When I was little there was nothing that an early night could not cure… or so my mum would insist. I would have to be at death’s actual door in order to get a day off school! No matter what my complaint, injury, ailment… ‘You just need an early night… you’ll feel better in the morning.’ (This tactic did get me through secondary school with 100% attendance so maybe there was something in it!) My parents tell a story of how aged 2, I claimed I couldn’t walk because my leg hurt… cue the early night! Although quite the young actress this had apparently not been the act my mum and dad thought I was putting on. (My dad spied on me the following morning as I fell out of bed still unable to walk!) I then spent a week in hospital with my leg in traction. This particular story ends with me crying that I had to leave hospital and come home… apparently I liked being in hospital. (This may come in handy later in our story!)
This ‘early night’ approach has definitely left me with a suspicion of illness. I, like my mum, need proof when people claim they are ill. Nothing too dramatic- just the odd, rash, swelling, plaster cast or the like.
Primary school teachers everywhere will tell you that a glass of water and a wet paper towel will cure most classroom ailments and so I found myself several years later stood at the front of a classroom fully equipped with my mum’s attitude to illness telling children with headaches, grazed knees, poorly tummies that an early night would do them wonders! (Now that I’m a parent I am fully aware that the early night is in fact for the parent’s benefit! Thanks mum!) But funnily enough I continue to apply this suspicious attitude to illness to myself! Yep- every time I sit in a doctor’s waiting room I feel intensely guilty about wasting their time… I rehearse what I am going to say… hope for physical symptoms to serve as proof and generally get very nervous and sweaty and hope to God they don’t just say I need an early night!
This may just be a very long winded way of explaining why it took so long for me to tell anyone in the medical profession that I had a lump in my left breast. I was only just in my twenties… too young… just imagining it… had had a late night? I then promptly forgot about the lump and got on with getting through my twenties. Career? Check! Husband? Check! House? Check! Baby? Check! New baby? Check! So fast forward to Boxing day 2010 (empty sagging breasts from having finished feeding baby number two) and suddenly whilst washing I rediscover the lump… this time I feel a very urgent need to tell a member of the medical profession (but I do still get my husband to check he can feel it too so I can be sure I’m not imagining it! See? Suspicious- even of my own symptoms!) But it’s Boxing Day, I’m at my in-laws, Drs are closed and I’m not home even if they were open. So I wait….and when I finally do get into a room with a doctor a couple of days later I am promptly told it’s nothing and doesn’t even need investigating any further. Maybe I looked horrified but the doctor quickly followed this advice up with ‘Well, if it would help you- for your own peace of mind, you could get it seen by a specialist.’ Great! I thought. Someone else doesn’t believe me and now I feel like I’m making a fuss about nothing all over again! But I calmly said that ‘Yes, I would like it looked into a little further please.’ And thank God I did! Because here I now sit with just the one breast having had the cancerous one removed two days ago! Yep aged 31 with a three year old and a nine month old baby, in my prime! Career to continue, house to up size…I have breast cancer!
So please even if you think you’re too young… go and see a doctor if you think you have a lump! (And take it further even if a doctor makes you feel like you are making a fuss!)