Perfect preparation

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CW: Discussion of something that was verging on sexual assault; Health stuff.

I had a mammogram yesterday. I probably should be on my fourth, ish, on current guidance. At least my second. But it’s my first.

And unsurprisingly – because these are the first images and they don’t have a baseline – I’m being called back for more imaging. That’s normal. Because really what they want to do is compare your breast tissue to your previous breast tissue and look for change. And yes, I know that in my head. But when they say “it’ll take 2-3 days for your results” and you get called a couple of hours later, that’s disconcerting. And when the report says “12mm mass with obscured margins” and suddenly you need an ultrasound and more mammograms that’s…not reassuring. And so I’m trying, in my head, to hit the level of preparation for “it’s almost certainly nothing, but I don’t want to be completely blindsided if it’s something that needs more investigation.”

Which is a sweetspot I’m finding difficult to hit. Because what I have instead is formless anxiety that meant I spent a big chunk of yesterday resisting the urge to cry.

And it’s all tied up in the anxiety that comes from the fact that in the early thousands, around 2004/5, when the polish was still wearing off the sheen of being female in the world and not just in my head, I found a lump in my breast. And I went to see my GP about it and he looked and poked and then said we should get an ultrasound just to be sure.

And I rocked up at Southmead Hospital, friend in tow, and went for an ultrasound.

Where, after asking a lot of inappropriate and invasive personal questions about me being trans, during the ultrasound, hand on my breast ostensibly for moving the tissue and holding the probe in place he started asking about sexual habits and ‘which bathroom I used’. And then part way through he asked my friend if she wanted to come in and look — this is after I’d been very clear that I’d brought a friend along for moral support because I was kinda nervous. And looking back on it, it’s bad. I mean, I complained to the hospital and they sent that doctor for “diversity training” (Fuck them, incidentally). But, look, I was still new. This was the first time I really realised how not just being a woman, but being a trans woman in the world was risky.

I always wonder what he’d have done if my friend hadn’t been there.

And yeah. In the grand scheme of things it’s a nothing burger. Some shitty man decided to take advantage of the fact I was not clothed to cop a feel and say something inappropriate. Far, far worse things have happened to so many other women. Far worse things happened to me in my relationship with my abusive ex.

But I placed a healthcare professional in a position of trust, he abused it, and the hospital did effectively nothing.

I stopped doing breast self exams that day. I was pretty good at like regular checks before. And occasionally since I’ve managed to persuade myself to do it. But I’d just come back to this formless anxiety about what would I do about it? Would I do anything? I mean, I would. I know I would. But it felt pointless. And it’s really fucking hard for me to get past that. I did a mini self exam last night – since I know where the lump is – and there it was. I would have felt it had I been checking. I’m trying not to berate myself for not going at least last year. I’m not berating myself for an unhealthy trauma response, either.

And until a few months ago my E levels were really low anyway, which is protective for breast cancer. So.

So apparently I know what I’m going to talk about in therapy this week, and now I get to wait the three sodding weeks for me to get the follow up appointment (because that’s the first available appointment). Imagine if we had socialised healthcare, you’d have to wait for appointments.

Fucking idiot people.

Oh, and apparently, the mammogram, included as regularly covered shit by my insurance. Because there’s an issue and I have to have follow up, that has costs associated. And they’re not big. But I’m like, for fuck’s sake. This system is inane.



Kate's allegedly a human (although increasingly right-wing bigots would say otherwise). She's definitely not a vampire, despite what some other people claim. She's also mostly built out of spite and overcoming oppositional-sexism, racism, and other random bullshit. So she's either a human or a lizard in disguise sent to destroy all of humanity. Either way, she's here to reassure that it's all fine.