A lump in my left breast.
Quite hard, and quite there. Unmistakable.
I didn't panic. I knew the chances were that the lump would probably be okay.
But it was still a bit of a confronting moment.
As a journalist and former health writer, I'd interviewed loads of women about similar moments. I knew that 9 out of 10 lumps weren't cancerous (Source: The Breast Cancer Network of Australia). But as was the way of the media, the lumps that I'd written about had always been the nasty kinds.
Because of Christmas and New Year, my country GP had shut down for a few weeks. A GP was on call for emergencies.
Was a breast change an emergency? Should I go to the local hospital ER? I wasn't sure. Besides, we had family visiting and things were busy.
In the end, I decided to wait until I could go to my former medical centre in Brisbane, because I figured if there was a problem, I'd need to go to Brisbane anyway.
I couldn't see my usual GP (damn), but a saw another one I liked and had seen before. He recommended a mammogram and ultrasound, and possibly biopsy after that.
He wanted me to get it done while I was in Brisbane, straight away if possible.
A ring-around determined there was no chance of that - everywhere I rang was booked up for ages.
(And again, my mind was put at ease. If it was really serious, I assumed the GP would have organised something faster, right? So everything must be okay...)
Then I found out the Breastscreen Queensland mobile van was in Kingaroy. And I could have a mammogram there in 24 hours.
Except they couldn't do an ultrasound. If I needed one of those, it would have to be done later, in my nearest city, Toowoomba.
(I've since found out, from local ladies who know, that I should have gone to the Wesley clinic in Brisbane. Apparently, women can get everything done, including mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy if required, on the one day. And come out with a diagnosis in the end. But of course, you pay for this convenience and efficiency, ending up several hundred dollars out of pocket. And I probably would have had to wait a while to get in there too.)
Anyway, the Breastscreen Queensland mobile van is a fab service which travels to country Queensland, saving women at least one trip to the city for a mammogram.
Breastscreen usually recommends annual screens for women who have a strong family history of breast cancer, or who have had previous breast cancer. It's also obviously an amazing service for people like me, who are experiencing breast changes. And, women over the age of 40 are offered free screens every two years.
There's always a lot of talk about how painful mammograms are, and to be honest, they're not fun. But honestly, it's a walk in the park compared to many medical tests.
The x-rays are taken standing up so they recommend you wear a two-piece outfit for your modesty for the procedure. (You aren't given a gown at the mobile van).
It's a bit awkward in that you take off your top and bra, and are then manipulated in front of a machine which then basically squeezes your boob as hard as can be so a picture can be taken.
But it's over quickly, and with a minimum of fuss.
Tips? You're not allowed to wear deodorant or perfume, as it can cause confusing images on the mammogram.
I was in and out in about 15 minutes, and the whole thing, from walking into the van to finish took about 30.
I think the worst part of the process was that, my breasts weren't actually examined on the day, and my lump didn't even get a look in. Neither did the referral my doctor gave me.
This is normal practice though.
They only do the mammograms at Breastscreen Queensland. Then, the x-rays are looked at two radiographers, and maybe a third.
They weren't going to do an ultrasound just because my doctor wanted one, but would wait to see what the results indicated.
However, I was told it was common to be recalled for an examination, and not to 'freak out' if that happened to me.
I'll know within two weeks if anything more needs to be done, and the waiting is frustrating.
It's a niggle in the back of my mind, and I just want to know it's fine. And if it's not, I want it to be treated.
As soon as possible thank you very much.
To find out about Breastscreen Queensland and the mobile van, phone 13 20 50. Check with your GP about similar services in other states.