Friday, 2 September 2011

surviving breast cancer

One year ago today I came home from hospital after surgery for breast cancer.  I have been more fortunate than others so far, who have gone before me.  Here’s what happened in a nutshell:

Diagnosis.  Journal note 18th August 2010
Tonight at 7.30pm, our GP rings to tell me the results of the core biopsy on my left breast.  He says the results are “Not good... there is a low-grade lump that will need to be removed.”  He asks me in to see him tomorrow at 11.45am to discuss this further.  When I hang up the phone I cannot speak or move for fully 5 minutes while the significance of this short conversation makes its impact.  We both seem to freeze or move in slow-motion and I see Meyles’ face change to reflect his concern.  My arms feel heavy and I do not trust myself to stand up.  I take some deep breaths.  I feel shocked.  Logic fights to maintain control and calm.  “It’s low-grade,” I tell myself.  Hopefully that means not dangerous.  No one’s said anything about the ‘Big C’ so I don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with here.

Surgery.  Journal note 1st September 2010
Next stop was the hospital where I checked in and changed into a sexy hospital gown and tight stockings.  I waited until around 2pm and finally the time came where I was taken to theatre.  The anaesthetist listened to my heart through his stethoscope.  Then the surgeon, came into the room in his surgical clothes and a flowery cap and asked if I had any questions.  I said, “Did you get a good sleep last night Doc?  Are you feeling good and on top of your game?”  He answered, “I’m on fire!” to which I replied, “Good!  Go hard!”  The next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery and could feel a burning sensation in my left breast.  Someone was asking me what my pain level was between 1 and 10.

Pathology.  Journal note 11th September 2010
About 10 days after surgery the surgeon rang with the pathology results of my surgery.  My cancer was a rare type of tubular cancer, the lowest grade possible, the slowest growing, very small, hormonally sensitive (as opposed to another type which is really bad), with clear margins and no spread to the lymph nodes.  “You could not have hoped for a better result,” he remarked several times over. 

Radiation begins.  Journal note 18 November 2010
What is it with the weak and timid front desk staff at the Oncology Treatment centre?  They are so sickeningly sweet and timid it’s as if they think I’m nearly dead already. 

Miss Saccharin:  “Oooh, Sweetie, are you OK?”
Me:  “Hi.  Yes I’m here for my treatment.”
Miss Saccharin, touching my arm:  “Oh OK Sweetie.  Your first time today?”
Me:  “Yes that’s right”
Miss Saccharin, looking concerned as if I’m about to die:  “Oh Sweetie, do you have any questions?”
Me:  “Yes, I want to know about the permanent side affect of ending up with a hardened and concaved breast.  Is that definite, or a possibility?”
Miss Saccharin, very apologetic:  “Oh Sweetie, I’m not legally allowed to answer that question.  I’ll ask the doctor for you, Sweetie, if he can talk to you about that today.  Just take a seat over there, Sweetie, and I’ll let you know.”
The staff are so touchy-feely and careful, like they are scared I’m going to drop dead or dissolve into tears on them and they don’t want to do anything that would trigger me off.  I wish they could be a bit more relaxed and speak to me normally.  One nurse who was talking to me about side effects suddenly stopped in mid-sentence and said, “Are you alright?”  Surprised, I said, “Yes, why?”  She said, “You look really upset.”  For goodness sake, just get on with it and stop waiting for me to have some sort of emotional breakdown!  It’s as if they expect that response, and I’m disappointing them if I don’t comply.

It’s been quite a journey folks, and one that has changed who I am.  Maybe more on that in another blog.  In the meantime, look after yer tits.

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