I found another lump in my breast a few weeks ago. My first thought was that it was probably another cyst, and I was right. When I had first found a lump, just over a year ago, just before Christmas, I spent a few weeks thinking the absolute worst. I didn’t tell my new partner. How could I? She hadn’t signed up for that. The morning I spent at the breast clinic, alone, was pretty grim. They confirmed there was something there, gave me a mammogram, and then an ultrasound, which was when they told me it was a cyst. The relief was palpable. I had loads. It’s just a thing! That particular one, they drained. The pain was quite intense. They were very sympathetic. Told me to go to my GP if any changes happened. And so, I did.
You feel a bit like you’re wasting people’s time. There are genuinely ill people there, people going through the worst time in their life. People about to get terrible news. People hoping, fearing, living extremes. And me.
This time, I told my partner right away. It’s a deal we have, after last time. It made a difference, sharing it with someone, having them there.
Also, it meant I had someone with whom I could instantly share my rage at the blatant privileged sexism of the doctor I first saw. The one who started talking at me immediately, asking what I did. When I gave my standard, vague answer (I don’t like talking about myself), he grilled me further. All the while, I’m standing, sitting, then lying with my top off and his hands on my body. When I sat, he stroked my back with one hand and said ‘nice art’. For some reason, I said ‘thanks’. I lay back and he asked more questions. I said I worked for an equality and rights project. He thought that this point, with his hand on my breast, was an appropriate time to say that he thought there was ‘too much equality and rights for some people’. I replied that this was maybe true, for white men. He continued to feel his way round my breasts, saying ‘oh no, white women too. Taking too much holiday, they come back, and go off again. Just taking advantage, aren’t they. It’s a legal thing.’ I mumbled something about them being entitled to it, I assumed he was talking about maternity leave, but by this point my vulnerability – as I lay on a hospital bunk, topless, powerless, unsure what horrors lurked within my body – had taken over and words had left me. I went back to the waiting room and had a quick cry. The words that came out were, ‘I hate men. I hate them.’
I had to go back and see him after having an ultrasound (where two lovely women nurses looked after me, drained an improbable amount of liquid out of the cyst – two vials were needed – and then applied what I can only describe as a tit punch to stop it filling up again, checking I was okay every step of the way). I didn’t want to ever see this man again. I walked into the room and he told me with posh authority it was a ‘design flaw’ in my body and a ‘nuisance’. He told me, if I found another lump or change, to wait a few weeks before going to the GP. My breast was pulsing in pain. I was relieved but I felt silly. I couldn’t make eye contact with the student doctor, female, who’d sat through both consults, and no doubt has to endure more and worse on a daily basis.
I don’t hate men, obviously. I hate the ones that make me feel like I do. Every day there’s something. Some display of privilege, entitlement, misogyny, disregard, disrespect, sexism, homophobia. Something, every single day. It wears you down. I don’t have anything clever to say about this. I just feel tired, and frustrated, and happy that I have someone to navigate this fucking obstacle course with.