Radiotherapy Burns

After a few reasonably good days, Ray and I both had a real downer on Sunday. Megan needed to go to Hemel so Ray drove and I tagged along. Ray and I crept along like a couple of snails, we didn’t feel well enough to manage our normal walking pace and came home as soon as Megan had finished her shopping. When we got back Ray went off to bed and I followed soon after, we both felt better after a snooze. It has been a while since we both needed to rest in the afternoon, we slept well overnight too so we obviously needed it.

Butterflies

I had my quarterly B12 injection in my bottom for the first time on Monday, it used to hurt when I had it in my arm but this time I didn’t feel it at all, that was a pleasant surprise! Tomorrow I have to go for the Pre-Op assessment for the operation to remove the Scleral Buckle in my left eye. That will be interesting, I expect to have to go through the whole explanation about why I can’t have blood or blood pressure taken from my arms. I wonder if I will need a cannula for the operation and if so will that have to go in my leg? The implications of having Sentinel Node Biopsies to both armpits begin to have more significance when needing medical treatment.

Ray saw his GP for a check-up, he will be off work until after seeing Dr Burn in early February, if Dr Burn is in agreement then he can go back part time to begin with. Ray and I went over to London Colney in the afternoon, I didn’t want him driving all that way on his own as he has only just started driving again. Ray dropped me off at TK Maxx and then went round to his head office. His colleagues were pleased to see him and he was able to have a chat with his Chief Exec about a return to work plan. Prior to his return, Ray will have a meeting with his Chief Exec, Heath & Safety Advisor and Occupational Health Advisor to agree the phased return plan, workload and any other issues relevant to his future working arrangements. It sounds like they have his best interests at heart which is very reassuring.

Another pleasant surprise on Monday was having my blog listed in the weekly round-up of ‘best blogs’ on the ‘Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer’ page: http://journeyingbeyondbreastcancer.com/2015/01/10/weekly-round-up-94/

I was honoured to have my blog featured, I have been following the page for a while and have read some brilliant articles there, and on the weekly round-up list, so to have mine included gave me a real boost.

I have been brought quite low by events last week and am still struggling with the implications to my future happiness. I am trying to forget about it but it is not easy to keep it out of my mind, it is night time when I should be sleeping that it really plays on my mind. I can only hope that this situation will improve with time.

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But I have had my mood lifted this week by kind friends sending supportive messages to me on Facebook, and for this I am grateful, you have kept me out of the pits dear ladies, thank you!

Today, Ray and I went for Tuesday Relaxation at the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre, after the session we went round to the Radiotherapy Department so that I could ask for some advice about my nipple blister. The Radiotherapy Nurse was very helpful, she gave me some lotion to use, and a medicated dressing to try as well. She also confirmed that I should not think about going back to work until the blistering and sore skin is healing well. The skin in the area which had the intensive booster treatment last week is getting more tender and red with each day, it could continue to do so up to four weeks after finishing my treatment. It isn’t quite like sunburn as the redness begins in the area in and around each skin pore and then gradually spreads out to the surrounding skin, it is beginning to itch sporadically but it is bearable.

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But I remain optimistic, the skin and physical scars will heal soon, the emotional scars will take longer, maybe even my lifetime, I’m not sure if having Cancer has changed me, maybe it is really too soon to tell. When I am back to my ‘pre-cancer treatment’ routine I may become more aware of changes in my outlook on life. Having the outlet of this blog is wonderful, I have always found it easier to express my feelings in writing, and in posting blogs I have been better able to understand and work through what has been happening to me since being called back after routine Mammogram screening for biopsies and then receiving the diagnosis.

Many years ago, when I was a babe in arms, my Nana Rose was looking after me with Great Aunt May, my Nan was one of fourteen children (twelve surviving past infancy). Great Aunt May had put me in my nightdress, one of those with a pull in tie at the neck that they no longer make because of babies being suffocated, and had laid me in my cot to sleep. Well you can probably guess what happened, my Nan came in to check on me and I was blue and not breathing, this was before mouth to mouth was common knowledge, my Nan says she undid the nightdress, took me outside, and prayed to God to save me. She used to tell us this story often, and she said that God had saved me for a reason and that I would have a special purpose in life.

