I Survived the Medical Medieval Torture Chamber!

Greetings, friends!  Here’s to a (belated) Happy New Year in 2020 and (very belated) hopes that your 2019 was a good one.  I’m afraid I’ve been off the grid a lot longer than I intended.  During my absence from Bloggyville, I’ve been dealing with various aspects of life including more health (Lupus and Gastroparesis) complications, several deaths of various friends and family members, and emergency house repairs (and appliance replacements).  During my time away, besides the day job, I’ve also opened a homemade soap store, written two new manuscripts, created more art for the house, updated some backdoor stuff on my blog, and otherwise kept myself busy with reading and other artsy projects which I’ll elaborate on in a future post.

However, in the interest of not going all over the map in a single post, today I would like to share the details of just one of my recent adventures.  (Those of you who have been with me a while know I have the strangest things happen to me and how I like to “at least get a funny story” out of the ordeal.)  WARNING: If you are reading this in a public area, be on notice that this will likely make you laugh out loud.  (At least it hasn’t failed to make any of my personal audiences snort with amusement, so if you’re not laughing by the time you reach the end, you’re taking it way too seriously.)  [Also, apologies in advance to the men who may find this a little too personal – I know the ladies will completely “get it.”]

Several months ago, I started experiencing a pain under my left arm.  I figured it was a swollen lymph node, and that it would probably go away sooner than later.  By the time I next saw my rheumatologist for my Lupus, it was still sore and had grown in size, so I told my doctor that it felt like a doorknob in my armpit.  (Of course, I meant in reference to size – not an actual doorknob.)  So, you can probably already guess that she sent me for a mammogram.

Meanwhile, my sister, Michelle, was having mammary issues of her own and had to get a breast biopsy.  After my mammogram, they found something suspicious, so I, too, was scheduled for a biopsy.  (It may be a good time to note that Michelle and I go to different medical clinics, so at no time did we have any of the same doctors.)  It was around this same time that I was also dealing with an intense amount of shoulder pain from my Lupus.  I regularly get steroid shots in each shoulder, but I can only get them four times per year, and it was too soon to get new injections.  After Michelle’s biopsy, she came home and told me exactly what to expect:  She said they had her lie on her side with one arm raised over her head.  Then they injected her with a local anesthetic, made a small incision, removed several pieces of tissue, inserted a titanium clip inside to know where the tissue was taken, taped up the incision, then – and here comes the bad part – did another mammogram to make sure the clip was in place.

Ladies, even if you’ve never had a breast biopsy, you’re still probably cringing by now, just imagining the pain of a mammogram following an incision and the digging around inside to collect tissue specimens.  Men, if you don’t believe us, go out to the tool bench, put your junk in a vice, then close it all the way.  Wait!  I forgot the part where before you start, you should raise the vice to about six inches higher than your junk will reach, mount it on the wall, then proceed to insert your junk and close the vice.  That’s how a mammogram works… You have to reach around and hold a handle at the back of the machine that’s about three inches past your fingertips, and then they clamp your puppy in until it’s flatter than a pancake and raise the machine until you’re standing on your tippy-toes, and just when you think it can’t get any worse, they raise the machine once more and tell you to hold your breath while they get the first image.  Then after they get the image, just when you think sweet relief might be in your future, they – while keeping your boob smashed securely – rotate the machine sideways to the point that you think it might just rip your breast from your torso.  And then they do the other side.

So, Michelle’s report that I could look forward to this after the actual procedure didn’t give me much hope that it would be a pleasant experience.  However, the part that actually seemed more excruciating to me was that I would have to lie still with my arm raised over my head for half an hour.  (With my shoulders the way they were, I could barely raise my arms for the time it took to brush my own hair, much less for an extended period like that.)

A few days later, I was all smiles and bravado as I walked into the women’s clinic.  They offered me counselling before-hand, but I declined, feeling fully knowledgeable of what I could expect in my procedure.  I changed into a paper gown and wrapped a sheet around me as I waited to be called to the surgical area.  As I followed the nurse, a door opened and I saw a well-lit room with a comfortable-enough looking bed and a tray of surgical tools.  And then we kept walking.  We passed a couple of more similar rooms and then she escorted me into a large, dark room with a table with a hole in it and some steps leading up to it, that can best be described as some medieval type of torture chamber device.  (Seriously, in retrospect, I would have rather been hit in the head with one of those sticks with the spiky ball at the end of a chain!)  There was a huge scary-looking machine that put out this high-pitched hum, and nothing of comfort in the room except a boring painting of a farm on the wall near the table.

