So, for the two weeks of my trip I meticulously applied antiseptic cream, washed my bra every day, drank loads of water and slept whenever I felt I needed to. By the time I got back things were looking a bit worse, but I'd already made calling my GP a priority, and so first thing Monday morning went and displayed my manky boob to the doctor. His first reaction on seeing it was "Yep, you've got an infection there". After an examination, he confirmed that I had an abscess, gave me a stonking great prescription for antibiotics, and told me to come back in 48 hours if there was no improvement, saying that I may need the abscess draining.
48 hours later was my birthday (hurrah!) and so I treated myself to another trip to the GP, once again flopped my frankenboob out, and stated that nothing was improving. He agreed, and phoned through to the City Hospital, to have me admitted to the abscess clinic the next morning. I am so, so, so glad that he did.
Having read / looked at / watched everything the internet has to say about breast abscesses, and the merit of fine needle aspiration vs incision and draining, I was feeling queasy but pleased to be getting rid of what was by now a very swollen, uncomfortable lump. I also was secretly hoping to be able to watch the aspiration, as a closet Dr Pimple Popper fan (I know, I know).
After undressing and lying back on the table, the unfamiliar but very nice doctor jellied-up the ultrasound wand, and began to move it over my breast. The images on the screen meant absolutely nothing to me, and I had to resist the urge to shout "is it a boy or a girl?!". Having located the lump she plunged a skinny needle straight into it, which was surprising but not painful. She immediately had trouble, saying that she was having to apply pressure as nothing was appearing, then fished around a bit, and withdrew the needle with what looked to be only a small amount of blood within it.
And that's when it all went <ahem> tits up. Both doctor and nurse went from pleasant and friendly, to super-smiley and upbeat, explaining that they weren't dealing with an abscess, and that they were going to give me local anaesthetic and take a core biopsy. One look at the size of the needle (it looked like you could shoot arrows through it) and I was very grateful to be having the anaesthetic. As she took the biopsies, Dr Hamilton told me that she believed this to be a "breast lump" - I was confused, thinking "well yes, it's not a bum lump is it?!" and only realised moments later that she was using "lump" as a euphemism for tumour. At which point, my eyes became exceedingly sweaty. I kept doing that futile thing, where you press your finger up against your lower lid, partly to wipe the tears away but also to stem any further tears. Futile.
She took four biopsies in total, and they were… unpleasant. Not painful, but a very unnatural feeling of pressure as the needle's forced in, and shock as the mechanical hole-punching action takes the tissue sample. It's quick, but feels like it takes an eternity. The doctor that checked the lymph nodes in my armpit, said "yes, your glands are up too" and gave more anaesthetic, taking a biopsy from there too. The nurse swabbed away the blood and fluid, bandaged me up, and the doctor explained that she was fairly sure we were dealing with a breast cancer lump. She nipped out, and came back after I was dressed, explaining that she'd just been checking the MRI I'd had last November. She said that it was completely clear, and that there was nothing to have diagnosed at that time. She also explained that while I'd only noticed symptoms 3 weeks ago, the tumour will have been there a while longer, but had presented very quickly and aggressively, which was worrying. Again, the very chipper reassuring voice that told me "I'm concerned but not telling you." The nurse who'd been present the whole way through gave me an enormous hug, and handed me over to a breast care specialist nurse. The one (Nicky) I've been seeing since the start of my BRCA journey was on annual leave, so this other nurse sat me down and explained what happens next.
In a nutshell: go back next Thursday, collect biopsy results, have a full-body scan to see if it's spread to any other places, and hopefully pick up my chemo plan. The tumour's too big to operate at the moment, so she said it'll probably be a case of shrinking it with chemo, then operating. She said the word chemo softly as though it were bad news; all I could think was "PLEASE, CHEMO, ANYTHING, THROW IT ALL AT ME".
I'm finishing this post (and off to therapy - PHEW!!!!) with You Give Love A Bad Name. No real reason, other than I like it, and I don't have the thinking space to come up with a connected Jovi today: