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Check your chest

Spabreaks.com's Creative Designer, Rhea, shares her story for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Noticing something was off

In 2021, I was sitting in the bath and noticed some dark red patchy bruising, quite a noticeable amount on my left breast. A bit stunned and confused, I left it. A week went by and whilst I was sitting with my parents in the lounge, I mentioned that I saw something a bit strange on my chest and that I thought it was probably nothing, but wasn’t too sure. I thought it could have been a weird reaction from a bubble bath I was using or something simple that could have explained what I saw. Without knowing the potential gravity of this, my parents were concerned and advised me to get it checked out as soon as I could.

I managed to get a doctor's appointment after a few days of waiting, in which a lovely paramedic checked me over to see if she could identify anything. As soon as I was telling her what I saw, answering the questions regarding my symptoms, I burst into tears. With it being a difficult time in my personal life as a 20 year old at university, especially during COVID, this is the last thing I wanted, and the fear of the unknown made it even more difficult.

Getting checked out

The paramedic sent me off to get a full blood count test, with a referral to a breast clinic to get them checked. This process was quite emotional. Not only did I feel sad that I was a sitting duck, waiting for people to tell me what I may or may not have, I felt even worse knowing my parents had to sit and experience it too. When the appointment finally came around, both of my parents drove me to the hospital, in which I got examined to see if any lumps could be identified. Luckily, the doctor couldn’t find anything. With the relief that nothing was found, the doctor referred me to have a biopsy, to see if there was anything harmful in my skin instead.

Fast forward a couple of weeks after my initial appointment to discuss the procedure, I had my first biopsy. Initially, it was quite scary. However, during and afterwards, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I lay, topless, on an examination table with a surgeon and nurse by my side. The nurse made me feel so safe and affirmed to me that everything was okay and that this process wouldn’t hurt. She held my hand and spoke to me about university and what I studied. In all honesty, if she wasn’t there, I don’t know how calm I would have been.

They gave me a few injections beforehand so I wouldn’t feel anything. The weirdest part of the biopsy is that I could hear some snipping and feel a few tugs on my chest whilst the surgeon was removing and sewing, but I couldn’t feel any pain. They stitched and wrapped up the area and sent me away. Anxiously sitting back in the lounge with my parents, the surgeon called a few days later and told me I was in the clear and that I didn’t have cancer. What an absolute relief. The instant peace of mind for us all is something I will never take for granted.

Next steps

A few months later, I had to undergo a second biopsy by a different surgeon as the first sample wasn't big enough to receive any other results. After ruling out cancer, Lyme disease and multiple other things, they still hadn’t come to a conclusion of what it could be and why the bruising is still there. Although I don’t know exactly what it is still, I am so incredibly grateful I got it checked out and that they ruled out anything harmful.

Once a week, I still check my breasts and under my arms to see if I can feel or see anything out of the ordinary. It is part of my routine and something I do in my stride, rather than in fear. I cannot explain how important it is to get it checked, even if you think it is the smallest thing. It can be a really emotional, frightening process, however, please don’t let this be the reason you do not reach out and get checked.

If you ever see or feel something that is a little out of the ordinary, please reach out to your local GP to get checked out. It will all be okay.

“Often times, fear of the unknown brings more anxiety than what lies beyond that veil of uncertainty.”

Find out more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer

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