The Waiting Game

“Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance.”

– Dr Seuss


“When, as a woman, sister and mother, you hear about ‘waiting time‘, I automatically think about waiting for something to happen at its own pace and time. This ‘something’ can be anything: from waiting for a load of washing to be done, waiting for a cake to bake, waiting in the supermarket check-out queue – or even just waiting for your children to finish a simple task!

Breast Cancer - waiting time - Advocates for Breast Cancer blog

The specific sort of ‘waiting time’ I want to unpack is this one: right from the moment you discover a lump in your breast, to the time it takes for you to get to your doctor for an examination and obtain an absolute diagnosis. As a woman, I know we tend to bury our own importance in the background, and will even dissolve into a kind of denial about the lump we felt. And the waiting time between the actual identification of the lump to the time it takes for an appointment with your doctor excrutiatingly increases the anxiety experienced in that time of waiting.

As a medical professional, I am acutely aware that the waiting time to see a general practitioner in the private system can range from a day to three days. The waiting time for breast-imaging may be even be as long as several days. In some of our South African provinces, the public sector’s mammographic resources are alarmingly, frustratingly and unfairly scarce – whilst some of our neighboring countries suffer even more drastically: there is only one mammography unit in Malawi! Their waiting time for breast-imaging? Months…


Another ‘waiting time’ is that endured in the doctor’s consulting rooms. In reality, one should have a ‘waiting clip-card’ which gets clipped every time someone says: ‘Please wait here for a while…’

But perhaps the most angst-filled ‘waiting time’ is between having had the mammogram and biopsy and are now waiting to hear the results from your trusted doctor. Time stands still; your heart lurches forward into a million what-ifs. This is the time when you need to have a strong, relentlessly compassionate shoulder to cry on in case the results are not what you want to hear.

Nobody likes to wait for anything – even if it is something pleasant. I have an active and very vivid imagination- and waiting gives my mind too much time to imagine all sorts of crazy things and agonize over the worst possible eventualities. PLEASE: do not do this! Wait only for a day or two, then take action and — be hopeful! Because it is inevitable you will have to wait, choose to DO something while you wait! Another action you can take (which will empower you and others) is to take up the critical cause of breast cancer advocacytell, tell, tell people about what you have experienced physically, emotionally and medically so that everyone will know just how incredibly widespread and common breast cancer is becoming, and how crucial it is that knowledge is power and early prevention is KEY! Please remember there is HOPE in early detection!

Breast Cancer - waiting time - Advocates for Breast Cancer blogSupport groups are widely available – and absolutely invaluable throughout your journey. Very importantly, being referred to the correct specialist is ultimately the best way to shorten the waiting time for a treatment plan – and pricelessly beneficial to your health!

As a final request from my heart, please always take someone with you to all your consultations.” —  Maryan Haefele (Radiographer)

Below are three of many places where you can find support – and we’ll be adding a complete list for you later this week! What’s really amazing about the variety of support groups available range from telephonic, to one-on-one sessions, group sessions and even via social media – which means that you can find the kind of support that best fits in with your practical needs and personality.


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