When October rolls around, most people start thinking in appropriate colours: amber, ruby, gold for the high point of Autumn; or purple, orange and green for spooky season.
Me? I think about pink.
So it was with this in mind that I decided I should actually carry out a breast check for the first time in however long.
Over the tops…under the bottom…under the armpit….oh, hello. What’s this?
I pause for a moment. My husband hears the silence and turns to look at me.
“What is it?”
“Er….I found a lump.”
He narrows his eyes, because we have been brought up and taught to know what a lump means. Might mean.
“It’s probably just a boil. Or a cyst. I just have fatty lumps,” I joke.
He is not amused. So we make a deal – if it’s not gone in 2 weeks, I have to go and see a doctor.
3 weeks later, it’s still there. I sigh and concede as I pick up the phone. It takes AGES to make a doctors appointment so I won’t be seeing them for a while, I’m sure.
The receptionist picks up. “Hello, how can I hep you?”
“I’d like to book an appointment please.”
“May I ask what for?” I can hear the incessant tapping of the keyboard in the background.
“…Uh….I found a lump.”
It is only for a millisecond but I swear the typing pauses. Stops.
Because I have a found a lump. We all know someone or of someone who found a lump. We know what that means.
“I can book you in for this Friday.”
Holy crap! Only 6 days later? That’s super fast.
There is another lump now but in my throat. I nod, forgetting I am on the phone.
The doctor I see is male. I try to laugh it off again and he smiles with me but gently insists it is worth checking. ‘Cos a lump is a lump.
A female nurse is asked to attend for safe guarding reasons. I take off my top and bra.
With gloved hands, the doctor does the same checks on me that I did myself, focusing on the area of the lump.
It is not cancer. He says the c-word and all the breath leaves my body; I deflate in relief. He tells me what to look out for next time and congratulates me for taking precautions.
I do not feel like I have wasted anyone’s time. I bounce out of the surgery.
A week later, a friend’s mum has a pain checked.
She does not bounce out of the surgery – rather, she has an appointment made for the hospital. There will be many of these now and they don’t know when they will get to exhale; when they will get to slump over, releasing themselves, even momentarily, from the questions and worry.
Maybe, in a year, 5, 10, who knows?
“Draig,” you ask irritably now, because I’m clearly waffling, “What does this have to do with money?“
Everything and nothing and there’s privilege in there to boot.
Everyone I know or have encountered knows what finding a lump may mean. Those educational campaigns worked well. The campaigns to aid the research into this illness also works well. And if that smells like money to you, well, you’re right. And this post is a dividend of that money – whoo!
No matter the out come for either of us, the thought “How much is this going to cost me?” never enters our heads. That’s a privilege. We know the NHS has got our backs.
Isn’t it mad the idea that worrying about your health inevitably means worrying about your finances? Thinking about if you can afford the treatment that might save your life?
My grandma died whilst they argued over how payment was going to be made. We don’t experience that here. But we know that falling ill, even if you’re not paying directly for the treatment, can have a huge impact on your financial life and plans.
Something I’ve loved about the PF world is hearing about the experiences and plans of those who do have to take it into consideration.
It means I also think about how I use my voice, in real life and on the internet.
So my take:
1) October, being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is going to have some breast-related posts on this here blog. You’re welcome.
2) Men can also get breast cancer. Smaller numbers but still possible (being a minority shouldn’t mean you are uneducated about your risks and options! Hemhem)
3) Being ‘young’, non-binary or thinking it only affects white, middle-class, middle-aged women is also not a good excuse to blank your bewbs. Coppafeel, ‘kay?
3) Check your boobicles, my friends . And have a great month.
Image Credit: Sarah Cervantes from unSplash