The C word

This is the most personal post I’ve shared on here. I have to say it’s not something I ever thought I would be talking about. At the end of January this year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m still in shock when I say it out loud or even write it down. I found a hard lump in my right breast in December, I actually had covid at the time so couldn’t be seen by a GP until I was out of isolation. Thank goodness my doctor referred me! I have to say at the time I wasn’t too concerned it was a definite lump but I thought it could be due to hormones or even covid at the time. I tried to forget about it over Christmas and not do too much googling which of course is never a good idea. After Christmas I had a letter through the post for an appointment at the breast clinic in mid Jan where I had an ultrasound and a biopsy. Both the consultant and radiographer thought it looked benign but there was something slightly abnormal about it which is why the biopsy was needed. Try not to worry they said and off I went back to normal.

The 31st January was results day, I was pretty calm and fairly confident it was nothing to be worried about. Matt had dropped me off at the hospital and was picking the girls up from school. Covid restrictions meant I had to go to these appointments alone. I was a little early and they called me in straight away. I was a little wary as there was a nurse and the consultant. Then she said the words that nobody wants to hear, “I’m afraid it’s cancer.” I know it is a cliche but it really did feel like being hit by a bus and as you can imagine left me in TOTAL SHOCK!

I was alone and shocked, angry and upset. I then had to call Matt and my mum and tell them over the phone when I could hardly speak. Whilst I waited for Matt I had to have a mammogram and then when he arrived I had another ultrasound so they could double check the area. We then sat down with the consultant and all those scary words like cancer, chemo and surgery were thrown up into conversation. It was happening, I had cancer and I knew I had to do whatever it took to get it out and try to survive.

Surgery has was booked in for 2 weeks time which was a lumpectomy and a lymph node biopsy. Basically they remove the lump and take some lymph nodes from under the armpit to check if the cancer has spread. They already knew from the biopsy that the type of cancer I had wouldn't respond to hormone treatment so chemotherapy was very likely and radiotherapy would definitely happen after surgery. I was given a breast cancer information pack and had a chat with a lovely cancer nurse who answered questions and talked through what would happen in surgery. I then went away feeling overwhelmed with information and emotion.

After two weeks of talking through everything with friends and family I was feeling quite positive and tried not to think it could be something I'd done, which is only natural. I'm 39 and have no family history of it so was trying to think of another reason why this could be happening and I told myself that was a waste of energy, I needed to focus on the next step which was surgery. I prepared myself for surgery, after having a pre-operation assessment and covid test I had to self isolate 3 days before the operation. The day before the surgery I was due to go in for an injection ready for the operation but then my op was cancelled as the surgeon had covid. I couldn't believe it! I felt desperate as I knew this was totally out of my control and the extra waiting was frustrating. Finally after a few days of chasing information I had a date scheduled for the following week.

The day of the surgery I was feeling more anxious about the physical side of things rather than emotional. Typically I was the last one to go down to the operating theatre and hadn't had a general anesthetic since I was three and had my tonsils out. Having the general was actually fine and I felt ok when I came around. I was in a lot of pain when I woke and was glad to be feeling hungry rather than sick. All I wanted was a cup of tea and biscuit which the nurse gave me when I went back up to the ward. It was day surgery so I was thankful to get home to my own bed. I have to say in all my appointments and particularly the surgery I was treated with so much care and respect all the NHS staff have been amazing.

I'm recovering well and had my results back from surgery last week and I'm so pleased to say that they've managed to remove the cancer and the lymph node biopsy was negative so it hasn't spread thank goodness. For the first time in a long time I feel like a weight has been lifted. I still have a treatment plan ahead of me chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy so I know the next few months are going to be extremely challenging, but it's only temporary.

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