That Day this Journey Began

Josie's Journey
Only one week after this photo was taken at sunrise on the banks of Lake Louise, Canada, my cancer journey began.

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Oh, boy, where to start! There wasn’t really one day that this all began, but rather a series of days. I guess though this all started sometime over the weeks we were travelling in Canada and the US in August/September 2019. Little did I know I was about to undertake a journey of a different kind.

As we were travelling my breasts were feeling a bit sore and heavy. I also noticed both breasts were feeling a bit lumpy. Not something unusual as I could get quite hormonal at times and I had recently changed contraception methods. I pretty much wrote it off in my mind but since I had an appointment with my GP a few days after I got home I thought I would mention it then.

My GP examined me, and thought my right breast felt particularly lumpy so she sent me off for a mammogram. I would have been happy with that, because that’s how we are lead to believe breast cancer is normally found. In her wisdom she also ordered an ultrasound, and noted that a biopsy could be done immediately if required.

The receptionist at the GP’s office called to make me an appointment. The first appointment I could get in the public system was a week away. I was of course eager to get this over and done with so I could be sure all was okay and I could get on with life. So I elected to have private scans done. This would cost me a packet, but it meant they would be done first thing the next morning.

So I braved peak hour traffic to get to one of the private hospitals. I was prepared for a wait, because these things always seem to take forever, but my name was called almost immediately. In I went to have my first ever mammogram.

We all hear horror stories about mammograms and how painful they are. I have to say, I don’t necessarily agree with that. I found it uncomfortable, sure, but I was quite able to handle the few seconds of pressure, especially once I was told that the more pressure applied then the better the images were. I only wanted to do this once.

Once done, the lady doing the mammogram went out to speak with the doctor. This is usual when the mammogram is not routine testing. She came back in a did another mammogram using different paddles on my right breast. Then it was all done.

I moved into the ultrasound room and was seen immediately there too. This was going much quicker than I had expected. I hadn’t even opened the book I had brought along yet! I could see immediately that the operator was looking at “something”, but I have learned from looking at ultrasound when I was pregnant that I would not be able to understand what she was seeing.

She also left to speak with the doctor, who came in to see me a few minutes later to suggest we do a biopsy. No worries, I was ready for that. He got all set up and immediately got started. I was given a local anaesthetic, and three great big needles were stuck into my breast, one after the other, to get good samples of whatever was in there.

I was patched up and sent home. It was less than 24 hours since I had first been to my GP, and now I had to wait five days to get the results.

As I sat in my GP’s waiting room before that next appointment I was quietly freaking out inside. I was about to hear if I had cancer or not. I walked in and sat down – and didn’t get either answer. While it’s all a little blurry because I wasn’t yet in proper listening mode, basically she told me that the results weren’t clear. They had run the usual test that determines cancer and not gotten a result, then run another one, also not clear. Both tests showed a papillory lesion with abnormal cells, but that could range from something benign to invasive cancer.

There was only one way to know for sure, and that was to get it removed. I of course had no idea which surgeon to choose, so I asked my GP which one she would go to and went with him. My GP called his office to try to get me an appointment as soon as possible, and she excelled on this one. “Can you get there in two hours?” Absolutely!

It was after this GP appointment that I went home and told my husband what was going on. We got in the car an almost immediately went into the city to see the surgeon.

The appointment was quite simple. The surgeon looked at my scans, and commented that nothing had shown up on the mammogram. That was a shock since I had always thought that was exactly how these things were found! On the ultrasound was a shape that I figured was the lump. He described the procedure to remove it, saying he would cut around the edge of the areola so that once healed there would be minimal scarring. It would only take an hour in surgery, and I would need to stay overnight. And oh, was okay to do it tomorrow???

So one week from my initial appointment with my GP I was going to have a lumpectomy to find out what this thing was once and for all.

As we drove home from the surgeon’s appointment I called my daughter who was in Canada at the time to let her know I was having surgery. I also told my daughter at home when we arrived. I was keeping this all really quiet, because I didn’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily – and besides, I was almost positive this was going to be all for nothing and it would not be cancer after all.

Follow my journey! Next up – Lumpectomy!

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