The swelling in my back started to recur about two weeks ago. A few days ago I noticed a pinky-purple blotchiness on the side of my left breast. This morning it has spread to my whole breast.
“Good morning, Mr Hadjiminas’ office, Joy speaking.”
“Good morning Joy, this is Canalily.”
“Oh hello Lily. How are you?”
“I’m very well. Well no I’m not. I’m very worried...”
I sketch a livid picture of the sitch. “Oh my goodness,” says Joy, “I will speak to Mr Hadjiminas immediately.”
Fifteen minutes later Joy calls me back. “Mr H says to take your temperature and come to see him at one o’clock.”
I put the phone down. Now I have two-and-a-half hours to imagine the worst. To counter visions of having my breast and probably my whole left arm amputated I decide it might be helpful to do some googling. With thermometer clamped firmly in mouth I type in ‘muscle death after surgery’. Quick as a flash Wikipedia presents me with a page describing something called 'compartment syndrome' along with a picture of a grossly enlarged foot. The symptoms are as follows: pain; paraesthesia (pins and needles to you); pallor; paralysis and pulselessness. I can’t honestly say that I’m experiencing any of those and there is no mention of a rash either but, still, I could be coming down with a rare, hitherto undescribed form of compartment syndrome.
Or maybe it is something worse. I type in ‘necrotising fasciitis’ a horror I learned about on Holby City. Back at Wikipedia I try to avert my eyes from the revolting photographs of this flesh-eating disease. I learn that King Herod the great may have suffered from Founier gangrene – a necrotising fasciitis of the groin and genitals (no pictures on Wikipedia, thanks be). For a moment I wonder if Iris might know a spell for plaguing ex-boyfriends with Fournier gangrene (temporarily, of course). Symptoms of necrotising fasciitis: intense pain; swelling; diarrhoea and vomiting. I tick one out of four, although to be fair the swelling is in my back, not my breast and it predates the rash. Weighing it up I decide, with relief, that I have not developed necrotising fasciitis.
But then, at the bottom of the page there is a link. ‘See also: cellulitis’. I’m sure it’s not that. My breast is as smooth as a peach. I click on it anyway. Oh my Lord. This could be the one. Cellulitis, it turns out, is not the dreaded orange peel skin – that’s cellulite. Rather it is a ‘a diffuse inflammation of connective tissue with severe inflammation of dermal and subcutaneous layers of the skin’ Amongst the predisposing conditions recent surgery is listed. It is most common on the face or lower legs but may occur anywhere on the body. Wikipedia is not that clear on how to tell if one definitely has cellulitis. Apparently you have to see a doctor. Which, thank goodness, I am just about to do.
Behind the screen at the Harley Street Clinic nurse Honoria helps me to pull my clothes off. I look down at my chest in order to point out the scary discolouration. “It’s gone,” I exclaim.
Mr H pops his head round the screen. “It’s gone,” I repeat lamely, “but you should have seen it this morning. It was bright pink.” “Actually,” says Honoria, “I can see faintly where it was.” I shoot her a look of gratitude. Mr H gives it a poke with his finger. “It doesn’t change colour when I poke it,” he declares. That, it seems, is a good thing. “There is an unexplained rash that people get after they’ve had their lymph nodes removed,” says Mr Hadjiminas. “Nothing to worry about.”