22/04/2020

I found a lump.

I was at home with Tom during the coronavirus lockdown. We were bored so we were wrestling, actually wrestling, and I happened to feel the lump in my right boob. I immediately felt the left side to see if there was a symmetrical lump, which there was not.

I panicked and started crying. I hate crying in front of anyone. I get so embarrassed, it makes me ugly with red eyes and a puffy face. I had better get used to crying in front of other people.

Thanks to the text reminders on the first of every month from the breast cancer awareness charity ‘Coppafeel’, I do check my breasts regularly for any signs of cancer. I could not remember feeling this lump the last time I had checked.

I rang the GP who very kindly reassured me that it was probably something called a fibroadenoma, otherwise known as a ‘breast mouse’. Fibroadenomas are given this nickname because the lumps are known to come and go and move around the breast tissue. They change in size during a period cycle and so I was asked to monitor it until my next period which was two weeks away.

I was comforted by the fact that the GP did not seem worried by the lump, even after hearing that my mum had a history of breast cancer. I also knew not to panic just yet as I had worked in an oral & maxillofacial surgery department on the ‘2 week wait’ cancer referral clinic and I knew that there were multiple different possibilities to explain the lump.

Two and a half weeks later, the lump was still there.

I had to go and see the GP for them to feel the lump before they could refer me. This was tricky with coronavirus still going strong as most appointments were being carried out via telephone consultation, but they asked me to come in the following day. Due to pure laziness I had not updated my GP to a local one since moving to East London, which meant that Tom had to drive me over to Pimlico to attend the appointment.

I checked in and sat in an empty waiting room with full PPE: face mask, gloves, apron; as requested to wear by reception. It is such a weird experience living through a global pandemic. No other patients were entering or leaving but I knew that the GP’s were probably busy with telephone consultations. My appointment time came and went. Ten minutes, twenty minutes, forty minutes, sixty minutes, eighty minutes after my appointed time a male GP came out looking flustered with a hint of embarrassment and called my name. As I got closer I could hear the receptionists complaining to each other that ‘he needs to check his computer more often, we can’t call him every time a patient is here to see him’. It turned out that for possibly the only face-to-face appointment the GP had that morning, he had not checked his computer to see if I had arrived. And possibly to prove a point, or possibly bone idleness, the receptionists had let me sit there for over an hour before they had let him know that I was waiting to see him.

The male GP informed me that as it was a breast examination, he had asked a female colleague to come and examine me. He instructed me to go into room 3 down the hall and wait for her. I was not comfortable walking straight into the room that he had vaguely pointed me in the direction of so I knocked first and walked in tentatively. As I walked in I heard a ‘hello?’ from behind the curtain. The curtain was drawn around the examination bed area but I could see the bare legs another patient who was half-dressed, god knows how long they had been there for! I left quickly without giving a response. The other patient must have been very confused by my brief and silent appearance.

Before he scuttled back into his office I managed to call to the male GP and tell him that there was someone else in the room he had asked me to wait in. I was mildly amused when he assured me that there wasn’t another patient in room 3, before going to check for himself and finding that there most definitely was. So he asked me to wait in the waiting room again until the room was free.

I was finally seen by the female GP who was apparently embarrassed by the sight of my boobs as she didn’t look at them at all during the short appointment. She asked me to point out the lump, agreed that there was a lump present and said that she would send a referral to the breast clinic. Ideal outcome achieved.

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