First things first, I want to give Johnny Depp a massive shout out, because if it wasn’t for him, perhaps I would be still cruising around without a care in the world, but with a ball of cancer in my left breast. Laying on the couch that Sunday night watching his movie ‘Black Mass’ ironically led me to discover one of my very own.
With my left arm casually lifted above my head, and my right hand scratching an itch, the foreign hard mass was detected, followed by instant fear & tears. My gut told me that this was much more sinister than the gangsters on screen.
I headed straight to Phuket International Hospital the next morning where my Mammogram came up clear with no unusual visible signs of a lump. That however was contrasted to the ultrasound which clearly revealed the 2.8cm x 2.5cm solid Black Mass.
Hearing the surgeon say “Tumor” sent horrific fear through me. She said it didn’t have characteristics of a malignant tumor, but rather just a benign fibroendenoma which is common in women my age and nothing to worry about. She said due to the size of it, it was likely to be a giant fibroendenoma which is growing hence its large size, which meant she recommended I get it surgically removed by local anesthetic in the next 3-6 months.
Four different opinions later and all came up with the similar diagnosis: benign fibroendenoma. My GP in Sydney, Australia suggested I get a biopsy and perhaps not need to get it removed. Whereas the second Breast Specialist I saw at Bangkok Phuket Hospital suggested if it was ‘convenient time’ then suggested that I should just get the lump removed. We thought well, if it needs to be removed in the next 3-6months then why not just skip the biopsy and get it removed considering that it was a ‘convenient’ time right now and was benign.
So with that, I booked my surgery for the next day at 1pm. I had cried when the breast surgeon had said I was going to have a small scar from the incision. Silly vain girl. How ridiculous that now sounds as I will soon lose my hair from chemo treatment and face a possible double mastectomy. All it takes is a little perspective. And hindsight.
Waking from the general anesthetic in a foggy haze, I instantly asked the Thai nurses whether they “got it out?” To receive no reply was kind of normal as I just thought that perhaps they might not understand English very well. But to then see my partners stricken face when I asked the same question, and to hear his reply “The Dr is coming to talk to us” made my heart sink and stomach turned. This still gives me goosebumps as I recollect and want to forget this moment forever and erase the fear that I saw in his eyes.
The Doctors forlorn face also spoke a thousand words. Well here’s just a few from his mouth:
Cancer. Chemo. Radiation. Another surgery. No consent. No clear margins. Lymph nodes unchecked. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Cancer.
What the actual fuck?!
I cried, no actually, I howled deeply like a wounded animal even surprising myself by the foreign painful sounds coming from within. I was instantly mourning my future, our future. Our plans which we were so excited about were suddenly in the forefront of my mind, and strangely a sense of guilt came over me as I looked into my love’s eyes. He’d be horrified to read this as it was the last emotion he would want me to have felt. But I did. And I remember feeling scared to call my family and place the burden on them. My Mum. My Dad. My sisters. My brother. My friends. They are going to be devastated. That’s what I remember thinking.