Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Thank You

This rose was part of a bouquet my youngest sister sent me

I am completely overwhelmed by the warmth and kindness shown to me in the comments left on my blog on Monday. 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 was finding it hard to smile. Thank you so much for all the good wishes, the messages of support; the encouragement, and the positivity. It means more than you know.

I am sorry I didn't reply earlier to say thank you to everyone; Tuesday was a busy day as I took advantage of the good weather and went to RHS Wisley; I have blogged about my day on Garden Hopping. Today I was in hospital as a day patient having my 12 weekly sense of humour top up, and am just about sentient after the sedation. Thankfully my pain management specialist Doctor is a complete Star and kindly agreed to get that out the way before all the other treatment starts and brought my appointment forward.

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~