“Okay, climb on up there, and lie on your stomach.  Place your left breast in the hole and raise both arms over your head,” the nurse instructed.

“Wait, what?”  This was not what I had envisioned.

As I climbed up the steps and got situated on the table with my left puppy in the hole, I was instructed to look to the right and place both arms over my head.  So, there I was, staring at my own shoulder and the dumb farm painting and feeling very much like Ol’ Bessie there in the barn being hooked up to a milking machine, when all of a sudden, this clamp thing closed on my free-hanging boob and tightened.  A lot.  And then it tightened some more.  And some more.  And then, I’m not sure, but I think it twisted the darn thing in a complete circle.  Or two.  And that was before any local anesthetic!

And then the nurse raised the table.  By the sheer force of the clamp, my entire upper body was glued to the table.  Seriously.  If I’d have sneezed, I think I would have literally ripped my nipple off.  As the table rose, I felt very much like the unwilling volunteer of a creepy magician’s act.  The stupid farm sank down below my line of vision, and I could see where the wall met the ceiling.  And out of the corner of my eye, I could make out what looked to be a trapezoidal lighted thing that I could only imagine was some sort of FIRE indicator.

“Okay, you’re doing great.  Now, let me go get the doctor,” the nurse said.

You mean the doctor isn’t even here yet?  I was ready to be done, and the doctor was, as it turned out, busy and would be there in a few minutes!   The nurse left again after she told me of the doctor’s delay, and all I could think was: If the building catches on fire, I’m screwed!  Seriously.  I imagined how many different ways things could play out, and in every scenario, I was dead and the medical examiner and his buddies were laughing at the corpse with one extremely long hooter!  By the time I imagined being taxidermized for a freak show and having people line up to take selfies with the Amazing Long Booby Lady, the doctor came into the room.  Of course, it could have been the janitor for all I knew, because I was pinned in place staring at the wall.

At first, no one said a word, and then I felt the machine tighten around my breast, and I think a little of my intestines got twisted up in there, because at that point, I could feel the clamp pinch all the way down to my toes.  Then someone said something.  But not to me.  Turns out there were several men and a couple of women down there hanging around under my aching breast.  I think they were playing jump rope with it or something because they sounded as if they were having a fine time chatting among themselves; meanwhile no one said a word to me about anything that was going on.  The good news was by this time, my sore shoulders were the last thing on my mind.

About 9 hours later, they finished collecting all the samples they needed, and the nurse was left alone with me.  She said as soon as they checked the samples on an x-ray or some other machine, they would be able to unclamp me and let me down.  I was certain it was a little after midnight when she let me down and released my three-foot long breast from its prison, and that’s when I got to see the clock and only 40 minutes had passed.  She had to tape and bandage my poor stretchy, black and blue booby, and then I got to sling it over my shoulder and go get the afore-dreaded mammogram to check for the titanium clip.  Of course, by this time, that mammogram was nothing compared to what I’d just been through, so I didn’t complain.

To conclude, both Sister Michelle and I ended up with negative test results, so it’ll be another few months before either of us have to endure that kind of procedure torture again.  I’m still attempting to convince my sister to go see my doctor next time [insert wicked laugh track here], but she’s getting even with me by goading me to “tell your stretchy-booby story again” each time we encounter someone else who hasn’t yet heard it. (So much for my own modesty.)  At any rate, I’ve got a lot of other (less personal) stories to share, so I’ll (really) be back soon.

Let’s talk:  Have you ever injured your shoulder so that you couldn’t lift your arm?  Have you ever been pinned in one place for more than a half-hour?  Have you ever seen a modern medieval torture device?  (Wait, maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that one.)  

P.S. Even though I am making light of my experience with a life-saving diagnostic, I am not making light of the diagnostic test itself.  I’m fully aware of the seriousness of breast cancer… One of the people I mentioned who was lost in my absence was Sister Michelle’s sister who, after years of fighting, lost her battle to triple negative metastatic breast cancer, leaving a husband, two children, and a family who loved her in its wake.  


#StereotacticBreastBiopsy #LupusComplications #Life

Author Interview – Cath Filby

breast-cancer-ribbonSurprise!  I have yet another featured author for you to read about today.  Cath Filby is participating in Britain’s Next Best Seller and her pre-order period ends next Friday.  As such, she could  use your support.  Enjoy!


