Sunday, 17 August 2008

In the beginning ........

'Danaë' ~ Gustav Klimt

My journey began with a routine visit to a Mobile Screening Unit on the 21st July 2008. It had been parked up from some weeks in the G.P's surgery car park in an adjacent village. I had missed my first invitation to enjoy the bizarre contraption that is used for a mammogram as I was already in hospital when it arrived and wasn't able to attend. Only a comedian could have designed such a device. I always end up imagining a hamburger press on the occasions I attended a mammogram clinic. Often I have been chided by the attendant radiographer for not staying still and giggling too much as these bizarre ideas enter my head. I rebooked the appointment, although I was reluctant to go as I had had quite enough of Doctors and being poked and prodded in intimate areas to last me quite a while. Common sense got the better of me, and under duress I went along not thinking that I would get anything but the usual 'all is well' letter as a result of offering my breasts up to the indignity of said hamburger press.

The following Wednesday, I received a letter asking me to attend the Breast Care Clinic at the local District Hospital for a recall that Friday. I was a bit surprised by this, but not worried, as I have been investigated a couple of times in the past for odd lumps, which mercifully turned out to be benign. Having been a guest of the NHS on several occasions over the past year, I was pleasantly surprised by the surroundings I found myself in, and the compassion and thoughtfulness of the staff I came in contact with. My husband came along too, as I think he took the recall a little more seriously than I had. We arrived and I was taken almost immediately to have a new set of mammogram xrays taken. I was shown the areas on the previous films they were concerned about; 3 abnormalities, 2 in the left and 1 in the right breast. The radiographer took a number of new images, and then I dressed and waited to go and talk to a Dr. A specialist Breast Care Nurse came to reassure me a couple of times, and then guided me into a room where they had an ultra sound machine. They had a look at me using ultrasound, and I was then told the left breast was fine, but that they would like to do a fine needle biopsy on the right hand side. This involved the Doctor inserting a needle into my breast guided by the images on the ultrasound and scraping around to collect enough tissue for a laboratory to analyse. It wasn't the most pleasant experience I have been subjected to, but it wasn't too bad either. They gave me an appointment to return for the test results at 5pm the following Tuesday. Then all would be revealed. As you can imagine, by now little alarm bells had begun to sound, and so began the agonising wait.

Tuesday lunchtime, my husband took a call from the hospital whilst I was out, stating that they needed me to come back for more tests. They had cancelled the 5pm appointment, and wanted me to attend on Friday instead for a Stereotactic biopsy. Thankfully this time I was given a local anaesthetic, and they took a number of core needle biopsies. The nurse placed a pressure dressing on the wound, and told me to leave it there for at least 24 hours and not to get it wet. I have to say this did ache for a few days, and I still have some visible bruising today. I was given a further appointment for the following Tuesday at 5.30pm. More waiting to know; is it, isn't it? Time seems to move so slow when you want answers.

The days really dragged to the following Tuesday, and I caught myself trolling the Internet reading about Breast Cancer, and then spending ages convincing myself I was scaring myself needlessly. When I mentioned my concerns to people, they often responded, 'You look too well to be ill, it will be fine'. You don't know how much I now wished they were right. We went along at the appointed time, and waited, still hopeful it was all some huge mistake, and that the journey would end here. We went into see the Consultant Surgeon, which I knew was a bad thing, but exchanged pleasantries all the same and sat down to hear the verdict. The Dr stopped smiling, and my heart sank. She told me it was bad news, and that I had an invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. I would require surgery to remove the tumour and the associated lymph nodes, and that this would take place on the 2nd September. I will also take Tamoxifen, and have radiotherapy each day for 5 weeks. Depending on the outcome of the surgery, I may need Chemotherapy too. As yet I don't know how serious the cancer is, or whether it has spread. More waiting.

So almost a week on from receiving the diagnosis, how do I feel? I don't feel ill. I am very scared, there are still many unknowns, and I find coping with problems far harder when there are intangibles. The numbess and shock are subsiding, and are being replaced by countless questions I was too dumbstruck to ask when I was told my fate. Once I know exactly what I am dealing with, then I am sure I will rationalise it better, and cope. I know I can phone up and speak to Breast Care Nurse, and have them explain things I am uncertain about, and know that they will treat me with care and compassion. I feel very grateful that we have a free National Screening Program in the UK, and that my cancer has been caught early, giving me a really good chance of a full recovery. As the days and week, and probably months pass, I shall blog as I feel the need and hopefully by sharing with you I can find a way to navigate my way through the seas of uncertainty.

