"You can only come to the morning through the shadows" - J.R.R. Tolkien
It has not been easy. I have been unusually quiet and less dedicated to gaming, I've been having a tough time lately, a few things happened to me. I never thought that buying a new home and having some work done on it would be so stressful, but it is and that is taking a lot of my time. My little 'hobbity cottage' is now almost finished , it has taken over a year and I am still not sure when I will be able to move in, but at least I have a wonderful new kitchen and the new cooker and ovens have been installed, so I may sleep on the floor in a bare room, but at least I will be able to cook and eat like a hobbit *cheers*
About three weeks ago I decided to go and see my doctor. I am not a huge fan of doctors or hospitals after some bad experiences I had in the past, but this time I thought it was best to have a professional opinion. My grandmother died of breast cancer - what she went through from her diagnosis and then treatment still hunts me to this day. I was only a young girl back then, but I remember the shock of finding out her left breast had been removed by accidentally finding her breast prosthesis one afternoon.
Given my family history, I had been checking myself regularly, and although I am still relatively young, I had mammograms and tests over the years - these are not my favourite activities but I feel I have to do it. It is funny really as one of the most loveliest part of a woman's body could also be a silent killer, but such is life. In 2002 a small lump was found under my left arm, my world almost collapsed then, it was simply terrifying. I was so scared I was not even prepared to wait one week for a hospital scan done on my national health service, I booked a private appointment with a specialist there and then.
Only a woman that has gone through an experience like this can understand how I felt, nothing was important any more, nothing ...nor life, or gaming or painting, I was totally focused on my own body and on my anxiety to find out what was happening. I underwent a series of tests , including a biopsy ...you have no idea how much I hate needles, especially when someone stick them into me. When the result came back negative ( it was apparently an innocent cyst ) I did cry many tears of relief. This was 2002.
About a month ago I realized something was not quite right. There was no lump this time ( none that I could feel, anyway ) but I was sore on my left side and under my arm. For a few days I hoped this would all go away, maybe it was just some hormonal changes, I thought. But after a week of discomfort I started to panic. When I met my doctor, at first she was not concerned, she said not to worry, it was nothing but she would examine me anyway, just to be sure.
I remember lying there and looking at her face, hoping to see a reassuring smile....that did not come. Her face was serious , she did not say a word, only told me to get dressed again when she was finished. 'Please do not panic...' she said while washing her hands, 'but I will to send you to the Rapid Diagnostic Breast Clinic in London.' And there my world stopped again. I say unable to speak and pale as she was preparing to take some blood from me for more tests and writing my referral to the hospital in London.
It is hard for me to explain how I felt, what was on my mind, how worried I was in the following two weeks ( this is how long it took for my appointment ) - Breasts, lovely sweet boobs we all take for granted and looks so silly sometime in many of the games I play because game designers are mostly men or because female avatars are design to please a male gamer's taste. These lovely female padding can actually be the source of much stress and fear, as I discovered.
Time stood still. Gaming was suddenly not important any more, I could not paint, or concentrate on anything, once more I was totally focused on my own body and my anxiety. The two weeks wait for the hospital appointment went painfully slow. Usually a trip to London is a nice day out for me, not this time. Oh how much I dislike hospitals, but here I was in an hospital, in a waiting room filled with worried-looking women of all ages, trying to stay clam, reading a magazine or a book, but you could tell by their eyes what they were all thinking.
When my name was finally called I felt like 'dead-man walking' down the corridor. The nurse was kind but I barely heard what she was saying. The following two hours are a bit of a haze now. I remember been poked and scanned several times - the mammogram is a painful experience where you are squashed to the extreme, but it is the only way. All these tests can be a big intimidating and humiliating - as a woman you feel vulnerable, standing there alone as everyone seem interested only in your boobs. I felt powerless, the situation was totally out of my control.
Finally the consultant sat me down and said they were confident it was all normal, there were no signs of cancer, I will be ok, although I would be continue to be monitored in the following years as a precaution. There is nothing wrong with me ( well apart the fact I believe I am a hobbit and love pies and food and go around with no shoes ) - finally I could breathe again, and feel alive and happy. So dear boobs, thank you very much for been so lovely, but you did scare the hell out of me this time. Please just continue to be lovely and healthy so I can keep gaming and dreaming for many years to come.
So here I am, trying slowly to get over this silly adventure. Suddenly I have greater appreciation for the little things in life. I noticed yesterday I am still a bit slow at getting back into gaming and 'normal' activities, the stress I was under in the last month was greater than I thought. I know this is not my usual 'gaming' tale, but a more personal one , but I wanted to share to raise awareness of how important it is for women to be vigilant about their own bodies.