Making the Effort: Taking the Time

I love getting letters. I was appalled when the cost of stamps went up by such a large percentage earlier this year because I am sure it will result in fewer and fewer letters and cards being sent. Who can blame anybody for using e-mail or social networking sites to keep in touch rather than more traditional methods when the costs are so great?

It is certainly lovely to have been receiving so many pretty cards from friends and relatives, despite the cost of postage!  Not only that but the flowers and visits continued to arrive. Friends further afield would skype, phone and write.  Suddenly time was more important than anything else and the fact people were willing to spend their time with me was very humbling.

Around this time it also became clear to me that I should make the effort to spend my time wisely.  

There are some things I do not have the energy to do. Although I am registered with the local library to assist people who need help to use a computer, I do not feel able to undertake this duty just now. I am just too tired. Exhaustion is one of the most debilitating side effects of my treatment for me. However, I did feel able to attend the meeting of the poetry group the meets on the library.  I was thrilled t be able to do that. It allowed me to thank the poetry group for the lovely bouquet of flowers they sent me.

It was a special pleasure to join the group that day as renowned local poet, Gerry McGrath was reading some of his verse.  His website is One of his books A to B is reviewed at:

Although I got tired easily and felt a bit tender after the surgery, it was important to me to meet with the group and join in usual social intercourse that did not revolve around me being sick.  I do not like being ill. I am sure most people would prefer to avoid ill health, if they could.

While I was at the library, I was able to pick up the book the library book group was reading that month.   It was Gardens of Water by Alan Drew.

I was equally thrilled when I felt well enough to go to the singing class that runs in the Community Centre. It was another way for me to meet and mingle with the people that I share this interest with too.  members of the group had taken the time to visit me and bring me flowers, so I was able to thank them for the lovely bouquet of flowers.  There is no doubt that making the effort to spend time with people and taking the time to share my interests with them made me feel better.

Valerie Penny


It has to be a mistake………..Breast Cancer could not happen to me!

It is true that, at the end of the breast screening session at which I had my first mammogram, the radiographers did tell me that some people are recalled to have their mammogram results checked. It is also true that I did not pay a great deal of attention to that. Breast cancer could not happen to me, could it?

This is partly because I knew the staff had reached the end of their day and I did not want to hold them back. It was also because having a mammogram is not a very pleasant procedure, so I just wanted to get back to my husband waiting patiently in the car and go home. Most importantly, it was because I discounted the information: I was sure the breast cancer was not going to affect me. The mammogram was just a precaution.

I have already explained, my mind set, breast cancer did not happen to me.  Imagine my irritation when I got a notification for recall after the screening. It was clear to me that there must be a mistake. Perhaps the radiographer had been in such hurry to get home as my appointment has been the last one of the day, that she had made a mistake.  It must be a mistake……………………..

Breast cancer can affect anyone, man or woman. Breast cancer affects                                             
1 in 10 women in Scotland at some time in their life. It is
known that if breast cancer is found at an early stage,
treatment has the greatest chance of being successful.
The best way of screening for breast cancer is by having
regular mammograms, as you may not be able to see or feel any early changes to your breasts.

So on 19 April I attended the breast screening centre.  The correspondence I received in relation to the breast screening explained that the series of tests and examinations could take several hours. My long suffering husband did take me to the hospital, however, he did not sit and wait around. That is too hard for anybody.

This area of the hospital has been refurbished and is bright. The staff, without exception, are supportive, cheerful and professional. The patients remove their upper clothing and wear little pink shawls which will never win a design award, but are convenient, bearing in mind the examinations they will undergo.

The tests I was subjected to during this recall were, first of all another mammogram. By now I was paying more attention. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray exam of the breasts to look for changes that are not normal. The results are recorded on x-ray film or directly into a computer for a doctor called a radiologist to examine.

A mammogram allows the doctor to have a closer look for changes in breast tissue that cannot be felt during a breast exam. It is used for women who have no breast complaints and for women who have breast symptoms, such as a change in the shape or size of a breast, a lump, nipple discharge, or pain. Breast changes occur in almost all women. In fact, most of these changes are not cancer and are called “benign,” but only a doctor can know for sure. Breast changes can also happen monthly, due to your menstrual period.

In addition to this the doctor required me to have an ultra sound. The primary use of breast ultrasound today is to help diagnose breast abnormalities detected by a physician during a physical exam (such as a lump or bloody or spontaneous clear nipple discharge) and to characterize potential abnormalities seen on mammography or breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Ultrasound imaging can help to determine if an abnormality is solid (which may be a non-cancerous lump of tissue or a cancerous tumor) or fluid-filled (such as a benign cyst) or both cystic and solid. Ultrasound can also help show additional features of the abnormal area. When an ultrasound examination reveals a suspicious breast abnormality, a physician may choose to perform an ultrasound-guided biopsy. Because ultrasound provides real-time images, it is often used to guide biopsy procedures. An ultrasound exam will usually need to be performed before the biopsy in order to plan the procedure and to determine if this method of biopsy can be used.

The doctor could not find the shadow that he saw on the mammogram in the ultra sound scan, so he did decide to try to burst the shadow, but when that did not work he decided to have biopsies taken.  The nurse who took the biopsies was very skilled. She managed to take 12 biopsies from a nip on my breast no bigger than the size of the top of a pin.

The visit took a total of almost 3 hours. At the end of it the doctor explained that he could not tell if the shadow he saw was benign or not. When he asked me if I had any questions, all the questions were dependent on the shadow being a cancerous tumour. Therefore I chose not to ask anything.  At this point even I began to have doubts, maybe breast cancer could happen to me.  Make sure you get checked regularly.

This wicked, shamed disease is no respecter of dignity.  It could happen to you.

Valerie Penny

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