Thursday, February 22, 2007


It has been a dramatic couple of days. Yesterday morning I (or rather, The Man) discovered a REALLY BIG lump in my breast. I went straight to my GP, who got me a referral to a breast cancer specialist at a big hospital. That's where I was today.

Or rather, that's where we were today. The Man came too, to hold my hand and to interpret the difficult bits.

I spent the day sitting or lying topless in various examining rooms with strange men poking at my boobs. I learned a lot, and one of the things I learned was about the bit in the web page I read in preparation for the mammogram which said,

Having a mammogram requires that you undress above the waist. A wrap will be provided by the facility for you to wear.

I learned that that was not written for Japan, or at least not for the (very good) hospital I went to. There was no wrap. And while I was barely conscious of it at the time, there is something surreal in the memory of sitting half naked in a chair and having a friendly and entirely professional conversation with a man I had never met before. Well, with three different men, actually, at different times.

I now know that I have not one lump but several. They are cysts, and harmless. Repeat that out loud, friends, and rejoice. Say it after me:


Didn't that sound good?

The specialist told me these cysts are very common, although ones as large as mine are less so (but equally harmless). One is almost 5 centimetres. (We gaijin always have to do things bigger and, er, better.) He said that often they shrink on their own, but sometimes they grow bigger. If they get too big or are in an awkward place they can be uncomfortable.

He offered to aspirate them on the spot (suck out the fluid with a needle and collapse them), and I asked if that would be better for my health. He said it made no difference, but most people don't like them being there.

I thought about needles. I thought about lumpy boobs.

I decided to go with the lumpy boobs. Why spoil good news by passing out? The specialist told me that my GP can do the aspiration if I change my mind later, anyway. It's simple. I can get this done on a casual walk-in visit. You know, walk in, ask him to stick a needle into my ... I don't feel like finishing that sentence.

But anyway, I'm thinking that if I grow these things big enough maybe one day I'll end up with cleavage!

More seriously, this incident provoked a lot of thoughts about mortality, the easy way we take the wondrousness of life for granted, the nature of panic, and a lot of other things. For a woman, finding a lump in a breast is a plunge into nightmare of dire possibilities, even though, as I learned from the ever-reliable Dr Google, chances are pretty good it will be benign. I was lucky. It did turn out well.

But for me the really good news is that I got over the panic BEFORE I knew the results. This was a new and entirely welcome experience. I was pleased with myself, especially since when I had a similar scare a few years ago (in that case an ovarian cyst), I was a mess for a week, waiting for some test results. And that was the week AFTER the doctor told me she was more than 99% sure it was harmless - the tests were just to make everything 100% sure. I lost several kilos waiting for those results, and had trouble sleeping. The difference this time is that yesterday morning I was a panic-stricken acid-stomached mess and really annoyed at myself (starving yourself is not a rational response to a crisis), but by last night (still the same day we discovered the lump, and before knowing anything about this alien thing that had suddenly appeared in my body) I ate a decent dinner and then slept like a baby. Today when we walked into that hospital I was calm. I was ready for anything.

So yes, it was a scary experience, but it turned out to be a good one, too, in more ways than the obvious one. I'm counting it as progress. I do not want to be a coward forever, and that was a step forward.

Getting over the needle phobia is the NEXT step.

(And yes, I know that sounds like a contradiction - that I was 'ready for anything' and then didn't want to have the cysts aspirated because I am scared of needles. But needles as necessity are one thing. Voluntary needles because I 'don't like' some harmless cysts are something else ENTIRELY.)


Minerva said...

So very pleased it was harmless...
I lived in HK for a while and found the health care there excellent too...

Ms Mac said...

Phew! I am so pleased everything's ok!

Radioactive Jam said...

Glad for you, and congratulations on the progress. Needles, though - *shudder*

Nils said...

Good thing it was harmless (=
And I agree, needles are scary... I went to the doctor once, to get a blood test done, and they asked "are you afraid of needles?"
I said "I can deal with it"
And I did... I didn't run away or scream or anything, but they still looked at me like they wanted to say "can deal with it, right"... I thought that was mean ^.^"

kenju said...

I am so pleased to know that it is not malignant!

BobCiz said...

We recenlly had a similar scare when Mary's mammogram turned up some suspicious "spots." We spent a mostly panic stricken day before she had a follow up exam that showed nothing to worry about. But those hours of worry and panic are something we don't want to experience ever again. Glad to hear you are also in the "don't worry" category.

Wiccachicky said...

Well I am glad it was harmless!! Those things are always tough. I had a doctor's appointment or two that were less than happy in that regard, so count your blessings and enjoy the lumpy boobs. ;P lol

Kay said...

"the easy way we take the wondrousness of life for granted"-- and the wondrousness of Rising To The Occasion and of The Body Being A Good small gifts, and all 3 so marvelous to find in the midst of your "horrid time that turned out OK" Good on you, as they say, I think, in antipodal English-speaking countries....

Badaunt said...

Minerva: Thank you! And yes, I was VERY impressed with the way it was dealt with - speedily, efficiently, and very kindly.

Ms Mac & Kenju: Me, too! And thank you.

RaJ: It's nice not to be the only wimp in the world. :-P

Nils: I temped in a blood donor clinic for a couple of weeks once (ironic, eh? but I was in reception) and the nurses there told me that quite often it's the big strong guys who insist they're JUST FINE who faint dead away. Maybe they were just being careful!

Bobciz: I'm glad her results were also fine - it IS scary.

Wiccachicky: All OK now, though, I hope...? I'm am counting my blessings, believe me! (And enjoying the lumpy boobs.)

Kay: Yes. Three good things, but none that I 'achieved,' really. They just happened. Well, except perhaps 'rising to the occasion', but that was a bit fragile, and I won't know until next time if it sticks. (There is sure to be a 'next time' of some description. That's life.)

But yes, three good things.

Carrie said...

I'm so glad to hear you are ok. I would have been in full on panic mode. I really can't even imagine the thoughts that must go through your head when you are waiting for those kinds of results.

Nils said...

BadAunt: Heh, I'm not by any means a big strong guy, but yeah, I can totally see that happening ^.^"
And I just noticed that I was literally "just fine" ... not relaxed, but not freaking out either :D

melanie said...

So glad to here it was all ok! While anything medical can be scary, a bad diagnosis is far worse when it's in a different country and a different language.

I was told by a dentist over here years ago that I had cancer. That was one of the scariest times in my life! It turned out to be a cyst, but made me want to go running back home to where the doctors spoke English.

Today, I'm actually freaking out about if I want to give birth over here (no bun in the oven yet - but have future plans) due to the stories two of my Aussie friends were telling me last night about their labour experiences in Japanese clinics.... but that's a whole other story... ;)

Really glad to hear you're ok.

Pearl said...

re: made that mental leap to calm before knowing results. A good place to be. Kudos.

Paula said...

I had a breast cyst aspirated a few years ago, and it was no big deal at all. I'm not particularly fond of needles either (can't watch while they draw blood). I have developed teensy crystal particle thingies in my breasts that supposedly require extra and super mammograms just so they can keep telling me it's nothing. I don't know if this is really a health issue or if the x-ray doc needs a new Mercedes.