Christmas 2015 was a very quiet affair spent at home with just my husband kids and cousin. It was hard for me as no matter how positive I tried to be there was an unease in the pit of your stomach that this could have been my last Christmas. Everything I did I thought ill maybe not get to do this again. What would Christmas be like for everyone if I wasn’t here?
All through my treatment everyone always told me how positive and inspirational I was. Although I really appreciate those kind words I honestly do not see myself doing anything more than any other wife or mummy would do. There are two options when diagnosed with cancer get up and get on with things or lie down and let this destroy you. As I said before I was very close to lying down at one stage. However it was with support from my cousin that I was able to get up brush myself down and get on with it I had to but most importantly I wanted to for my husband, kids and family.
Although there are some people who are better at dealing with sickness than others . Our family has personal experience of this and can see how not the cancer itself but the mental aspects of dealing with cancer can destroy someone. Therefore I can also understand how some people never get over the guilt their cancer diagnosis has brought them and find it hard to get on with things.
I also recognise that it can be hard for other people to witness their family or friend going through a cancer diagnosis which results in people keeping their distance of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. In actual fact there is nothing more hurtful than being avoided. It looks to the cancer patient that people do not care and are happy to bury their heads in the sand and get on with their busy lives with tunnel vision. I have had people put their head down in the street to avoid eye contact with me were a simple hello would be suffice. In actual fact many times its nice to have a conversation with someone when its not all about me and cancer. I still like to hear a bit of gossip or funny stories about nights out or holidays. I’m not going to think huh its alright for them out and about!!
Well back to my chemo life, I was due to get another chemo the day before New years Eve after my last experience of docetaxol I had asked Dr J if I could get a lower dose. He gave me three options we could lower the dose of docetaxol, I could go back onto FEC or we could crack on with the current treatment plan. Over Christmas I thought about these options and decided I would crack on. I knew I would never forgive myself if this came back as I would think maybe if I hadn’t got a reduced dose (just while I’m on that subject of chemo dosage the oncologist works out how much chemo you get on your weight and height. I remember the very first day the chemo nurse saying to me “oh you are getting quite a high dose of this” I asked her why and she looked at me and said “oh because you are tall” I laughed and said to her “you mean I’m fat therefore need more” So this has been a running joke with us that as I’m a big girl I get a bigger dose.) or stopped the docetaxol and went back onto FEC it wouldn’t have come back. So I cracked on with chemo number 4, however stocked up with plenty of pain relief and didn’t let the pain escalate before I started pain relief every 4-6 hours.
Unfortunately with chemo and pain killers comes constipation although some women do experience the other end of the spectrum, me however it was constipation. I’m not very good at taking dissolving tablets or medicine so in order for me to get the constipation medicine into me I had to stand over the sink retching holding my nose. However not being able to go to the toilet for over a week or 10 days needs must!!!
I also had the kitchen sink retching business trying to sort my tongue and taste buds out. I had read that camomile tea helps the sore mouth as well as making baking soda into a paste and rubbing it on the tongue then scraping it off with a tongue scraper and liquorice. So my dear aunt went to the chemist and bought me it all. I think my husband got a cheeky photo of me standing over the sink retching having gargled camomile tea, (how anybody drinks that is beyond me, it tastes like hay) putting the paste over my tongue and then scraping it off and the eating liquorice. Believe me you would try anything when you are hungry and want to taste food in your mouth.
On the Friday morning the following week, I was sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of tea just before the kids went to school. As I got up from the table I felt a nip in my chest looked across the table at my cousin then looked to the ground. My Hickman line had fallen out!!! What? how? I rang the chemo unit and they were as shocked as me but told me to get to the clinic asap. All the nurses couldn’t believe my Hickman line had fallen out but then again it was me they were talking about if its going to happen it will happen to me.
On Saturday 9th January my situation was about to get even worse. I was sitting on the sofa and rubbed my hand over the top of my right breast and felt a small hard lump. I didn’t say anything to my husband at first but later asked him and my cousin to feel it. I decided to try and put it out of my head for the weekend but to ring the hospital on Monday morning. The only problem being I was in between hospitals at the minute so didn’t know who to phone. On Monday I rang Margaret my chemo nurse and she advised me to ring my original clinic.
On ringing the clinic the breast nurse told me she would speak to Dr J and get back to me. She rang back to say he wanted me to be seen at clinic on the Wednesday. Once again off I trot to the hospital. I am seen by a lovely female Dr who goes over my current situation and examined me. Following examination I was advised I would have an ultrasound. Oh brilliant I thought here we go again.
I was taken to the ultrasound room were I had my two previous ultrasounds and waited with baited breath on the radiographer coming , thank fully it was a different one. As he was examining me the nice Dr came in and said she wanted to see what was happening. After the examination with ultrasound he said it looked like a swollen lymph node probably from surgery in August but he would do a biopsy to be sure. Before leaving the room I said “so its nothing sinister” he said well it looks like a swollen lymph node. I was told to go and get a coffee and come back in half an hour as they would have results back.
My cousin and I went to the canteen and had lunch. I rang my husband to tell him what was going on I said “he doesn’t think its anything sinister as he said it looks like a swollen lymph node.” My husband just said blatantly well I don’t believe them, we have been here before until they get the results of the biopsy I don’t believe them.” My cousin said for god sake tell him to stop being so negative. We left the canteen and went to get my results.
As we were sitting the nice Dr came through the door, she looked at me and shook her head and nodded for me to go in. I looked at her and said ” you are going to tell me that it is cancer, how the hell can it be cancer when I’m on chemo? how has this grown when I’m on chemo? she told me how shocked she was and that she had been to tell Dr J who was at his clinic upstairs. I couldn’t believe it yet I wasn’t surprised one bit this was just how it was going to roll with me, one kick in the teeth after the other.
She told me Dr J asked her to request a CT scan of my abdomen to check if the cancer had spread to my lungs, liver or pelvis. She got me an emergency appointment for the next day I left her and went to see DR J. I asked how has this happened? He just said “Lynette I don’t know I need to discuss this my colleagues and get a collective view on what’s the best way forward. Is it to finish with chemo and go straight to mastectomy now. Oh and it will be a double mastectomy now there’s no choice. Or is it best to finish chemo as there is only one more cycle to go and them mastectomy?”
I left the hospital once again with a dead weight on my shoulders that I had to tell my family this news. I also had scanxiety, a word which is widely used by cancer patients. Everyone who has ever been in this position knows what turmoil it puts you in going for a scan to see if the cancer has spread and then waiting on the results. One of the things you read about with cancer is stress, well there is nothing like the stress the Dr’s put you through waiting on scan results. You have your scan and have to wait days potentially a week or two to get the results of it in the meantime you have yourself dead and buried.
I had a week of scanxiety, however the following Wednesday he told me my scan was clear and oncologists had all agreed that I would finish my chemo then go for double mastectomy asap. He also agreed to lower the dose of chemo for my final one.
The final chemo went ok with no major issues I had been referred to the breast surgeon and had got my planning appointment in to see him for early Feb. Onwards and upwards I thought I need to get these bloody things off to give me some peace.