The recent passing of Connie Johnson had a profound effect on me, along with many other Australian’s.
I found myself shedding tears for, a sister, a wife, a mum – a woman I had never met or had any contact with, other than the knowledge of the incredible work she had done in raising money for cancer research and awareness of cancer, particularly breast cancer.
It was a result of this awareness that I found myself a few weeks ago in Esperence WA, on the morning that I was about to run a half marathon, remembering that maybe I should do a breast examination.
In the shower preparing to get to the start line, I found a lump in my right breast.
I didn’t say anything to anyone.. I got myself ready and ran 21.1 kms. The whole time with the thought swirling around my head that there was a lump in my breast.
I tried to put it to the back of my head for the weekend so we could enjoy the time together as a family. Dave has been working pretty long hours while we’ve been in Kalgoorlie so it was important that we had some time together.
On the trip back to Kalgoorlie I told Dave what I’d found. We discussed that we shouldn’t worry about it too much but I would make an appointment with a GP the next day and get it examined.
A week later I fronted at the GP, she examined me and confirmed that there was indeed a lump there, as well as another one that I hadn’t felt. She referred me to the hospital for an ultra sound, telling me it could be a couple of months before I got an appointment.
A day later I got a phone call from the hospital offering me an appointment within two days.
The ultra sound seemed to be clear according to the sonographer. However, she said the ultra sound won’t pick up anything in early stages and I would also need to have a mammogram.
I tried to get into the pink breast bus, which was actually in Kalgoorlie, but because we are travelling and my address is a South Australian address they couldn’t see me. Seriously I get that there are funding issues, but so many people now are living nomadic lives the system really needs to catch up with things.
Anyway I phoned the doctor back and got a referral for a mammogram at the hospital. As this is a visiting service I would just need to wait until the mammographer is next in town.
Again, depending on availability it could be months. I got a phone call within days offering me an appointment the next week when she was in Kalgoorlie next.
I rocked up to the hospital and had my first mammogram. It wasn’t as bad as I expected but I could certainly think of a few hundred other things that would have been more pleasant. It was over relatively quickly and I was on my way.
An hour later I got a phone call asking me to go back to the hospital so they could take more images.
When I got there the mammographer told me it was ok, the radiologist was on site and just wanted a few more images but not to worry about it and to make an appointment with my GP to get the results by the end of the week.
I was worried about it.
I made doctors appointment and of course she didn’t have all the results by my appointment late Friday afternoon.
She looked at the ultra sound results and said they all look great. She was happy with that and there was nothing to worry about. She would phone me on Monday when the mammogram results came in and tell me over the phone..
phew.. I was so relieved it had come to nothing.
Although I didn’t get a call from the doctor on Monday I wasn’t really worried about it because she had been so certain of the results. I followed it up on Tuesday morning and phoned the surgery just to get the results. I then got a message that I would need to come in asap to discuss the results.
First appointment I could get was Thursday. By this stage I had spoken to a friend who has been through the experience of breast cancer and was fairly certain I knew what was going to transpire.
As expected on Thursday the mammogram results showed that the lump in my breast required further examination and I would need to go to Perth for a biopsy.
The GP did the referral, gave me the spiel it could be two months and sent me on my way. The next day I got a call from Perth and the appointment was made for two weeks time.
Two weeks later we made did the seven hour drive from Kalgoorlie to Perth. At least we were staying at the beach in Scarborough so we would have plenty of opportunity to breath in some vitamin sea. Something clearly missing from the desert.
On the Tuesday morning I arrived at the Perth Breast Clinic and the doctor examined me before sending me down to get another ultra sound. This time also focusing on a shadow they couldn’t identify on the other breast.
Because I had come from a rural area they schedule all tests and results for the same day, which is awesome because it means if there is something to worry about then decisions can be made at once and treatment organised.
So off I trotted back to the doctor to get the results.
Thankfully the doctor was happy with what she saw. She said the left breast was clear but they still needed to do a biopsy on the lump in my right breast.
I had the results of this in no time.. and thank goodness none of the cells were cancerous.
This was the best result possible, and it was all done by lunch time so we could spend the afternoon at the beach.
I have a family history of breast cancer, this is why the medical professionals were so thorough with checking things out.
I can’t fault those that examined me. Despite me being in a rural area, the experience has been highly professional and fast.
As mentioned above the only issue I have is that I needed to be referred back to the hospital for further testing rather than being able to access preventative services, but then even if I had used the bus I’m told that if you have found evidence of a lump they tell you to go through your doctor anyway, so the result probably would have been the same.
The reason I’m writing this is to pay it forward. I only checked because of the experience of someone else.
Thankfully my experience has worked out incredibly well but if this serves as a reminder to one other person to check then its worked.
Seriously, this has been the biggest wake up call for me.
Check your breasts. Check all your other bits, Make sure you are up to date with all your smears and other health checks – not only the girls but also the boys.
The people that love you want you here for as long as possible.