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I don’t know what she was hoping for, but I’m not sure I have achieved anything special. But maybe writing this blog, sharing my experiences of Breast Cancer to help others is it? My son and daughter each have a friend with a mother recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they tell me that both women have been following my blog, if my words can help, then yes, I guess that I have achieved something.

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Moving Forward and a Setback

This morning I had a regular appointment with my GP as my sickness certificate expired today. I felt really sore yesterday, then this morning I noticed that the skin around my nipples was blistering and also that the left side was weeping. After having a look the verdict was that the blistering is infected so my doctor prescribed antibiotic cream, an oil based cream to use instead of the E45, and antihistamine tablets to help ease the itchiness which usually starts up in the late afternoon. I also came away with another sickness certificate for the next four weeks to give the infection chance to clear up, and for my skin to recover before I return to work. I am very sore this evening, as I sit writing this my nipples feel like they are burning, it is very uncomfortable.

I am feeling sad this evening, partly because of having an infection, I have taken so much care of my skin since my operations that I am disappointed about getting it. But also because of a conversation earlier today in which my commitment to work was questioned. I have been thinking about it this afternoon and feel hurt that this person said what they did, yes, I was off work last year for several weeks with severe depression, I did not choose to be off work, I was not fit for work. As soon as the medication started to work properly and I began to be able to function, I went back to work. It took a lot of effort to get myself back in to my job, I had made so much progress over the few months, and I felt I was ‘back to normal’.

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I also did not choose to then have Bi-lateral Breast Cancer, it is not something anyone would choose is it? I would understand if I had been off with flu or toothache or something equally minor. But I have had Bi-lateral surgery, yes the Cancers have been removed, yes I have had Radiotherapy and have been prescribed Tamoxifen for the next five years to help reduce the chances of the Cancer recurring, but in medical terms I am not cured yet, I am in remission.

Cancer is not something you can just ‘bounce back’ from, it is now a part of who I am, and will continue to be part of my life for some time, in a few weeks’ I will be back to hospital for my check-up appointment with the Oncologist. Then in November I will be back to have the first of five annual Mammograms.

I hope that after five years I will be able to say that I am cured, however, I am well aware from the experience of other women that the Cancer may return, I’m not being pessimistic, I am facing a reality. My Cancer being Bi-lateral increases the chance of a recurrence, that’s just the way it is, I hope to be one of the lucky ones, but only time will tell.

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But life goes on, and tomorrow is a new day, I intend to make it a good one!

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All Done – The End of Radiotherapy.

When I woke this morning, my first thought was that today was the final day of my Radiotherapy Treatment, and this made me very happy! I know that the effects will continue to build over the next two weeks, particularly skin damage, but this should be healing well by the end of four weeks so the countdown begins. My skin has started to suffer, I have a rash, the area under my breasts being particularly red and inflamed and my nipples are both very sore – rather like when I breastfed my children and they are beginning to peel. I accidentally scratched my left nipple with a finger nail this morning and nearly hit the roof, ouch! If you see me holding my boobs it will be because my nipples are stinging, which happens a few times each day, the warmth from my hands is soothing.

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Fatigue has hit with a vengeance, I am really pleased that Ray is now able to drive again, I felt so weary and bleary this afternoon I would have been a danger to myself and other road users.

When we got home I felt awful, so Ray sent me off to bed with a herbal tea and a bowl of grapes, I felt much better after a long nap.

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Ray and I went to the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre for our first Relaxation Session on Tuesday, it was well worth the effort of getting ourselves over to Mount Vernon for the 10 am start time, and we picked up lots of useful tips to help us sleep better. We will be going again tomorrow morning and staying for my Complementary Therapy Session in the afternoon.

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A Happier New Year.

We are a few days in to a brand new year, one in which Ray and I are hoping to regain our health, or at least have improvements, what level this will be at, we do not yet know.

Last Monday I had a break from driving as my sister Sharon took me to hospital. As I wasn’t driving I was able to watch the world go by, it was a day for birds, I saw two Swans on the lakes by Latimer Road, a Heron in the river Chess, and when we were walking back to the car park, there were three feral Monks Parakeets eating berries in a tree (I think it might be a Flowering Dogwood).

