The breast cancer biopsy was scheduled for a week later, the following Wednesday. The receptionist was very apologetic that it was going to have to take so long. Those of you who have been down this route will understand what that week was like. For those of you that haven’t, think of it as a black hole. Your life has been changed irrevocably. The doctor who deals with these things day in and day out is clear that you have cancer, but that is all you know. You have no idea of the size of the lumps, how quickly they are growing, how many there are, and as the week goes on, that short wait of a week seems like forever.
Find your tribe…
I am incredibly lucky where I live in the French Alps. I have what can only be known as a ‘tribe’ of friends. One of them, who had gone through this exact process two years previously, when they had been diagnosed with breast cancer, had come with me to the mammogram and ultrasound. Another offered to have my son for a day and a night before all of this happened, just to give me a breather from single-motherhood life. I had planned on a day in the wonderful local town of Annecy, a bit of shopping, a spot of lunch. Instead I walked and walked and walked in the stunning mountains that I am lucky to live in. Seven hours to be exact. About 1300m of elevation and I guess in the region of about 20kms. It was a much-needed walk, but it didn’t push the cancer any further away, and it didn’t make the waiting any easier.
Eventually, ‘’Biopsy Wednesday’’ came. Back into the clinic for the procedure which took around 45 minutes but felt like an eternity. For those who don’t know, it involved (I think, based on what I could feel), needles being sent quickly in and out of the boob where the lump was in order to take samples of the ‘’affected tissue’’. It feels, from the sound at least, because you don’t actually ‘’feel’ anything due to a local anaesthetic, as if something is stapling your boob.
This doctor was more specific than the last one. There were three lumps there, not just one, although none of them were particularly large. If it was any consolation, she felt that I had one of the ‘’better cancers’’. I know all about the ‘’better cancers’’ because my amazing friend, who had been there to support me through all of this, despite no doubt reliving her own journey through this nightmare, had not had one of the ‘’better cancers’’. She had one that grew 1mm every single day- imagine that- having a lump grow at the growth rate of a new-born baby in your boob. Just unfathomable.
This doctor’s opinion was that the lumps would be removed, probably via lumpectomy and then further treatment depending on what the biopsy revealed.
It might sound odd, but this visit surprisingly, gave me great relief. The fact that this doctor did these biopsies every single day, and felt able to offer an opinion, helped put my mind at ease that I would not be dying tomorrow. It is a weird thing, and something we all have experienced whenever something traumatic happens, but everywhere you look, you begin to see ‘’Cancer’’. This was the week that Tanya Jones, the wife of Vinnie Jones the footballer and actor, lost her life to cancer. I must have read a dozen similar stories over the course of the week. Much as we all know lots of people who have cancer and survive, it wouldn’t be considered the enemy if people didn’t actually die.
I need an assistant!
The downside about healthcare in France, if you can call it that, is that everything has to be done individually. Whereas in the UK in circumstances such as this, I would go home and wait for a letter to tell me I have an appointment with Dr W at X,Y Z a place and time to discuss my results and treatment, in France it is up to you to take charge of your own treatment plan on the whole. Again, when you consider how much less admin it involves on the behalf of the ‘’service’’ is it such a bad thing? Anyway, maybe it was the rabbit in the headlights look in my eyes at this point, but this doctor kindly took it upon herself to make an appointment for me, there and then with a consultant for the following Wednesday. Just the week to wait then…