When I put out a Call to Writers recently, and asked to interview them, I received a good response.  I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable.  My friend and fellow-blogger, Cath Filby, had some wonderful responses which I’m sure you will find as fascinating as I did.  She certainly earns my respect for the way she has overcome cancer and devoted herself to sharing her journey.  I don’t know about you, but after reading her interview, I just want to give her a great big hug!  When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to Cath’s blog and make sure you show her some love.  And now, I pass the torch to Cath…



1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

Cath Filby

cath filby (1)I am retired, have been married for forty-two years and I had three children. My eldest son died when he was 17 years old when he was walking along a road and was hit by a motorbike. My other two children are 38 years and 34 years old and I have four grandchildren.

My first career after leaving school was in the banking industry and, during my marriage, I changed career and worked in vocational training.

In 1986, I started my own business with my husband and ran a highly successful national training organisation, which achieved various awards such as the Investors in People Award, for twelve years.

We took early retirement in 1998, and went to live in Southern Spain, where we enjoyed an idyllic existence until I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.

I encountered many different experiences when I was on my journey through cancer, which inspired me to write my book, ‘Do or Die -A Journey through Breast Cancer’, Part 1, and design a self-help health book, ‘Do or Die – A Journey through Breast Cancer’, Part 2, which I hope will inspire others to take control of their lives during their journeys through cancer.

At the time, as well as being traumatised by my diagnosis, I was very confused by the huge and complex amount of information available both in books and on the Internet. I was trying to understand my condition better but was faced with trying, often unsuccessfully, to decipher complicated medical jargon, conflicting suggestions regarding treatment options and their outcomes, and the prognosis for my particular type of cancer. I needed simplicity but, instead, found complication.

I spoke to other women in my situation and discovered that they, too, were going through the same difficulties. It was then that I decided to document my journey through breast cancer in a memoir, and then to write a straightforward sequel to my journey – a self-help health guide – that would assist other women in taking control of their lives at a time when those lives had been turned upside-down and their paths into the future were shrouded in a mist of confused ideas and notions.

When I am not busy writing and travelling, my husband and I spend quality family time with our children and grandchildren in Qatar and Australia

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cath-Filby-Do-or-Die-a-Journey-through-Breast-Cancer/701050826625020

Twitter: @DoOrDiePart1 https://twitter.com/DoOrDiePart1

WordPress Blog: http://doordieblog.wordpress.com

3. How many books have you written?

I have written one book and various vocational and management training materials during the years I was business. I am in the process of writing Part 2 of ‘Do Or Die’ and it will be finished later this year. Part 2 is a self-help health book.

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

The above book can be pre-ordered at https://britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/book/index/DoorDie

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

Possibly, to go the e-book route via Kindle Direct Publishing.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I was fifty-four when I started recording my journey through cancer and I only realised that I wanted to write my book after experiencing the difficulties in accessing information about breast cancer. I know how very important it is to take personal care of your health when diagnosed with cancer.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

The need to ensure that women out there have access to relevant information about recovering from breast cancer in a user-friendly format.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

Paul Coelho, Isabel Allende,

I am currently reading: Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende.

I thoroughly enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies. My favourite one of all time: ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ by Nelson Mandela.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?


Traditionally, hard-copy books are what our generation is used to. Curling up in bed with an iPad just doesn’t seem the same. Although, I think the whole concept of Indie Publishing is all part and parcel of opening up access to reading to wider audiences and, of course, it saves the trees!!

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

As my book is both a memoir and a self-help book I thought it more appropriate to write in the first person.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I do like to have a book by the side of the bed. However, sometimes I might have a break for a couple of months. I am always reading articles about health and nutrition.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year? 

Between five and eight

How many at any one time?

Usually one.



13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

cath filby (2)‘Do Or Die – A Journey through Breast Cancer’ is a two-part self-help health book

Part 1 is a memoir.

Part 2, the self-help reference book, will be available towards the end of this year.

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

Health, Family and Lifestyle/Self-help and Personal Development

cath filby (3)It is different because it provides both a detailed and optimistic account of a person’s journey through breast cancer, along with easy-to-read, practical information, which can contribute both to recovery for a sufferer, as well as a general improvement in their health and well-being for everyone.

