Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Almost There Now - Let Cancer Battle Commence!

Today I met with my new breast surgeon and breast care nurses in St. James's Hospital. All were very pleasant and reassuring. Having had all the details explained to me three weeks ago by the BreastCheck team, hearing them now wasn't quite the shock to the system it had been then. Everything still stands, the sentinel lymph node biopsy followed by the removal of the lump including a wide margin of surrounding tissue. If a complete mastectomy isn't required, five weeks later I will begin five weeks of radiotherapy. If chemotherapy is required, it will begin shortly after the surgery followed by the radiotherapy.

I've been given an early admission date for next week, all depending of course whether there's a bed available. Let's see what 2012 has in store for hospital admission waiting times!

Above Breast Surgery Image: www.mycanceradvisor.com


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Never A Dull Moment - Change of Hospital!

Thought I'd start off this post with the beautiful view from our holiday home in Allihies, Beara Peninsula, West Cork (taken last February, look at that sky!) where I hope hubby and I will return in the summer when all my surgery and treatment will be in the past and I will have become a breast cancer survivor!

Well, yesterday it was decided that I would have my surgery in St. James's Hospital (my old haunt), because of my bleeding disorder and because they have treated me on many an occasion for post-op bleeding plus all my previous notes are there.

I now have to meet my new breast surgeon and breast care nurse, possibly this Tuesday, fingers crossed! I will miss my lovely nurse I got to know over the past few weeks and who has been so supportive, I can't thank her enough.

Above image: Allihies, taken by me in February 2011.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

D-Day - Biopsy Results

Tuesday, 20th December 2011:

The last six days have been the longest of my life. Never have I been so grateful to being up to my eyes in getting ready for Christmas because I just didn't have the time to think about my impending biopsy results.

Hubby and I arrived at the BreastCheck clinic around 11.00am. It was only when I got there that the nerves began to set in. My thoughts were racing between receiving a bad outcome but maybe, just maybe, everything would be fine, I clung to the latter. So much so that when I was called in I asked hubby to remain here because I was certain I'd be back out in a couple of minutes. As soon as I entered the surgeon's office he asked that hubby join us. My nurse got someone to bring him in.

There was no beating about the bush, straight out with it he told us that cancer cells were found. It sort of just went over my head, everything said from then onwards was like I was hearing it in a dream state. Hubby, thankfully, retained some degree of comprehension and asked most of the important questions. The surgeon then went on to explain the type of surgery he would perform. As well as removing the lump he will also remove a considerable amount of the surrounding tissue to make sure all of the cancer cells have been taken away thus none will escape elsewhere.

I will also have what's called a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy done on the morning of the operation to check whether the cancer cells have reached the lymph nodes, fingers crossed this won't have happened. So, after all that, hubby and I were taken by my nurse to a lovely little room where she spent about an hour with us explaining everything in great detail and answering our every question. She then gave me forms to have an ECG, Blood Tests and a Chest X-Ray done if possible before leaving the hospital. I was lucky I managed all three so at least they're out of the way.

Wednesday, 21st December 2011:

A day I hoped I'd never have to face. Although I wanted to leave telling our boys (who are in their mid and late twenties) until after Christmas Day, my nurse advised we tell them right now. It was OK, I was fine and they, thank God, took the news well. They asked a lot of questions which I was able to answer and put their minds at ease.

Thursday, 22nd December 2011:

My 60th Birthday! The whole family took me to the Shelbourne Hotel for dinner where I was wined and dined like a film star. I love those guys to pieces.

Above image: Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy www.cancer.gov


Monday, January 2, 2012

Blurry Images On A Screen, Cells In A Syringe - The Waiting Game

Wednesday, 14th December 2011:

A light drizzly rain was falling by the time hubby and I arrived for my 10.15am appointment at the BreastCheck clinic. Still very hopeful that whatever the procedure to be carried out it would reveal a happy outcome. While waiting at the reception desk I noticed one of the leaflets on the counter was the photoshoot I'd done for the BreastCheck campaign back in 2007 during which time I also did their TV commercial!

Didn't have too long to wait before a lovely lady called me in and introduced me to the radiologist who told me I would be having an ultrasound to check the size and shape of my breast lump. Within a couple of minutes she informed me that the lump was just under 2cm, which is quite small but what was next to come shocked me a little, she was going to do a biopsy. Although I knew it could happen I just assumed my particular situation wouldn't require one. Even with all the assurance that the local anaesthetic would numb the area I was scared witless that I would feel every ounce of the pain. I need not have worried.

Throughout the administration of the numbing and even the biopsy itself I sang, yes, sang my way through the pain barrier! It wasn't any particular song, more the case of running up and down the scales then even counting backwards, anything to distract my mind from what was happening, namely the removal of a few cells to send to the laboratory for testing. I constantly referred to my nervousness as being compared to the feeling before performing on stage or to the camera, they definitely don't come crazier than me!

Luckily I'd discussed my bleeding disorder with the radiologist and nurse beforehand because even though the incision was small I began to bleed quite a bit so they were prepared. It took a good deal of pressing down on the wound to stem the flow but eventually all was well and I had the little strip of stitches attached plus the dressing. Afterwards, my nice nurse who is now my liason nurse took me to another room where she brought me a cup of coffee and talked to me for a few minutes while we waited to be joined by the radiologist.

Basically she told me that she wasn't expecting a good result from the biopsy. That came as quite a shock, no way was I expecting that. I was already shaking from the procedure but now I was absolutely trembling. My lump was not the cyst I thought it was, instead it was solid. After the radiologist left my nurse remained with me for a while. She told me I would soon be seeing the surgeon who would explain the surgery details with me, I then returned to the small waiting room still wearing my gown. There I got talking to a woman who was waiting for her results and was so nervous she did most of the talking. I just listened, I think that's all she needed. A while later she was called in then after about ten minutes popped her head in to tell me she got the all-clear. I was really happy for her.

The surgeon, a friendly looking chap, introduced himself and pretty much repeated what the radiologist had earlier told me - the chances of a good biopsy result were very slim. In the chair opposite sat my nurse. I felt comforted by her strong yet calming presence.

I was to return next Tuesday, 20th December for the biopsy results. After getting dressed I went back out to the main waiting room where hubby was waiting, his book lying on the chair beside him, unread.

On the way to the underground car-park I relaid to him the morning's happenings. I even prepared him for the fact that next week may not bring the news we were hoping for.

Above image: My BreastCheck TV Commercial (2007).
Bottom image: Breast Ultrasound: www.breast-cancer.ca