Monks Parakeet

The last few nights have been an experience, on Thursday Ray missed taking his Tramadol at midday, and late afternoon, as his pain levels were manageable, he decided that he would try going without his night time dose too, he didn’t tell me his plan or I might have been better prepared.

I now think that if you can manage without Tramadol then do so, as the coming off it is horrible. Thursday night neither of us got much sleep, Ray felt fidgety, anxious, had trembling, nausea, headache, and felt generally unwell. Whenever he had dozed off to sleep, he began to twitch, I think he went through almost every muscle in his body. I was getting very fed up, just as I was about to doze off, one part or other would begin twitching, at one point I thought Ray must have been dreaming about playing a piano, but on me, right on one of my tickly spots, I was not amused!

The next morning we both felt rough, Ray looked up the withdrawal effects from Tramadol and he was going through all of them, so he told me that he was going to stop taking them. The withdrawal effects last around 48 hours, so we had another disturbed night to get through, but at least we were both aware of what to expect.

Thankfully by last night, enough time had passed since Ray’s last dose that we both got a good sleep, I don’t remember waking at all, which is excellent! This afternoon Ray and I took the Christmas decorations down and packed them away for another year. I was having a horrible hot flush, felt overheated and was sweating badly when Ray’s friend Kevin called round, I felt embarrassed but told myself that Kevin wouldn’t make anything of it, he is a good bloke. The Tamoxifen induced hot flushes and sweating are distressing, I will be grateful when they reduce in ferocity, hopefully it will be soon. The fan in our bedroom is usually packed away in the loft for the winter, but it is still in our room as I need to use it every day.

Tam-Hot-Flash

Tomorrow, I will have the first of three ‘Booster’ Radiotherapy treatments, once these are done, I will have finished, and I will be so pleased to be through it. So my next challenge will be preparing to return to work, this is going to need a lot of consideration. On Thursday I saw the Consultant Radiotherapist for a mid-treatment check-up, she told me it will be two weeks from finishing Radiotherapy before the full side effects will become apparent, and then another two weeks for them to wane. So I am unsure when I will feel well enough to work part time, hopefully my GP will be able to give me some advice when I see her on Friday. I do not want to go back too soon and have to then go back off sick again, it is a dilemma.

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A Quiet Christmas and Back to Radiotherapy.

It is a while since my last post on 19th December, I have been enjoying quiet time with my family, it was just Ray, Megan, Josh, Liza and I on Christmas day. We decided to break from our tradition of opening presents after dinner, to opening in the morning which was a good move as we had more time for board games in the afternoon, ‘Countdown’ was a laugh!

Josh and Liza went to visit Liza’s family on Boxing Day so it was just the three of us. Saturday we had a quick tidy up ready for my sister Sharon and her husband Mike being with us on Sunday and Monday. Sharon and Mike brought their two dogs with them so Shadow had friends to play with, he gets excited when he realises who has come to visit.

Sharon and Mike did some work in the garden for us, something which was much needed as I haven’t been able to do any of it, Ray and I carried cuttings to the garden bin which was as much as we could manage.

These quiet days between Christmas and the New Year, I have found myself in reflective mood. I have been thinking about my Mum, Dad and my longest surviving Grandparent – Nana Rose Billing, all now no longer with us (Granddad Billing died before I was born, Nana & Granddad Saunders died in 1976 and 1977, whilst I was at secondary school).

In the half term break, October 1977, my family and I went to Bath for the week, my sister Nicola was getting married the following summer, so this was our last chance to have a family holiday. One morning my Dad choked on his toast, it really scared me, I didn’t know what to do, that was the start of it, but none of us realised the significance until months later. I don’t remember exactly when, it happened but my Dad became ill, initially with Endocarditis, a rare and potentially fatal type of heart infection. It’s specifically an infection of the inner lining of the heart (the endocardium), he also had Septicaemia (now known as Sepsis).

After further investigation, it was discovered that the underlying cause of these illnesses was Stomach and Oesophageal Cancer, Dad had surgery to remove it, followed by Chemotherapy. The cancer Metastasised, my Dad had several operations, some to remove tumours and some to ‘improve his quality of life’ and also further Chemotherapy, he went through so much, he died on 8th August 1982, aged 53, I was 19 years old.

