The Week I found out I had Cancer

On 1 April 2020  I felt a lump in my breast. Everyone was in lockdown, but because of my anxiety I asked a nurse at dischem to do a breast examination. 

We don’t have cancer in our family, I didn’t know what to look out for or how a lump “should” feel. 

The nurse said she was a little bit worried because the lump was hard.

They sent me to radiology at Unitas Hospital in Centurion, South Africa. 

They did a sonar. 

The doctor there was supporting and very loving. I felt safe. 

It’s a daunting experience and very invasive. Everyone is touching and looking and pulling and it gets uncomfortable. These people are trained professionals that deals with a lot of women. Try and remain calm, but please remember that your safety comes first and if you are feeling disrespected or feel that someone might harm you, you are always allowed to ask for another doctor. 

Then she got this look on her face. “Usually benign lumps are round with round edges, your lump has rough edges, but it’s nothing to worry about… yet” 

We did a mamogram and a biopsy straight after. 

Even more uncomfortable! 

I remember at one stage it felt like my soul left my body, and I just surrendered in order for them to do what they need to. 

What a stressful week. I was dating a new guy, I was a student with dreams. What if? What if I have cancer? It can’t be though, we don’t have cancer in our family, only 20% of biopsy lumps are cancer, and only 20% of cancerous lumps are in woman under 50. I’ll be fine! Google… And repeat…

 I was stressing so much that the new guy thought I was seeing someone else and he dumped me. It was either that or he didn’t want to deal with a cancer girl… I felt alone and really really scared. It’s important to find support in times like these. I got comfort from my family and friends that went through similar experiences. Remember that people do have their own lives, they don’t know you’re going through a bad time if you don’t tell them. I realized that some people will drop everything to support you. Your support structure will be your saving grace! 

My gynecologist phoned the next morning: “Babette, it’s Karen Minnaar. I got your biopsy results back can you come see me  as soon as possible?” 

My heart sank, I knew. “Off course I will be there, is it bad news?” 

“Let’s discuss it when you get here”

“I know we are in lockdown, but will I be able to bring my mom with me”

“Yes, bring her with you, definitely bring her with you” 

What to expect during a breast examination: 

    • The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and determine if you have any high risk factors. 
    • Examine your breasts and lymph nodes from your color bone down and under your armpits. 
    • Check the skin on your breasts
    • Look at your nipples for any changes such as invertion or discharge. 

Here are a few things to look for when doing a breast exam: 

    • Lumps or thickening that feel different or harder than the rest or other breast
    • Nipple Discharge 
    • Skin changes: Redness, Dimpling, Itchiness, scaling or puckering 
    • Inverted Nipple

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