Facing it, always facing it. That's the way to get through. Face it. ~Joseph Conrad~


WesterWitch/Headmistress said...


The waiting for the operation will be hard as you just want to get on now and get it sorted as well as know exactly what you are facing. There is a lot of support around for breast cancer patients - I am glad that you are able to accept the help if you need it - not everyone can.

Tough time for you Zoë, following hard on the heels of a previous tough time. Stuff the idea of all this being character building stuff . . . in the face of all the experience that builds character sometime it would be nice to be shallow . . .LOL.

HappyMouffetard said...

Nothing I can say will help remove the worry you're going through, but we're thinking of you.
Sharon x

Julia said...

The wait will be agonising. If only the weather was amenable to you getting out to see lots and lots of gardens before your treatments start.

A few years ago I ran the Tesco Race for Life. There was not a dry eye at the starting line as everyone looked around and saw how many women were running in memory of friends and family who had lost their fight with cancer. But for every woman running in memory, there were many many more running in celebration of people who had survived and beaten cancer, including me running in celebration of my grandmother. And most poignant of all, and the ones who got the biggest cheers, were the ones with two little letters on the papers they had taped to their backs - "ME".

The best of British to you (as Grannie always said - she died of old age some 25 years later), and I hope the prognosis continues to be as good as your final sentences suggest.

Anonymous said...

Zoe, I want to send my heartfelt blessings to you and say I am thinking of you during this very tough time. I hope the positive vibes I send will be of help.

Take care,
Crystal xx

Amanda said...

Good luck with the operation Zo&eumlaut;.

ChrisH said...

I'm sorry you've had such shocking news which you are facing so bravely. An early diagnosis is so important and it's good that you're in the system. I wish you swift treatment, a speedy recovery and all the care and support you deserve along your journey.

Wizzard said...

Dear Zoë, I dont know what to say, but am sending lots of Purple Hugs and Vibes to you.


CAMILLA said...

Hello Zoe,

I am wishing you the very best of luck, and to say you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Keep attending those beautiful flowers in your gardens that we know you love so much,this I do hope will help for the wait up to the op.

Sending you lots of purple vibes, along with my love and hugs.

Love and Hugs,

Tattie Weasle said...

Hey lovely
Got the news and immediatley sending loads of thoughts and prayers for you and your wonderful family.

Wooly Works said...

Oh Zoe, your account brings back all the memories of going through this myself. The feeling in the pit of my stomach has returned as I relive this with you. I have to say, however, that there is definitely life after a breast cancer diagnosis and you can get through this, however hard it proves to be. Be strong, but let the tears flow freely. You've been violated by a terrible invader and have every right to your feelings. Hugs, kisses, and my very best support to you during this time.

Exmoorjane said...

Dear dear Zoe
I can't tell you how pleased I am that you are sharing this and writing about it. Maybe some painting too? As you already know my thoughts and prayers and positive vibes and any other flipping thing I can come up with are with you - right through this journey and out the other side.
By blogging like this, I suspect that, as well as helping you, you will help a heck of a lot of other women going through this same journey.
All my love, dear heart

elizabethm said...

Zoe, I am so sorry you are having to cope with this and see you are facing it with the courage I would expect from the little that I know you. Yes, the waiting is hard. When I was ill I was very frightened and had huge support from my family. I also felt that every card and message of support was another person standing behind me as I went into it all so I do hope that in some small way these messages let you know that you are in the thoughts of many.

Elizabethd said...

My prayers will be with you Zoe. I am so sorry to hear this.

Sally's Chateau said...

Zoe, thinking of you and sending love and positive vibes your way. Keep strong, I know how frightened you must feel but you have friends out there who care. x

lampworkbeader said...

Dear Zoe, as a fellow survivor of twenty years standing my thoughts are with you, and also my reassurances. Love Lampie

Lucy said...

I don't suppose this will be an easy-reading blog any more than it will be easy to write.