This is probably the last photo that I have of my parents together, taken at in May 1982 at the party for Ray’s and my Engagement, 3 months before Dad passed away.

Mum & Dad

When Ray and I were making arrangements for our wedding, my mum suggested that I ask an Uncle to give me away at the church, but it was important to me that my Dad was not substituted by someone who had not played a major role in my upbringing. Even though this is traditionally a male responsibility, I was pleased that my Mum agreed to give me away.

It was not many more years until my Mum was diagnosed with Cancer too, hers was Waldenström’s Macroglobulinaemia (WM – also known as Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma) which is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This is a cancer of the lymphatic system, it affects bone marrow and blood composition. It was inoperable and Bone Marrow Transplantation was not an option, the only treatment available was several courses of Chemotherapy to control the cancer enough to relieve the symptoms. This was 22 years ago so treatment options may have progressed since then. My mum died aged 61 on 3rd July 1992, six weeks before Josh was born, I was 29 years old.

In 2001, my Nan was approaching her 100th Birthday, she insisted that she did not want a party, so my family and I planned to hold a small surprise celebration for her. Well, my Nan was a determined lady, she made sure that there would be no party, sadly Nan passed away in her sleep, two weeks before her 100th birthday.

This photo was taken at Christmas 1985.

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The Ghosts of Christmas Past, L to R –  Brother-in-Law Mike, married to my sister Sharon, parents to Andrew and Sophie, and now have four Grandsons, Nana Rose Billing, age 83, sadly deceased at age 99 and 50 weeks (Feb 1901 – Jan 2001) Me, age 22, My Mum, Rosemary, age 55, also sadly deceased at age 61 (Sep 1930 – Jul 1992), Ray age 22, Andrew, age 3, now married to Hannah and have three sons, my sister Sharon, Sophie age 15 months, now married to Toby, and have recently had a baby boy. Ray and I, Mum and Dad to Megan and Josh. This picture was taken in our first home, in Chelmsford, Essex.

My Mother – in – Law passed away in July last year from Metastasised Ovarian Cancer, so Ray and I have possibly had above average experience of Terminal Cancers. So what should you say to someone who has just received a diagnosis of Cancer? I came across a web page Caroline whose blog I have been following –

http://myboobsandme.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/dont-ask-how-are-you-if-youre-not-prepared-for-an-honest-answer/

Caroline works at Macmillan Cancer Support, and has shared a link to a very useful page:

“Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, or how to help when a friend or family member has cancer.

The Source is a collection of simple, practical tips from people who’ve been there.

Because no one should face cancer alone.”

http://source.macmillan.org.uk/

A ‘tip’ which stood out to me is this one:

CANCER HOW IT LOOKS

my dad got diagnosed with throat cancer about a year ago the thing that annoyed him is people assume that you’re okay by the way you look people don’t realise the effect cancer has on a person the emotional and mental side remember the scars might not be seen but they are there. Always ask how the person is listen to them and give them support when needed.

I too have been told I ‘look well’, and yes, I do look OK most of the time, but then it is easier to put on a happy face than to show how bad I might really be feeling. I have moments when the darkness hits me, I woke this morning deep in the gloom, I hadn’t had a good night and felt too tired to think about getting to Mount Vernon for Radiotherapy in the afternoon. In fact I really didn’t want to go, about all I felt like doing was snuggling back under the covers and staying there all day. But that’s not what I did, I dragged myself out of bed, did my exercises, showered, dressed and ate breakfast, I did eventually feel more positive. Today Ray and I went in to The Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre at the hospital, we found out about the Relaxation Sessions and arranged for both of us to go next Tuesday morning, and booked a Therapy treatment for myself next Thursday. It will be Reiki or Massage dependant on what the therapist feels will be most beneficial for me, so I have that to look forward to.

2014

Stroke Update, Eyes, Breast Pain and Here Come the Side Effects.

It is now just over a week since Ray’s last visit to the hospital so I thought it was time I updated on his progress. There is no change in his speech, he still has the lisp which sounds quite cute, there is something very endearing about it. There is also no change with the difficulty chewing and swallowing. Ray wakes up in the morning with pain, but once he has taken the first dose of Tramadol and then continues to take it regularly, it is bearable and under control for the remainder of the day.

