Live positively

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Patient casebook

I found a scary lump in quite an unexpected place...

Jill Rackham, 46, from Sheffield

Sitting back, I exhaled deeply – I felt relaxed. In August 2020, I was on holiday on the east coast of Yorkshire with my husband Steve, now 48, and my two boys.

And after the throes of the first lockdown, it was nice to have some downtime.

Only, brushing my hand over my collarbone, I felt a lump.

It was solid but not rock hard – feeling more like the thickening of skin.

I felt a lump on my collarbone

I had recently been going to the gym and wondered if I had knocked a muscle.

‘It’s worth getting checked,’ Steve suggested to me.

So back at home, I called my GP.

‘I’m going to refer you to the breast clinic,’ she told me. ‘I’d like to rule out the possibility of breast cancer.’

Surely this is not happening, I thought. I’m only 43, this happens to older ladies.

I had no family history of breast cancer and it was weird that the lump was on my collarbone, not on my breast.

I didn’t even realise that breast tissue went up to the collarbone.

Despite having a funny feeling though, I was determined to remain positive.

In September I went to my appointment alone, where I had a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. Because of the location of my lump, I found myself posing in lots of weird angles.

The testing revealed I had another lesion in my left boob that I couldn’t feel.

‘Whatever these are, they need to come out,’ the radiographer said – but I remained hopeful, even though I would need a breast MRI to make sure I didn’t have any more lesions.

Lying in the scanner for 40 minutes, my mind was all over the place. Please no more, I thought to myself.

‘There are four areas of concern,’ the doctor said when I came out of the scanner. ‘We’ll have your biopsy results back soon and then we’ll know how to address this.’

I was so nervous about receiving the results, but Steve was my rock.

‘We’ll get through this,’ he promised me.

Steve was allowed to come to the hospital to receive my biopsy results with me.

One of the areas of concern was a fibroadenoma – a noncancerous lump that can be quite common in young women.

But I also had three grade three cancerous tumours in my left breast. This meant they grew very quickly.

‘They’re highly positive for oestrogen but haven’t gone into your lymph nodes,’ the doctor said.

‘We think we can get them out with surgery.’

The tumour on my collarbone was only 2cm and I was lucky to have spotted it when I did.

If I hadn’t, the results could have been a lot worse.

Steve was my rock

Because the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes, I was stage one and had a relatively positive prognosis.

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