I could not stop thinking about my cancer and the chemo ahead of me so I decided to go back to work for a few weeks waiting on the oncology appointment. I worked short days but it did help me have something else to focus on.
In the meantime my left breast continued to be sore and hard and I saw it getting bigger through time. My friends hen party was in Majorca so I tried to look forward to our weekend away at the end of the month.
I finally got the appointment in to see oncology it was the day before we were heading to Majorca. At that appointment my oncologist introduced himself I do think to myself now and laugh that he drew the short straw getting my appointment that day as he was about to have an extremely large thorn in his side!
At this appointment he asked me how I was, I told him that my right side was grand no issues however my left side was extremely painful, hard, swollen and now was hot to touch, I also had a small lump under my armpit. His words were “but you had a biopsy”, I advised him that I hadn’t as the focus had been on the right when they discovered the lump there and had informed me that my left side was glandular.
Following an examination he sat me down and said “I believe you will need a Mastectomy”. I need to refer you back to the breast clinic as you need a biopsy, but my gut feeling is that you will need a mastectomy. Again I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach, how was this all escalating into such a nightmare.
As I left his office he told me he was going to get in contact with the consultant at the breast clinic and get me seen there the following Wednesday.
All I can say is thank god I had my friends hen party in Majorca that weekend as it gave me time away in good company not having time to dwell on what I had been told, I kept telling myself I I would deal with it when I got back home. We had a great weekend and one I will always remember. I gained two very good friends that weekend and they have been there for me through every hurdle since. Unfortunately my best buddie has moved away from our home town with her own wee family. I know it has been hard for her not being here for me but she is always in contact and would be home in a flash if I needed her. They are all great people. You know who you are ladies.xx
30th September a day I will remember so vividly for the rest of my life
I had to be at the hospital to see the oncologist at 10.00am, it was a really warm day for the end of September. He asked me how I had been and I told him I had been in Majorca at the weekend. He said “you weren’t too worried about it then”. I said well there was nothing I could do about it until now anyway.
After another physical examination he sent me to see the consultant who said right Lynette Dr J has sent you back to see me. I felt he still didn’t believe me that anything was wrong. After an examination his manner towards me changed. He said I would go for an ultrasound and a biopsy. Another morning of waiting in a busy waiting area seeing people coming and going. I was called in for my biopsy, it was the same radiographer I had in July. He recognised me and said “you were in a few months ago, we found a fibromadema” I said “no you didn’t you found a grade 3 tumour!”
AS he ultra sounded my left breast and armpit he said it looked like I had mastitis (an infection on the breast usually found on women breast feeding) I said oh well that’s good. He told me he would do a biopsy just to be sure so he took a biopsy of the breast and the small pea shaped lump under my arm, which he said could be an infection in the lymph node.
I left the room and told my husband what had been said. We went and got ourselves a cup of coffee while waiting on the results. About 20 minutes later we were called in to the consultants office were two nurses were sitting with him.
I remember looking at him as he gazed at the floor and slowly brought his eyes up to meet mind he said “Lynette I’m sorry to tell you this buy you have a very aggressive cancer in your left breast you are now at a different stage and will need a mastectomy”.
I cant remember much of the conversation after that but I do remember asking him “well what are you going to do about it”. He told me the plan was to go to oncology were he would talk to me about chemo.
My husband and I were brought back up to oncology who went through everything about the plan which would be chemo to treat the right breast however the chemo would also hopefully shrink the tumour on the left which would then allow them to do a mastectomy.
As he rattled through the side effects of chemo I remember him saying to me “you aren’t listening to a word I’m saying are you?” I said well do I have any choice in this? and he shook his head. I said “give me the pen then”.
We left his room and were told it would be a few hours before the chemo would be ready for administrating. We went outside to get fresh air and start making those dreaded phone calls to tell my mum and dad and family.
Sitting on a summer seat outside the cancer unit I phoned my dad however could not bring myself to say the words so Graeme had to do it. I rang my cousin who lived in Manchester her and I were very close she told me she would be over on the evening flight. A few more calls were made then we went back into the ward to start my first chemo infusion.
I remember the heat in the place as it was really sunny and warm the windows were open and the wind was blowing the blinds. Numerous people were sitting around on large armchairs getting liquid injected into them or on IV drips. I remember thinking it looked all quite normal. I don’t know what I expected I suppose I maybe thought the people would look really sick, it would be all doom and gloom but there was chatter and laughter.
I remember the smell of the red liquid as it was being injected into me. It is a smell I will never forget although I wasn’t bad with it I know women who projectile vomited the minute it started going into their bodies and continued to be sick for days afterwards. One friend told me how she went to the chemo unit months after her treatment to leave in scarves and hats should anyone want them. As soon as she opened the door to the unit she had to run outside to boke as the smell just brought everything back to her, how awful.