Ray had an appointment with his GP on Monday as his sickness certificate had expired, Dr Hussain has now signed Ray off work until the 9th of February 2015. Since having the continual pain, and with not being able to do much, Ray has been feeling low, so they discussed him having anti-depressants, Ray felt it was best for him to start taking them before giving it a chance to take hold so now has these to take too. It is fortunate we decided to buy a Prescription Pre-Payment Card, as Ray now has four different types of tablets to take each day.

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Ray taken on our holiday to Cumbria in June

This morning two letters from hospitals arrived, one was a copy of the report sent from Wycombe Hospital to Ray’s GP, it has details of his diagnosis in proper medical terms, so here it is:

Left hypoglossal nervy palsy – due to left internal carotid aneurysm dissection at skull base.

Ray has felt well enough to come with me for my Radiotherapy since Wednesday, it is so good to have his company, in this and at home. I think I would be feeling very lonely without him, although I would like the circumstances to be different, I am grateful he is home with me.

The other letter was for me, from King Edward VII Hospital, with an appointment for the Pre-Op Assessment Clinic on 14th January at the Prince Charles Eye Unit. This is in preparation for the removal of the Scleral Buckle in my left eye. All being well, the operation will be done around two weeks later, ah, just in time for my birthday then. I hope that the removal will not cause so much disturbance as occurred when it was fitted. I had a general anaesthetic for the fitting, for the removal I will be having local anaesthetic only, I am very nervous about this, but I have resolved that if Ray can get himself in the MRI Scanner, then I can cope with being conscious for my eye operation. Fingers crossed!

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This photo was taken a few days after the operation.

And now, back to breasts! You may recall that I had asked one of the Radiotherapists about the discomfort in my right breast, the staff had reviewed my scans and apparently it is being caused by two Seroma in the breast putting pressure on the remaining breast tissue. If the seroma get any larger and begin to distort the measurements then they will need to do something about them, but for now it’s a case of grin and bear it.

Yesterday evening I began to feel some itchiness in the skin between my breasts, it has persisted today. Putting my bra on this morning, I noticed that the skin was tender where it touches my skin particularly around the bottom band, so begin the side effects of the Radiotherapy.

I mentioned it today at my treatment session, the advice was to switch to E45 cream and to make up Camomile Tea, wait for it to cool and bathe my skin with it. I will try these suggestions out, sitting here this evening, even my ‘crop top’ bra is making me feel sore, trouble is that going unsupported is uncomfortable, swinging about on the loose is not pleasant for tender boobies.

Bra and Shopping

How it went – Bilateral Wire Guided Wide Local excision and Sentinel Node Biopsy

Wednesday 15th October 2014

(Written Thursday Evening)

I will start writing this post, but if it gets to difficult, (physically) I will stop and carry on tomorrow.

Ray & I arrived at the Day Surgery Unit at Wycombe Hospital shortly after 7 am on Wednesday in good time for my 7:30 admission. There were three other ladies in the same room, all of us having breast surgery of one kind or another, I was the only one having surgery to both breasts. After the usual blood pressure etc checks, the Senior nurse practitioner (I think that was her title but I’m not certain) came to talk through the procedure and sign off the consent forms with me.

(Written Mid-day Friday)

She also made what were the first of many pen markings on me, an arrow on each wrist pointing up, to indicate both breasts for surgery, and notes across both shoulders indicating to what was to be done on each side. After a short wait Ray & I were taken to the Breast Unit. This was for a procedure to insert wires in to each cancerous growth to indicate their location (Wire Guided), as the growths are in ducts they would not be easily located without doing this. I asked for Ray to come in to sit with me whilst this was being done, the nurse was a little reluctant as she explained they have had partners passing out when they see the needles and what is done with them, falling off the chair and needing to be taken to casualty. After assurances that Ray was fine with needles and would not pass out, he was allowed to sit beside me. The Doctor located the growth in each breast using Ultrasound, took measurements, and marked the area, he then injected local anaesthetic in to my right breast and inserted a wide needle in to the growth, again using the ultrasound screen images to guide it to the correct location. Ray watched the whole procedure, he says the needle was a similar size to that used when he gives blood. Then the guide wire was fed through the needle, it has a hook at the end to hold it in place internally, once it was fully through the growth, the needle was removed and the external end of the wire securely taped to my chest. The procedure on my left side was identical but was painful as this growth was larger and located deeper under the skin. I am really squeamish with needles so didn’t watch any of this, when it was all finished and covered up I did sneak a peek 😦 I was glad I couldn’t see any of the wire!

