Caroline’s blog part 3…..

Caroline, a Barrister, is a Macmillan Wellbeing Centre client who recorded her open and honest thoughts around her cancer diagnosis on a personal blog. She has kindly agreed to them being reproduced here.

Caroline’s Blog Part 3

Then I have two biopsies. I have one of the lump. I think I am injected with local anaesthetic and then something makes a sound like an elastic band snapping. It’s not that painful. Then I have another biopsy of the swollen lymph node. The same thing again.
I really don’t want the radiologist to ask about what work I do as I don’t really want to admit to being a personal injury lawyer while I am in a hospital. However, he has seen my wheelie trolley and asks, “What do you do.” I say, “I’m a barrister.” He says, “What do you specialise in?” I say, “Personal injury… sorry…mainly noise induced hearing loss.” He says he went to a concert recently and afterwards his ears were ringing for days. I say there is new legislation relating to noise levels at concerts. I can’t believe that I have just been told I have cancer and now I am having this conversation about the Control of Noise at Work Regulations. What is appropriate conversation to have with someone who you have just told has cancer?

While I am having these two biopsies my phone beeps. I have a text message. I think it is my friend to say she is on her way.

I am told I need to go somewhere else for the third biopsy as what they want to biopsy is so small that they are going to need me to have another mammogram to find it. They say if I don’t want to do it straight away I can have it done another time. I really want to get it over with so I say to do it now. I get up and check my phone. It’s my husband. I read out loud his text message: “How’s it going?” I say to the radiographer and young nurse, ” How do you answer that?” I suggest, “Could be better?” or “Not as well as expected?” or “The good news is that my right breast is really fit and healthy?” They say I should probably go and tell my husband before I go for the next mammogram.

I ring my husband and he says, “How’s it going?” I say, “Not good.” He says, “What do you mean?” I’m not sure what other, “not good”, options he is contemplating. I say, “I have breast cancer,” and burst into tears. He says he’d better come back from Birmingham and goes off the phone.

He tells me later that he went to tell his boss but when he reached his bosses office door he couldn’t open it and thinks it is locked for some reason. His boss is looking at him through the window in the door. The offices are on the ground floor and they have patio doors. Husband goes back to his office and exits through his patio door and goes and knocks on his bosses patio door. His boss looks bemused. His bosses office door was not locked.

The next mammogram is on a sitting down machine. The first mammogram was standing up. I’ve had plenty of local anaesthetic and combined with being in a bit of a blur this is not as bad as the first one. The nurse says she will compress the plates manually rather than automatically as this will be less unpleasant. The nurses go and stand behind a screen and do whatever they need to do with the machine and while I am still clamped in it the nurse does a biopsy. The elastic band sound goes about 9 times. She says she wants to make sure she gets a sample.
I ask the woman doing the mammogram if anyone has ever got this far into the process and then it transpires that they don’t have cancer. She says it’s not unheard of or words to that effect. Once again I think I’ve made a mistake and do not actually have cancer and there’s been a misunderstanding. I am now thinking that not only do I not have cancer, I’ve told my husband that I have cancer and he’s left work and is coming back from Birmingham. He’s going to be really annoyed.
The nurse who I cried on when I was told I had cancer and whose hand I held comes to see me. I ask her, “Do I really have breast cancer?” She is too young to deal with someone who clearly is in denial about having breast cancer and says that I’ll have to ask the doctor. Another nurse comes out and offers me a cup of tea. I have a herbal tea because I think if I have got cancer I’ll have to give up dairy as I am sure I have read about a link between diary and cancer somewhere.

After what seemed like quite a long time the same registrar who examined me when I first arrived walks into the room followed by a nurse. I can see the piece of paper in her hand. I can see the word “Malignant” on it. Computer says Malignant.
Caroline’s story continues next week

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