A year ago today I was still reeling from the diagnosis, that my little lump that I’d hoped was a benign cyst was in fact breast cancer. Boris (so-called because it was a nuisance that wouldn’t disappear) had first appeared, or more correctly, was discovered in mid July. I haven’t a clue what date, as at the time I wasn’t unduly worried. I discovered the lump while in the shower and bizarrely couldn’t feel it when laid down. So for all the instructions that say check your breasts when lying down, I also say, check when in the shower. I’d had several previous false alarms, with recalls from mammograms due to cysts and thought this was probably the same. As a result, and also due to the fact that I didn’t want to cancel my long-awaited trip to Harrogate for the Theakston Crime Writing Festival I didn’t see a doctor until my return.
Once I had seen the doctor (who was highly amused that I’d circled Boris with an eyebrow pencil to make it easier to find) things moved on a pace. She agreed there was a lump, but it was not her call as to what it was so she forwarded my details onto the Breast Care unit and by the same afternoon I had an appointment for the following week. As I’ve already regaled you with the fun (!) that followed, I won’t repeat it all here. For those that missed the little stories of my ‘journey’ then click here to play catch up.
Instead I’m reminding myself of what I’ve been through and more importantly overcome, to be happily sat here writing this today. I would, of course, be happier not to be writing about cancer at all, but then that’s life, no point in complaining about it. So let the fun begin. In the past year I have had, (in no particular order)
1 – mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy
1 – pre-op assessment
1 – radioactive injection prior to SLNB
1 – sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (yes I know you wanted to know what it stood for)
1 – lumpectomy
1 – Holistic Health Assessment
1 – Hickman Line inserted and removed
1 – X-ray (to rule out colon blockage)
1 – bone scan – the Femara can weaken bones so you need to start from a healthy base
1 – MRSA swab
1 – set of stitches removed
1 – radiotherapy assessment and ‘tattoo’ session
1 – unexpected trip to The Christie to clear Hickman line blockage
2 – panic calls to The Christie for advice/medication
3 – requests to Breast Cancer Nurse to help with prescriptions
3 – meetings with my oncologist
3 – meetings/reviews with the radiographer
3 – cycles of epirubicin and cyclophosphamide (EC) chemotherapy – a walk in the park compared to the next one
3 – cycles of docetaxol (T) chemotherapy – the chemo from hell
3 – hours waiting for 111 to answer emergency call because The Christie can’t prescribe? (They’re a hospital full of Doctors, they know I’ve got cancer and are fully conversant with side effects and even told me what I needed to ask for!)
4 – echocardiograms – the Herceptin can damage the heart muscles!
12 – Herceptin injections and counting – still have 6 to go, last one due 17th December
13 – Hickman line flushes
15 – sessions of radiotherapy
42 – Filgrastim (stomach) injections
In addition I’ve lost count of the numerous pills I’ve swallowed; steroids, anti-sickness, painkillers (from paracetamol to Tramadol), anti-histamine, constipation and now Letrozole (for 5 years) and Pregabalin (for the foreseeable). I’ve slapped on creams, balms, salves and lotions to help heal wounds, improve scars and mitigate radiotherapy burns. I’ve drunk virtually every constipation remedy known to man, tried various meds for mouth ulcers and sores and am still shoving vaseline up my nose for nosebleeds and sores.
I lost my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and most other body hair (except on my legs – go figure). I just held on to my fingernails and lost one of my big toenails, the other is still making its mind up. I now walk with a stick, for balance, more than anything as the chemo damaged the nerves in my feet – they feel numb, swollen and pins and needlesy. As with most things it’s more noticeable at night when the knee and lower leg pain also comes into the mix, hence the Pregabalin.
Here’s a little photo montage of before, during and after (nothing too graphic, mostly balding heads, regrowth and a few dodgy nails).
What has not been possible to quantify is all the love, help and support I’ve received from family and friends. Those friends have often been people I’ve never met, as my progress has been incredibly helped by my blogging buddies, authors and my blog readers, who have encouraged me and made my ramblings worthwhile. So thank you all. My biggest thanks though has to go to my OH who really stepped up (apart from some dubious cleaning, but can’t have everything) and has really been an amazing support and rock.
The 21st Aug was the anniversary of the day I got my diagnosis re that pesky 24mm, grade 3, invasive ductal carcinoma (oestrogen and HER 2 positive), so we took the day off and visited Chirk Castle. It was a lovely day, far removed from this day last year and fingers crossed, going forward my side effects will disappear. I’m hoping I won’t have any adverse effects from my existing medication and despite being an aggressive, possible returner, Boris really will do the decent thing and sling his hook permanently.
(So far the signs on that front are positive, I had my first follow up mammogram 2 weeks ago and it came back clear).