The next procedure was another mammogram –  the dreaded squishing machine >}<   >{< to double check that the wires were correctly located, fortunately they were 🙂

Then we were taken on a trip to Nuclear Medicine for another scan, this time to locate the sentinel nodes under each arm. What happens is that the Radiographer injects blue radioactive fluid in to each breast, then waits five minutes or so for it to begin working its way to the lymphatic system. Then I was taken to have the scan, the machine was the same as the one below:

Image source: http://www.enherts-tr.nhs.uk/files/2013/11/N-medicine.jpg

The machine takes up to 15 minutes to produce each scan image, once the images are displayed, the radiographer uses a metal instrument, like a long pen, and by pressing lightly on my skin could see on the screen where my sentinel nodes were positioned in relation to the instrument and marked them up under each arm. During the procedure I had to have both arms raised above my head and was laying there thinking that I now understand why this position is used to torture people, it was painful! However, using meditation techniques, I was able to cope with it, and at one point actually drifted off to sleep for a few minutes. Towards the end I was able to see the screen showing the radioactive particles moving along and settling in my lymph glands, fascinating!

I had so many scans that I got given a bar-code, beep-beep!

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Ray & I were collected and taken back to the ward to wait for my operation, it was now the afternoon, we were both tired after such an early start, I settled down on the bed, Ray in the bedside chair, and we both went off to sleep.

Some time around 2 pm I was called to Theatre, Ray was able to walk with me as far as the entrance doors, it was a this point the reality struck me and as Ray & I hugged I could see the emotion in his eyes. Then the nurse and I went in to the Theatre suite to wait for me to be taken off for anaesthesia.

Waking in recovery, I was very aware of discomfort across my upper torso which made breathing difficult, this meant that my stats were not improving quickly enough. The Nurse Practitioner who I has seen earlier came to let me know that they had removed both growths and that they had found no cancerous cells in my lymph nodes which is wonderful news 🙂 The recovery staff agreed that I could have Tramadol to relieve the pain, once this took effect I was able to breathe more deeply and although I still had an oxygen mask, my oxygen saturation scores increased enough for me to be released back to the ward where Ray was waiting for me.

After having some water, tea, toast and a wee I was allowed to leave. The journey home was painful, I felt every bump in the road, and there were a lot of them! We arrived home at 9 pm, Megan, Josh & Liza were pleased to see me and to hear that the cancer hasn’t spread. They have me Lilies, my favourite flowers, Lindor Chocolates – my favourite treat! and get well cards from everyone, I was very touched 🙂

I was weary after such a long and eventful day, and sore from the surgery, so after more tea and toast went off to bed.

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Appointment with the Oncologist.

Today Ray & I saw my Oncologist – Mr Cannock and Zoe, Breast Care Nurse. He confirmed that I have Bilateral Invasive Ductal Cancer, Grade 1 in my right breast and Grade 2 in my left. I will have Wide Local Incisions to remove the tumours and Sentinel Node Biopsies, the operation should be carried out within the next four weeks. Approximately six weeks post Op I will have Radiotherapy Treatment – 5 days on, 2 days off for 3 1/2 weeks, so just before Christmas then, oh joy!! I’ve already mentioned to my family that I will be delegating responsibility for the Christmas preparations and Christmas meal etc this year, looks like that was a good call!!

I also had my pre-op assessment this morning, had to explain about my blood pressure and pulse rate being naturally low, maybe a low pulse rate is what helps me to keep so calm and composed 🙂

After leaving the hospital we had a walk round High Wycombe, I managed one shop and a stop for lunch and then just wanted to go home to sleep. My head hurts, and my eye is sore (had surgery to insert a scleral buckle for retinal detachment in June 2013).

All this is a little unreal today, I feel detached from my diagnosis, not in denial, more emotionally removed. I guess this is one of the stages to go through, a self protection mechanism maybe? Talking to one of my sisters earlier, explaining what I had been told today became overwhelming, perhaps my brain is a little overloaded right now.

