As an adult there are many things we have to check. Check the doors are locked. Check the lights are off. Check your bank balance, check on the kids before bed, check the tyre pressure on your car, check the weather. An endless list of things that we do, probably without even a second thought.
What about other things we are supposed to check? Things that should be part of our routine, but probably aren’t. What about checking for lumps? You know, getting the “girls” out and giving them a good old fondle? When did YOU last properly check your breasts?
As a breastfeeding mother, I’ll be honest, my breasts get manhandled , suckled, pinched, bitten (ouch!) clawed at and prodded on a fairly regular basis. Anything from a quick squeeze, to feel which side is fuller, ready for the next feed, or a gentle massage because they’re super engorged, or tiny fingers pinching at them during a feed. Then there’s that one time. Be it in the shower, lying in bed, or wherever you may be, that you feel a lump.
A lump. A small, hard, pea sized lump. Right there under your finger. Nestled somewhere inside your breast. Something that shouldn’t be there.
What do you do? Run straight to the GP, in a flustered panic demanding immediate treatment?
First you ask your husband to have a feel. Then you approach your friends “I hope you don’t think I’m being weird, but can you feel my lump?”
Feel my lumps! My lovely lady lumps! (Jo and I on my wedding day back in 2013)
You dismiss it. “It’s probably a blocked duct”
Yes. It probably is. Especially as a breastfeeder, in fact, it’s more than likely.
7 months pass, and a friend asks if you’ve managed to unblock your duct.
Oh! You say. No! I hadn’t really thought about it (of course you have) the lump is still there. Small. Round. Hard. Constant.
Finally. You go and see your GP. You explain your own medical history, your family history, you list off all the instances of cancer in your family, followed by “but I’m sure it’s nothing, I just wanted to double check”
The GP refers you. An urgent referral to the breast clinic, and just 10 days later, you are waiting, in an almost empty, deafeningly quiet room. Waiting for a scan, a biopsy, all of it. Waiting. Hoping.
Your name is called. You follow the nurse, and as instructed, remove your top half, using just a thin sheet to cover yourself. Small talk. Hand sanitiser, well practiced, professional smiles, and the humming of hospital equipment.
The professional smile is talking now. Telling you it is nothing more than a blocked duct, and that they can drain it there and then. There and then with a suitably drainpipe sized needle. You watch the needle on screen, the sting as it punctures through the delicate skin just above your areole, you see it on screen, plunging in to the “dark spot”. Deftly, they pull the plunger back, and the black hole disappears.
Just like that. A little over 2ml of milk, drained from a little pocket in your breast. The lump now gone, and nothing more to worry about.
I cannot even begin to describe the relief I felt at that moment, but what I will say, is 7 months is too long.
Check your breasts. Check them regularly. Chances are you will never find anything, but then again, you might.
I’ve been lucky. It was nothing more than a little pocket of milk. Milk that that got a bit lost and needed help finding its way out.
Hopefully you will be one of the lucky ones too.
Edit* 7 weeks later, when 4 weeks pregnant with Vivienne I had to have the lump removed and biopsied again as it came back. Thankfully again it was just a blocked duct and as they took more tissue this time it hasn’t grown back since.