I'm glad you are doing it though.

I also hope you feel able to say when (if) you can't stand flowers and gardens . . . you are bound to be angry and anger sometimes turns against the things we love.

I think it is important that none of us have any expectations about how you will, or will not, cope.

Language associated with cancer always seems laden with high expectations. People are always supposed to 'fight' it. How on earth are you supposed to do that?

You may be a hero - we will cheer.

You may not be - we will cheer.

We'll all hope everything works out ok - and cheer your every step - whether we know about it or not.

All the very best wishes


Pipany said...

All my love to you Zoe. Will be here with you on this difficult journey and sending you as many good vibes as possible. xxx

Crucifix said...

I did not meet you on Purplecoo but I always enjoyed reading your blog and posts. And was sorry that you left.

I am a cancer survivor and found this website very helpful to me during my operaton and follow up. I realise that this is not for breast cancer but still feel that some of what is on the site may be inspirational to you.

Take this time for yourself and live in the moment, I feel this is the way of healing, to make us stop, look and listen.

I love your poem about Hope, Hope is one of my favourite states to be in!

All best wishes to you.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Hi Zoe
Stay strong girl - but be gentle on yourself.

Inthemud said...

Dear Zoe,

I was so sorry to hear your news. It's such a mind blowing shock isn't it? As you may remember I went through it about 18 months ago. I was numb with the shock for the first few days , it's so hard telling people, but you're being very brave telling us on your blog. I can't tell you how much it helped to have my virtual online friends supporting me as well as my real friends and family. I wish you all the very best and send you a big hug {{{{}}}}}. If you want to talk please email me.
Love Elaine

Pondside said...

There are lots of us to walk beside you on this journey, Zoe. I'll continue to check in on your blog and will think positively for a steady healing.

easygardener said...

Sorry about your news Zoe. I wish you all the best and hope everything goes well.

Grouse said...

As Jane said- sharing will help others as well as yourself. Much as we want to b here to support you I know that in truth this is something that ultimately you have to face alone. We are all here to support you, to listen to you and to encourage you, but only you have to deal with it. So what I wish for you is the strength, fortitude and optimism you will need to do that. When those fail, that's where we come in, to help you find them again.

mountainear said...

Can't add much to what has been said above. So very sorry to hear your news Zoë. Think spring not winter.

Warmest wishes, F

Mother Nature said...

Thinking of You
and adding to your reserve of:

by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Withy Brook said...

A lot of wisdom here. Thank you for allowing us to face it alongside you. Yes, you have to face it alone, but it helps to have people around who care.

PS said...

I've enjoyed your gardening blog in the past with pictures words of beauty surrounding our world.
But this time I see the ugly fear ,the same fear I went through last year.
I am a survivor.
Who now only lives in fear every 6 months when it's time for that mamo and a visit to the Oncologist who checks for markers.
So many people are getting cancer and currently including my mother in law.
I'm not good at writing so I can't give you words of poetic wisdom.
You just do what you have to do. You're not alone.


Philip Bewley said...

We are thinking of you and wish you the very best.

Zoë said...

I am completely overwhelmed by the warmth and kindness shown to me in these messages. I am not sure what to say, but it has touched me deeply, and each one brought a smile to my face at a time when I have been finding it hard to smile. Thank you so much for all the good wishes and messages of support; the encouragement, and the positivity. It means more than you know.

With love,


alice c said...

Dear Zoe
I came to your blog via Jane at Snapdragon's Garden. I wish you courage as you deal with the challenges ahead of you.

I wonder if you are aware of
which is a collaborative site based in America designed to help women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was started by a young NASA scientist who has faced everything that breast cancer can do and come out the other side.
Another contributor is Sarah
who has just finished chemotherapy. She has an extraordinarily positive attitude and it has always been a privilege to read her blog. I hope that among these you will find something helpful - good luck.

alice c said...

Dear Zoe,
Sorry - I probably cut and paste the address from my Bloglines subscription - here it is again
It may be that the American kickass approach is not what appeals to you but on the other hand I know that Sarah would be a most generous and warm blog companion because she has already been there.

I have just realised that you do not have a contact email address - I will post this in your comment box and you can delete it if you want.