Now to the task that I have set myself: it is no exaggeration to ‘say’ that some of the most disconcerting – through to downright traumatic – experiences in life, have to do with the discovery of unaccountable, uncomfortable and self-perceived sinister symptoms. That lump – be it the size of a plum or a pea – which has suddenly and unaccountably ‘just appeared’ and to which one’s fingers seems inexorably drawn every time one showers; a persistent and aggravating cough which seems always to be present and never more so than when relaxing in a favourite chair, or after retiring for the night and attempting to sleep: an uncomfortable or maybe even burning feeling when passing water; or indeed any awareness, sensation of discomfort, which unerringly draws one’s attention to it, accompanied by the feeling, amounting to a fear, that all might not be well.
Under such circumstances as these and affected in this way, a prompt appointment with the GP or practice nurse really must be a first and immediate consideration. Just don’t give anxious thoughts and feelings time to take root in this way. Whatever it is that is occasioning worry about one’s health in this manner, it needs to be reported and checked out without delay. In the majority of cases, such discoveries are known to turn out to be benign and relatively harmless (and this, by the way, applies to the majority of patients up and down the land who have found and who are reporting a breast lump). In instances where the GP decides that there is cause for further investigation, it is so important to remember that one of the principal reasons why outcomes of treatment success are not even better than in fact they are, is down to patients’ delay in reporting such worries and concerns earlier than in fact they have.
Of course, there will be instances where evidence of a more serious condition requiring urgent attention and treatment, is found to be present. It might be cancerous, pre-cancerous or in every sense, benign. However – and where the former is suspected – it will almost certainly require prompt attention, more often than not leading to prompt referral to a given hospital department and specialist surgeon, physician or both. To receive and be required to actually take ‘on-board’ such news (however much one may have previously feared and even anticipated such an outcome) is almost bound to register profound shock, both to the patient and to his/her family members. The most likely and almost instant response (in my experience of patients at any rate) is likely to be shock. Shock is a predictable, though essential ‘component’ of our integral and natural defence systems: that overpowering sense of stunned disbelief that, for a time, places almost everything on hold. You know: “This cannot have happened; rather is it something that happens to other people; not to me”. Shock is a necessary, indeed, key response, in that it allows us to “buy time” in order to more effectively begin to adapt to and accommodate the need for change and the earliest stages of a “new normality”.