So although is wasn’t a pleasant experience for me I can thankfully say I got the chemo part quite easy or so I thought at this stage.
I also learned about chemo. It is usually given to patients 6 times. Do you know there are different types of chemo for different types of cancer even for different types of breast cancer? Chemo is given either by injection or IV drip once every 3 weeks at a chemo unit. In between these appointments your bloods are checked as the chemo plays havoc with your white and red blood cells as well as your liver and kidney function.
During the 3 week cycle your immune system is also compromised that is why you hear how people with cancer cannot go into public spaces, hospitals, clinics or any where they could pick up an infection. The day before your chemo is due your bloods are taken at your local health centre. If your bloods are low or your liver function is high the oncologist will decide whether you can go ahead with this cycle of chemo or whether it will be postponed. It is weird as although you hate getting the chemo you want to get it so don’t want it ever to be postponed. I think its just a case of you want it over and done with as quickly as possible.
Before I left the oncology unit my oncologist (who I will now refer to as Dr J) advised me that I had to go for a CT scan of my abdomen to see if the cancer had spread to my liver, lungs or pelvis. This again was another kick in the stomach, when the hell was all this going to end?
Over the next few weeks I hit rock bottom, thank god my cousin was staying with me to keep me company, look after me when I felt sick, take the kids to school and talk to me about the future. I remember sitting at the kitchen table one day crying, My cousin asked me “do you think you are going to die” I said yes she said well then you might as well just give up now if that’s what you think then just give up, ring Dr J and tell him you don’t want anymore chemo, there’s no point”
I thought she’s right I have to pull myself together I have to get on with things for the kids. I rang the doctor and made an appointment to go and see about getting something to help me. I haven’t looked back from that.
I am part of a number of support forums and I see women talking about the mental issues of breast cancer such as trying to come to terms with the diagnosis, the guilt and the down days they have, however they are reluctant to take anti depressants.
I am not ashamed to say I am on anti depressants, I am not going to be a martyr. I need to be strong and well for my kids so my decision was I would take something to help me. I’m not saying every women should but for me it was the right decision and I don’t think women should feel any guilt or failure in deciding to take them. In actual fact over the past 12 months I have had the dose increased with every blow I have received.
I also take a sleeping tablet every night. I believe getting sleep is crucial in the healing process. There is nothing as bad as lying in the small hours of the morning with your own thoughts and worry. So I again am not ashamed to say I taking a sleeping tablet every night. I do hope to be able to stop these at some stage and have been learning meditation techniques to help in this, however at the minute getting 8-9 hours sleep every night is important to me so if it takes a wee pill to get me that then so be it!!
After hitting rock bottom I had good news in that my CT scan was clear my cancer had not spread to other parts of my body so I was stage 3B. My next focus was on the chemo working and killing the cancer cells on my left breast enough to reduce the size of the tumour and allow the surgeon to operate by giving me a mastectomy and having clear enough margins around the site to stop the spread.
After the first cycle it was amazing the pain in the left breast had almost disappeared and I believed the size of the breast was reducing. I remember going in to see Dr J on the day of my second cycle of chemo and telling him. He said now don’t get to excited too soon, however after examining me he agreed that there was a slight improvement. This gave me a boost for getting the second cycle.
Again during this cycle although I had slight nausea and tiredness I got over the first 5 days which were always the worst ok. In my case I was due to have 3 cycles of FEC and 3 cycles of taxol. During the 2nd cycle of FEC I took shingles on my side. I took a pain in my back which I thought was a kidney infection however when the rash appeared and I googled it I went to the Dr’s the next day and my self diagnosis was confirmed. I was eating painkillers at this stage as the pain was excruciating. I had shingles as a child on my side however you can get shingles more than once. It lies dormant in our bodies and can reactivate when our immune systems are low. Obviously because I was on chemo my immune system was low and this triggered it.
On the day my third cycle of chemo was due DR J asked me how I was, I said well I’ve had shingles, he said that explains why your liver function was so high. I cant give you your chemo today! Gutted I was, as I said although you hate it you just want it over and done with so to postpone it meant my end date was also postponed.
I was determined that the following week my liver would be ok and I would get the chemo. I endured a week of excruciating pain from shingles without taking any painkillers. I didn’t want to put my liver function up with the painkillers so I suffered I was going to say in silence but I probably did complain a few times ! lol!
Thank fully the following week my perseverance had not been in vain and I got my finally dose of FEC. I did hear from other women in the waiting area about an anti sickness injection which helped so I asked for that instead of the tablets. I must say it was great I had no nausea on this cycle. My advise to anyone going through this is ask because I learnt if you don’t ask you don’t get!!