2nd August 2014:
Yet another beautiful sunny day and I was looking forward to playing ´padel´ when I noticed a strange sensation in my right breast and a thickening of the skin around the areola coupled with a slight discolouration and change in texture.
I started to investigate, feeling my breast for abnormalities or lumps. I couldn´t find anything discernible and moved up into my right armpit when suddenly I felt a large hard lump. The lump did not hurt and as I didn´t have a temperature I was sure it wasn´t an infection.
My alarm bells sounded so I went to Urgencias at the hospital (A&E). If I am honest I was fairly positive that the signs were not good and suspected breast cancer, not because I am a negative person but because I am a realistic person. Having done some initial research the signs were not consistent with more minor illnesses.
Once in Urgencias I explained my findings and the doctor examined me. She could not find a lump in my breast, quite a large surface area to cover! But did feel the lump in my armpit and noted the strange skin texture. She referred me directly to the Breast Unit in Vélez-Málaga where I went for a scan and mammogram on 12th August. The doctors´ didn´t like the look of what they saw and I was back in two days later for a biopsy.
This week The Euro Weekly News begins a regular column chronicling the journey – both emotional and physical – of a breast cancer sufferer.
Expatriate Erica Russell Watson will take us with her and share her thoughts and experiences as she comes to terms with an illness she was only recently diagnosed with.
It is one that affects over 1 million women worldwide each year. Her story is unfortunately a common one in many homes around Spain and the world; a story of pain, disbelief, heartbreak, laughter, tears and spirit.
Screening and early detection is essential in the fight against breast cancer and organisations around Spain stress that being diagnosed with breast cancer does not necessarily equal a death sentence.
We hope that Erica’s story will strike a chord with readers and perhaps also inspire women to get screened at their nearest clinics in order to combat this disease; a disease that can devastate the lives of not only sufferers, but also their families and friends.
But it is important to remember that there is hope, and many women have, with just the same courage and dignity shown by Erica, faced up to the illness and come through it. We wish Erica all the best, our thoughts are with her.
2nd August 2014:
The biopsy was not dissimilar to spear fishing but with needles! Take aim and fire! -several samples of both the lump in my breast and armpit were taken and sent off for analysis. I went home bandaged up and waited for the results.
The hospital called me on 21st August to say they had my results but my appointment was the 27th. Being August in Spain everyone was on holiday so I just had to wait. I was not expecting good news, it was just a feeling I had as I knew something wasn´t right, we all know our own bodies. This is an important point and one I will revisit later. Listen to your body and your instincts, no matter how qualified the people are around you, never be afraid to question medical staff. They are only human after all and you may spot something they might overlook.
I sat in front of the doctor and waited for the news. He calmly reviewed the findings with me and confirmed I had grade 2 cancer in both the sample taken from my breast and the one from my armpit-lymph node. My attention drifted slightly as I listened to an inordinate amount of information over the ensuing hour and a half. I accepted the information and came away strangely calm. The main impression I had was that this wasn´t something to worry about and that there were a series of steps to go through. Firstly, surgery to remove the tumours and then depending on the results, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I always cope better when I have a plan of action. So I went down to the designated area and booked myself onto the operation waiting list, I did spot my paper was marked priority!
I went home to digest the news. I imagine people deal with the news in many different ways. Strangely I did not feel traumatised and I did not cry..tears would come later. I did not feel a sense of injustice. I thought of my children and my family and what their reaction would be….knowing it was going to be much harder for them to take and very upsetting. Now I just had to wait for the call from the hospital with my operation date.