It’s February 2015, it’s bloody cold outside, and Mum and I are going shopping. Mum had a routine mammogram booked in for that morning, so en route to town, we swung by the NHS screening van that sat in big Tesco’s car park, she got her boobies out, squished ‘em into the machine, and then we were on our way!
She got the results back around a week or so later, and there was an ever so slight grey patch in her left breast. They called her back to discuss the results, and put the anomaly down to the fact that Mum happened to be on her period at the time, so they invited her back for another one (when she wasn’t on her period) to see if there was any difference. She went back, got the mammogram done, results showed nothing this time round.
Life carried on as normal, but looking back on it, was this the start of her cancer? Did she have it for longer than anyone realised? If this was followed up with a biopsy, could she have been diagnosed sooner?
Fast forward to November 2016 – for a few weeks, Mum had felt consistently lethargic, had flu like symptoms, and didn’t have much of an appetite. She gave herself a week or two to get over this mysterious ailment, but it didn’t go away. She made herself an appointment at the doctors to get to the source of the issues. Mum was diabetic so at first, a doctor prescribed a change in diet and more blood sugar level checks, then another doctor tested her for reduced liver function, she even got tested for an allergy to beetroot? But after all these tests, nothing changed, nothing was conclusive.
The day she found the lump, she said she’d been sitting on the toilet (all the best stories start on the bog), her cardigan had fallen down from her shoulder and as she went to pull it back up, her hand grazed a lump on the outer side of her left breast.
The one that the grey area had shown on the mammogram 18 months earlier?
Mum went for an emergency appointment with the doctors, had blood taken for various tests, and was told to call back the next day for the results. The next day was Friday 9th December. That day will forever be imprinted in my memory as the day that my Mum found out she had cancer.
I remember Mum saying that she got a call from the hospital asking her to go in to discuss her results, and could she be there on Monday? Monday? A whole three days later? Mum told the doctor on the phone that she would rather go in that day, as on Sunday she was seeing my brother (who lived in Liverpool at the time), and if she had bad news to tell him, she’d need to say it to his face. Obviously it was bad news, because she was told to come in straight away. She asked my Nan to go with her. Mum said she couldn’t drive herself home through the tears and she cried for hours thereafter. That evening I was babysitting for a friend, so she didn’t tell me until the following day.
I’ll never forget the look on her face as she told me. It was worrying to see my Mum be so vulnerable and uncertain about something. She cried quite a lot. I didn’t, I couldn’t really, it was pure shock. Immediately, I told her that I was sure she’d be able to get through it and come out smiling the other side. I remember saying “but they caught it early so it’ll be okay won’t it?”. I knew the statistics of people beating and surviving cancer were getting better, the research was coming along with advances. I cried about it for the first time two days later, after I’d spent an afternoon with my whole family (about 40 of us), and I think seeing how everyone else reacted to it had overwhelmed me.
I had every faith that she would beat it.