Three weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and in the next few days I will have a complete mastectomy of the left breast. Both the public health gynecologist and the sonographer clearly saw what the private specialist could have detected a year and a half ago when I went to her worried about the retraction of my nipple. At that time, she advised me to have a mammogram at Chiron: “They have the best machines,” she told me. There I went and had it done, I paid 150 euros for an image that did not decipher the complexity of my breast and the reason for the retraction of the nipple with the certainties that the doctor expected. She relied more on the lack of conclusive evidence from the machine than on the evidence that this type of alteration is often closely related to breast cancer. I trusted her and since January 2021 I have been doing the reviews every six months to see her evolution. The nipple was getting worse and the inner lump was increasing, but very slowly.
“That in medicine is a good sign,” the doctor told me regarding the growth, while she had little to add to the nipple, associating the event with a scar she had had in that area for two decades. She didn’t give it more importance and I shouldn’t give it to her either, she transferred me. Months passed and each time I felt more uncomfortable. Her breast hurt me, it was deformed and the nipple, far from stabilizing, worsened. On one of the scans at my request, because I was somewhat alarmed, she again downplayed it by suggesting that if she was causing me “so much” discomfort and I was cosmetically concerned that maybe I could see a private surgeon. She handed me a card and I never went. It increased my complex and feeling of guilt for feeling this way. She hid my chest, which I barely looked at when I stood in front of the mirror.
I didn’t like that, but it was seen that we had to put up with it. I behaved like a girl who blindly trusts the person she knows and who is kind. It didn’t even cross my mind to ask for a second opinion, the problem was mine for not accepting the situation.
Month after month things got worse, so in February of this year, in the last check-up, I asked her if she knew if Social Security could cover an operation to attend to this case because it hurt and that was not normal. In my naivety, she worried me that the deformation of my chest could affect some neighboring organ or tissue in a significant way, because the aesthetic part had mentalized me that I had to put up with it. This is how the history of the bodies of so many women is written, always enduring. The doctor, a gynecologist and also an echographer, told me that this type of intervention would possibly have a place in the public health portfolio because the alteration was significant compared to the other breast. She wrote me a little report and when I got home I left it on my desk without giving it priority because, after all, it was due more to my uneasiness and personal demands for appearance and some pain than to a medical problem.
When I went to the family doctor’s appointment at my health center, four months after my last check-up, in mid-June, he clearly saw that that nipple was not normal. He did not have to do any imaging tests. He referred me urgently to gynecology. The public health gynecologist who treated me had the same certainty, and when she felt me she verified that the retraction of the nipple was clearly caused by the lump behind it. He picked up the phone and asked for a mammogram and ultrasound to be done right then and there. When it was time to do the second test, the sonographer saw it clearly, he had breast cancer, and so she told me with the greatest care and also some concern. A biopsy had to be done at that very moment to know “the surname”, she told me, we already have the name. Both she and the nurse who was by my side throughout the procedure surrounded me with all the empathy and humanity that I needed at that time. From here I want to thank you. I remember that I was alone for a moment and tears began to fall as I lay half in the dark and only in a robe. I remember saying to myself under my breath, “don’t be scared,” but I was. I was scared, very scared. I left that room supported by the professionals who were there, with my chest bandage and a tremendous weakness in my legs. I, who had gone embarrassed that morning to the consultation to ask them to do something to my chest because I didn’t like it and it hurt, came out with a diagnosis of breast cancer.
From that June 23 until today I only have thanks to public health, and especially to its team of gynecologists and health workers (sorry, I have only met women in this time). His eyes and her machines detected without any doubt what they were unable to see in private. Indeed, the tumor grew very slowly in these 18 months, but it was there during all that time. This slow growth has been very positive so that the surname of the cancer that is in my breast has not gone to other organs of my body, but it already had and is large enough that they have to remove my entire breast. The prognosis they have given me is, within the bad, one of the best. I have been very lucky in how the history of this tumor has unfolded, very lucky. The doctors give me peace of mind right now. You have to remove everything and then the treatment. In Spain, in our Social Security, there is treatment. And I, who am also a Spanish citizen, can access it without bureaucratic obstacles or colonialist questions. Everything that is to come I will face step by step and without guilt.
One in eight women have breast cancer. In fact, I am surrounded by survivors of the disease, by friends and colleagues, by sisters who are first-person references to stories of overcoming and transformation. Of women who are not heroines, although we love to romanticize resilience, of flesh and blood women whose most human tissues and emotions are those that regenerate life in their bodies driven by the medical care of our public health, essential. They are the ones I want to look at right now.
Several have written to me on social networks and I keep what Paula told me: “You have to live this as you please and as you can. From anger, love, from bewilderment… Doctors are all wonderful. Let yourself go and listen to your intuition.” Without blame or pressure, is my conclusion.
And in the midst of all this, for me it is inevitable not to think of all the sisters who did leave, their loved ones and also those who face situations like this, with more serious diagnoses or in much more adverse circumstances, or alone, or badly accompanied, or with daughters and sons, or with precarious jobs… It is inevitable not to think about them, and in doing so I close my eyes, and if you have someone nearby, don’t leave her alone, support her. Because you don’t know what sustains the word and the look when you feel the vertigo of fear. They hold like wings.