Friday, 16 November 2012

Breast Cancer - Part Two

The day of the lumpectomy we had to be in Chichester by 7.30am which meant a very early start and I wasn't allowed breakfast, just water or black coffee/tea till 6.30am. On arrival at the surgery suite we were surprised that it was patients only and that Mr LG wouldn't be allowed to wait with me until my time to go to theatre, so off he went for a long long wait! There was a comfortable waiting area once the booking in procedure had been completed and I waited with an older lady also having a lumpectomy and a lady who was in for breast reconstruction following a mastectomy 18 months earlier, and the three of us had a good chat and a laugh. I was due to be going to theatre at around noon but didn't actually go till around 3pm, by which time I was ravenous and had a headache from lack of fluids. Having seen various episodes of various hospital programs on television I wasn't expecting to walk into the operating theatre and to climb onto the operating table with the huge lights overhead! My last experience of hospital had been with my eldest son who had been wheeled into an anti-room for his anaesthetic, which apparently they still do as they don't want to scare the children! However, I had a lovely all lady team and the last thing I remember before waking up on the recovery ward was chatting away about something and nothing, probably making absolutely no sense at all ;-)

The sentinel node was removed and sent off to the lab along with another tiny node next to it, to be analysed whilst the lumpectomy was taking place. Although it did show signs of cancer spreading through it the decision was made not to remove a further batch of lymph nodes as the second one had been so tiny they didn't think the cancer had gone any further (it was too small to analyse properly on the day so had to be looked at in more detail afterwards). Unfortunately at my two week follow up they told me that the tiny little node had indeed had microscopic signs of the cancer so I ended up having to have another band of nodes removed. I completely understood the reasoning for not removing more nodes at the first operation as it could have meant unnecessary invasive surgery. You don't realise how much work your lymph nodes do until you have less of them. I had eight removed in total in the end, the second batch showing absolutely no signs of the cancer spreading thankfully. A few weeks ago I was stung on the foot by a sleepy wasp who had crawled into my slipper - in the past that would just have been sore for 24 hours or so and then I'd have forgotten about it, but with less lymph nodes to produce white blood cells to fight infection I ended up with a very swollen foot and a blister the size of half a golf ball which took ages to get rid of with the aid of anti-histamines and antibiotics. 

Last Friday I started a six cycle course of chemotherapy and that will be followed by a course of radiotherapy and 5 years of hormone therapy tablets. The after effects of the chemo haven't been too bad although I have been feeling absolutely exhausted at times, even after hours and hours of sleep. This is just something that I have to get through to have the best chance of the cancer being eradicated and not returning. I feel I have been very fortunate to have a very treatable form of cancer and six months of treatment are a small price to pay for being able to enjoy many more years with my family and all the people I care about.

For information on cancer in all its forms Macmillan are excellent, also Breast Cancer Care and I would urge everyone (men as well as women) to check themselves regularly and if you do find something unusual get it checked out immediately - ignoring it won't make it go away and early treatment will give a much better chance of survival.