgery to remove breast lumps. They turned out benign, but it was still an anxious time for me and those who love me. And I wrote about it here back then, because I wanted to warn other women my age that this wasn’t just something that their mums and “older women” had to worry about, it could also affect twenty-five year olds whose only prior boob problem had been said boobs’ tendency to pop out of bikinis in the course of a wakeboarding faceplant.
In a few hours’ time I will be having another operation, to remove another lump. It is a little more worrying now than the last time, because they were fairly sure the last time that the lumps were fine and it was left up to me whether to bother taking them out or not. This time the advice (based on analysis of the ultrasound) is that the lump is “indeterminate”, fed by blood vessels, and should most definitely be removed and biopsied.
I’m telling you all about this again for a few reasons. One, I’ve hardly told any of my friends about this recent development because when I’m hanging out with them I want to have fun and forget about my worries, not bring the mood down. At least now I can just direct them to this post so they’ll know what’s been up with me, and then when we hang out we can go back to talking about how it’s always dick’o’clock in Spartacus: Blood and Sand and how annoying it is to lose one entire level of your fridge to your husband’s flour collection. Oh, hang on, that last one’s just me.
Two, apart from reinforcing what I said five years ago that even young women should be mindful of these things, I wanted to share what could perhaps be described as a cautionary tale about not taking enough charge of one’s health. I knew about this new lump for six months before going to the doctor, a private clinic in my office building. They sent me for an ultrasound in a private radiology clinic, which said the lump looked benign. A year later, I asked for another scan, and got the same advice. I trusted this and took no further action, partly because I was lazy and wanted to believe that nothing else needed to be done, and partly because it didn’t occur to me to second-guess medical professionals.
A few months after that while speaking to my cousin, a doctor, she suggested I consider removing the lump anyway due to its size. It took me four more months to bother going to the public polyclinic (I had decided to go the public health route for the surgery for reasons of cost) to get a referral to the hospital where I had had the previous surgery. From here on things progressed rapidly, because the public health system evidently saw this as a matter of much more concern than the private healthcare providers I had used previously. I had an appointment within days, an incredibly thorough ultrasound a few days after that which picked up numerous lumps that the private clinic scans hadn’t reported (but none except the one I originally sought advice on were of concern), and an operation date within weeks.
Hopefully, the biopsy results will show all is well. But if it isn’t, I will be so angry with myself for being so laid back about it, for allowing a breast lump to stay in me for two and a half years when I could have had it removed within two months. It’s easy for me to blame the private doctors who didn’t take the lump as seriously as the public doctors did, but ultimately I should have taken better charge of my own health.
So that’s how things stand. In a few hours, a team that has never won the World Cup will raise the trophy for the first time, and a few hours after that, I report to hospital for my surgery. For those of you who pray, I’d be grateful for your prayers. I’ll end this by repeating what I said the last time:
Girls: you already know what you should do. Do it.
Guys: do all you can to make sure the women you love take the time and trouble to protect themselves.
Update: I was given the all clear. However, based on the biopsy results I was advised that in time, if left in there and not removed, this lump could have developed into something less than benign. Suffice to say I’m glad, thankful, and determined to be less of a lazy dumb-ass, going forward.