Right. Settle in folks. I am about to PREACH some serious shizzle at you. Hold on to your ha’pennys (maybe boobies would be better), because we are going to have a good old chinwag about #CheckYourChebs.
Today marks nine days since I had my single mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, a little over a month after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My recovery has been going really smoothly. I’m dosed up to the nines with good quality painkillers which has enabled me to keep my discomfort under control and I’m down to carrying one drain around with me, rather than the two I left hospital with last week. My flowery little granny bag will soon be retired completely (hopefully tomorrow!).
On Monday, I popped along to the hospital to get my wound and new bosom checked out and I must admit, my incredible surgeon looked pretty pleased with his handiwork. I am actually so pleased with how it looks – there’s still some swelling and it’s obviously tender, but all in all, it looks just like my other boob. It’s official that my surgeon is a hero.
Not only that but he gave me quite a bit of good news while he was examining me (it’s strange how quickly you get used to having serious conversations with your knockers out). The cancer in my breast tissue (which measured 22mm, about the size of a £1 coin) has been entirely removed by the mastectomy and my lymph nodes are “technically clear” which means there are some cancerous cells in there, but they’re so few, chemo will blast the bejesus out of them. No radiotherapy or axillary node clearance required. Which is really brilliant news. But this brings me quite nicely on to my next point.
I know I’ve said this before, but I feel like the results I got after my mastectomy really hammer the point home. Part of the reason my cancer was so small and hadn’t spread into my lymph nodes properly was because of early detection. While I admit that I was very much in the habit of checking my boobs with sporadic regularity, I was incredibly relaxed about the fact that I found a lump in my boob, having convinced myself it was just another cyst. I was 100% planning to go to the doctors, but if it wasn’t for my Mother (ta Marge) banging on at me on the phone one day telling me to go to the doctors as soon as possible, I would have put it off. And I don’t know how long for. Work was busy, I was busy, there was lots of other stuff going on with me and I could easily have waited two weeks, a month, two months before I got checked out. And if I had waited that long, we could be looking at an entirely different narrative to this story.
I am not trying to say this to scare you – that is the last thing I want to do, but I want to encourage you to get familiar with what’s going on in your boobs. I was always taught “I want never gets” but I’ve got a card right now, and I’m playing it and putting all my chips on the table. I want you to know if anything seems weird with your boobs (we’ll talk about the things to look out for in a minute). I want you to make sure you’re going for your smear tests. I want you to get your partner to check your boobs, his pecs, his nether regions, her boobs. I want everyone to check themselves regularly. That is my dream. Creepy. But true. This needs to be something we get into the habit of doing as often as cutting our fingernails or tweezing our eyebrows (OK – I’m guilty of not doing this as often as I should. I’m going for a Cara look, OK?!)
Only one in every 2000 women who is diagnosed with breast cancer every year is under 30, and over 30 the number is still low so the odds really are in your favour while you’re a younger woman, but it’s still important to get into the habit.
I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about my wonderful new friend Kate. Kate is a little older than me, but after one of our joint friends (the gorgeous Jane) shared my blog on her Facebook, Kate had a feel of her boobies and discovered a lump. Long story short, she’s also in the breast cancer club. It’s a shit club to be in, but she, like me, could have been facing a different story if she hadn’t checked her chebs.
Kate and I have been emailing pretty much constantly since she got in touch to tell me her story and she began her chemotherapy yesterday. Whilst I wish (really, really wish) she didn’t have cancer and feel so terrible about her getting the diagnosis, I’m so glad she found the lump when she did. But she found it BECAUSE SHE CHECKED.
So I can hear you going “that’s all well and good Alice, but how do you #CheckYourChebs?” (I bet you said the hashtag too, right?!). It’s easy. There is actually no correct way to check your chebs. True story. It’s just about being familiar with what your Mama gave you and having a good poke and prod around, while keeping your eye out for the following things:
- Changes in skin texture (i.e puckering or dimpling)
- Lumps you can feel
- Nipple discharge
- Nipple inversion or changes in direction
- Swelling around your armpit or collar bone
- Pain in your breast or armpit
- Change in size or shape
- Rash or crusting of the nipple area
If you spot any of these things, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. Don’t be shy. Don’t feel silly. You are taking control of your own body and that is awesome. You owe it to yourself.
What are you waiting for? Today’s the day to make #CheckYourChebs a regular part of your weekly routine. There’s literally no better time to start. Please share this with your friends and loved ones to get them checking too. It sounds cliched and dramatic, but doing it could save a life. On you go, my little cheb checking cherubs.
The boob checklist came from Coppafeel – their website has SO much information on checking your boobs, I really recommend you check it out and get involved in Check ‘Em Tuesday.