Looking through some inspirational quotes to add to my blog today brought forward a memory of a poster I gave my Dad when he was ill with cancer. The poster showed several seagulls flying effortlessly across the sea above a caption from the ancient Roman poet Virgil: “They can because they think they can”.  My Dad was a silent fighter, I don’t remember hearing him complain about his illness or the pain he was in even though it was clear to us how poorly he was, he was dignified throughout. I’m not sure if I will cope so stoically, watch this space!

Yesterday I came across an inspiring talk on TED – The Best Gift I Ever Survived, by Stacey Kramer, it is about her survival from a brain tumour and offers a positive perspective on having a potentially life threatening illness.

Have a look – it is worth the time:

http://www.ted.com/talks/stacey_kramer_the_best_gift_i_ever_survived?language=en

Early Days

I had three Core Biopsy samples taken from each breast on Wednesday 24th September 2014. The results would take one week, the wait for the results stretched before me and the discomfort from the Biopsies was a constant reminder. The first few days I was anxious and impatient to get the results but this anxiety reduced the nearer the day of the appointment came.

Although I was less anxious, my concentration sporadically deserted me, I found it hard to focus for long.  I would be busily working on something one minute and staring out of the window the next . 

On Wednesday 1st October I went to work as normal, I was more productive on that morning than I had been on the previous day, I guess that was the adrenaline keeping me going. I met Ray at home and we left for my appointment at Wycombe Hospital, the Breast Unit is newly refurbished, it is light, comfortable and calm. Ray & I were first to book in and as we waited to be seen the ladies who had also been for their ‘call back’ appointments the same time as me on the previous Wednesday began to arrive with their ‘supporters’ to get their results. 

Ray & I tried to sit & read but both gave up after a few minutes. Eventually we were collected by a Breast Care Nurse (BCN) and taken to see the Doctor. Sitting facing the scan pictures of my bobbies we were given the ‘verdict’. Unfortunately I have Grade 2 Ductal Carcinoma in both breasts, not just one, two! How does that happen? I Well I suppose I have never been a person to do things by halves 😉

Ray & I were then taken to a ‘quiet room’ with Zoe – the BCN, she left us for a short time to compose ourselves, Ray was very upset, I am doing my usual, no tears and more concerned with everyone else’s well-being. This I know has to stop, someone told me I have to focus on my own well-being until this challenge is obeaten, she is right, but over-writing a life times ‘programming’ does not come easily!

So, when Zoe came back she explained that I will be seeing the surgeon on Monday to find out more and should expect to have surgery within the next four weeks. Zoe advised not to ‘Google’ my diagnosis, I told her I would, as those of you who know me well are aware – it would take at the minimum handcuffs and a blindfold to keep me from getting as much information as I possibly can. So we agreed that I will only look at ‘reputable sites’.

I was not shocked about my diagnosis – I had already compared the Ultrasound pictures the Doctor had shown me on the screen the previous week with similar pictures on Google Images – I had found several that looked similar with the annotation of being Ductal Carcinoma and I had the feeling that it would not be good news, somehow I had just ‘felt’ it.

As I have said, I suspected that this would be the result and am not sure if the diagnosis hasn’t properly registered yet or if I am just coping with it… time will tell, at this stage telling others is probably the hardest part.

Josh & Liza were first home so were the first to be told, then I spoke to my sister Nicola, Ray’s sister Maureen phoned during the early evening and then Megan arrived home from work. My eldest sister Sharon was on Grand-children ‘sitting’ duties so was the final call of the day.

I am maintaining ‘a stiff upper lip’, this is getting frustrating, yes I know a good cry would be the healthy thing for me to do, but I can’t force tears, never have been able to.

So now it is Friday afternoon, I took the afternoon off work as I was nodding off at my desk this morning – came home and went to sleep – I’ve been doing a lot of that lately although not when I should be – like at night time, when normal souls are resting I am wide awake!  I posted this picture on Facebook this week ‘cos it amused me, my good friend Jan called me ‘Bat Girl’ today, it seems such an accurate description of my bodies seemingly preferred sleeping habit that I might just take up the nickname 🙂

Batman!

Hmm, I might just be needing body armour like that when I’ve had my op, a kevlar breast plate could be the way to go to protect my sore bobbies!