The day I found out.
The morning of the phone call began as usual with myself and Lucy dog going for our walk before breakfast.
The week before, I’d gone to my scheduled mammogram and thought nothing more of it. This was to be my last one. Breast Cancer WA no longer sends out reminders after women’s seventieth birthday.
“Breast Cancer WA calling about your mammogram result.”
“Oh, hi. Everything okay?”
“It’s probably nothing, we’d just like you to come and redo the test.”
“Really? Why’s that?”
“Maybe they didn’t get a clear enough picture. Nothing to worry about. More often than not, they’re just being overly cautious. Now let’s make an appointment, shall we?”
That was the start of my journey with breast cancer.
The appointment was at the city hospital, I’d presumed I’d simply have the mammogram repeated at my local office, but no, I needed to go into the city. That was my first inkling something wasn’t right.
Sitting in the waiting room with several other women, I felt nervous. Eventually it was my turn. This mammogram was different to what I’d been used to. The entire process took longer. Afterwards I went to get dressed when the technician said to keep the gown on, I may have to have more tests.
Most of the other patients were being allowed to leave. It felt like I was part of the ‘Ten Little Indian’ story. Then there was one!
“Mrs Morley, we’d like to do a biopsy.”
“Okay, shall I make an appointment?”
“No, we’ll do it now.”
“Really? I can come back another day.”
“No. We need to do it today.”
I was getting worried now. I had no idea what a biopsy entailed.
Eventually I was lying face down on a table with my right breast down a hole. This was very uncomfortable, and I was told I needed to lie absolutely still for about forty minutes.
I felt as if this wasn’t happening to me. I felt steamrolled, scared, and was sure they must have me mixed up with someone else.
Afterwards I went to get dressed and caught sight of myself in the mirror. I looked much like I felt, disheveled, tired and scared.
They gave me a cup of tea and the receptionist advised me I needed to make an appointment to return the next day to see the doctor. I should bring someone with me.
I went home to tell my husband about my surreal day. We both agreed it seemed like an overreaction. How unlikely, after all those previous thirty odd mammograms over my life, there should be something wrong? However we did discuss my having to lose my breasts. How did we feel about that? My husband assured me, it would make no difference to how he saw me, that I had his complete support, as I’ve had for the fifty years we’d been married.
I spoke to a friend, and she insisted she would take me in to see the doctor. I protested, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
However, I was grateful to have her sitting with me when the doctor kindly informed me I had breast cancer.
I should count myself fortunate though as they’d caught it early.
This was my introduction to a world I’d never been in before. The world of surgery and radiation.
“You shouldn’t need chemotherapy. We’ll do a lumpectomy and six weeks of follow up radiation and that should do the job.” The doctor smiled as he examined my breast. “I’ll try my best to make a neat job.”
“Really, I don’t care about the cosmetic, just do a good job of getting it all.” I said, “I will not be flashing my boobs around at my age.” I tried to make light of an unpleasant situation, but underneath the bravado I was feeling as if my world was tilting on its axis.
That was just a year ago. Next week I go for my follow up mammogram. I just hope everything is okay.