Part 1 Aims:

  • To deal with the fear of having cancer.
  • To share, through my personal experience, positive advice and a self-help approach, useful tips on how to deal with any fears that may be experienced during the journey through cancer.
  • To motivate the individual to take control of their health.
  • To provide information to help empower individuals who have already taken or may, in the future, find themselves taking the journey through cancer, to take control of their health.
  • To help with planning to improve their quality of life.
  • To assist with organising an action plan, in a user-friendly format, aimed at improving the health and the quality of the individual’s life.
  • To use positive thoughts and actions to empower the individual.
  • To discover ways to remotivate the individual to re-arm their natural defence mechanism at the time when they are at their lowest ebb.
  • To illustrate how, through self-help principles, it is possible to grow as an individual as a result of what may seem, at the time, to be one of life’s cruellest blows.

Part 2 Aims:

  • To improve your health through a structured healthy-living plan.
  • User-friendly, easily accessible time-saving information
  • Concise and largely non-technical and jargon-free
  • Easy to use tables, diagrams, checklists
  • Stand-alone removable information cards

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

My 5-year journey through breast cancer, from 2007 to 2012.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

The most obvious audience is women who are suffering from breast cancer and spouses, partners, relatives, friends, individuals, etc, who may know someone who is suffering from breast cancer. However, I feel the book could appeal to a much wider range of people when you think of the individuals who will be affected by breast cancer.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

This 2-part book describes candidly, in Part 1, my story and personal experiences, from the bilateral mastectomy, the search for a complementary healing programme, and the chemotherapy treatment to the pioneering breast reconstruction, using my own tissue. It is hoped that it will offer some insight into what a unique journey is ahead – how, because cancer is so full of paradoxes, there are benefits and humour to be found in the most unlikely circumstances; and how, if we really want to, we can grow as individuals as a result of what may seem at the time, one of life’s cruellest blows.

Part 2 of the book, a self-help health guide, will help you to:

1. take back control of your mind as it is invaded with irrational thoughts and fears;

2. show you how to improve your health through a structured healthy-living plan and through re-arming your natural defence mechanism;

3. achieve an invaluable overall feeling of well-being at a time when your body is at its lowest ebb.



18. How often do you write?

Any research work I carry out can sometimes take a considerable amount of time but I am devoted to the task of completing the second part of my book by the end of 2014, at the very latest.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

Difficult to say as that depends on the amount of time I have. Also, research on the internet can be very fruitful but results in few words being typed.

 20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

My husband does my editing

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e. Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

The memoir (Part 1) followed the course of my cancer from diagnosis, through surgery, then chemotherapy, reconstruction, etc. However, chapters were reconstructed, both as I produced them and then again later, when the manuscript draft was largely complete. Part 2 has involved gathering a lot of practical information and then constructing a framework in which to create the outline of the finished project.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

I am inspired by the desire to promote living a healthy lifestyle and taking responsibility for your own health and well-being.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

It probably took me three years as an outline and a further two years to carry out refinements. I was not writing every day, only when I had spare time.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

I work better with a deadline or a time limit. My motivation is basically to focus on the task of the day and complete as much as possible without beating myself up about it if I don’t achieve my target.

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

My story is factual so this wasn’t really relevant in my case.

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing

For my current book, I completed a mind map. For Part 2, I gathered a great deal of information from books, magazine articles, medical brochures and leaflets, the Internet, my local library, etc.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e. a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

No noise!

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

Mornings until about 3.00 or 4.00 pm are the best time for me to write.

29. Does your real life ever get neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

I believe I manage to balance my writing activity with the rest of my life activities. Production of my books is something I share very much with my husband so, in many ways, the two elements are interlinked. Over the past five plus years I have been very involved with becoming as healthy as I can and being involved a great deal with my grand-children who are all very young.

30. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

Printing out the manuscript without page numbers and then leaving them next to an open window. The result: chaos!!



31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

Not applicable to me.

32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and


Not applicable to me.

33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?

For Part 1: to play me: Sandra Bullock; to play my husband: George Clooney; to play my oncologist: Harrison Ford

34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

Coffee enemas!

35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

So much was difficult as I was living and fighting my way through the disease and everything was hit and miss as far as the outcome was concerned. It’s still difficult, at times, for me and for my husband to re-experience it through re-reading the story as it is such a vivid memory. We hope that it gives others a message of hope for their future and that cancer is not the end but just another of the significant challenges that life presents us with from time to time. The main benefit of breast cancer for me was that it made me appreciate living so much more. ‘Do or Die’ was how I felt when I was diagnosed and in recovery.


Thank you, Cath, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your journey back from breast cancer as much as I have.  I wish you the best of luck in your health as well as in your writing success!