Thursday, March 30, 2006
And that is what I am trying to do. Beseiged by information the last time I went to the doctor's, I have the final stats on the tumour. It measured 3cm by 3cm, is Her2 negative and Oestrogen positive which means that I will be having hormone therapy once they have decided whether I am pre or post menopausal. Apparently the chemo that I had pre surgery probably pushed me over into menopause hence the blood test. I find it strange that as the world pushes into bloom around me, I am probably tipping over the fertility cliff - a strange dichotomy.
They took out 16 lymph nodes under my arm of which 4 were cancer filled. This means that my cancer was Stage II which is good news...
So now the road which climbed over the mountains of chemotherapy, and crossed the rocks of surgery now faces the desert of radiotherapy with its side effects of tiredness and sunburn, but, finally the road does face downhill. The first two thirds are over and only the final third of this journey remains. I can finally smell the salt of that glittering ocean of normality I hoped that I would one day see again....
Thank you all for your support so far, and thank you in advance for continuing to hold my hand for this last part of the journey. Just because it is the last part doesn't mean that I don't need your support any less - on the contrary, it is just before the light that the darkness seems at its darkest, that the night is coldest and most unfriendly. This surgery has wiped my resources considerably, I am tired, I am sore and I am limp in my resolution and spirit. I hope that I have enough in me for the final part of the trip,
Monday, March 27, 2006
Jimmy was my father.
The Macmillan Nurses have been my anchor this year - Vanessa helped me get through chemo, she helped me communicate with my doctors, stood up for me when I was debilitated or weak, and has tried to get financial help for me. Caroline, my Macmillan counselor has listened to me, heard me, and guided me through the maze of emotions which have threatened to sweep this little boat under the waves. Ann, my Macmillan surgery nurse has helped me through the last few weeks, willing me to hold on and getting my surgery booked and on time - all through the efforts of Macmillan.
My brother is, this year, running the London Marathon for Macmillan, for dad and for me. And as you know, his support hasn't stopped there as he has helped me at appointments, supported me as I wept and helped me all the way through.
Please do something for me, please go over to his site (called pineapple chunks), read what he has to say, ogle the gorgeous blonde sitting next to him, and then please give if you can. Macmillan helped my father, Macmillan helped me, help us to help others.... It only takes a little ..and the site is secure.
I am well aware that this ends my spell of anonymity on the net but there are some things which are more important than individuals.
Please give if you can,
So many people have given and to all of you - thank you so very very much.
Friday, March 24, 2006
I am also hugely shaken by Amanda's news - please go over and offer your comfort. I hate this disease....
Rest in Peace - Eric W. Shaffer, 21/7/21 - 17/3/06
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Of course, there is recovery.
The body abhors a vacuum and rushes to fill the void where my cancer filled tumour and lymph nodes were with fluid. As that drains into a bottle by my side, it is checked everyday and only when it is down to 30mls a day will I be back.
Meanwhile, and not for the first time I think how blessed I am, blessed for the brother who visits me to allow me to type this on his laptop, for my wonderful friends who bear me gifts, hugs and smiles, for my mother who fetches and carries all willingly, for the doctors and nurses who explain and encourage constantly, and for all of your wonderful and loving comments, hopes and prayers from around the world....
I can't wait to see you all again soon,
Evil Minx here.
Just a quick note to let you know that I went to see Minerva yesterday in hospistal. She's doing absolutely fine, in fine fettle and fighting spirit, and she misses each and every one of you.
She'll fill you in on more details when she's back at home, hopefully today. Leave her a message, i know she's dying to hear from you.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Due to rapid expansion inside Number 1 Left Breast Row and your constant overstay in this property belonging to the landlord Miss M Body, this eviction notice has been served. As of 7.30am tomorrow morning, your tenancy of this property is at an end. Two highly qualified removal specialists who also happen to be brothers, Mr Oncology Surgeon and Mr Plastic Surgeon will be examining the property and removing you from it. We expect operations to commence somewhere between 7.30am and tomorrow evening leaving 1 Left Breast Row cancer free.
Could you also please notify your cousins in 4 Lymph Nodes that their eviction will also be expected tomorrow? They have overstayed their welcome and their expansion into the remaining 20 Lymph Node properties will be stopped as we have decided to evict all the properties in the area.
We have arranged for you and your cousins to be forwarded via Scalpel and Knife Removals to the Pathology estate where we expect a full dissection of the case to take place before you take up your new lodgings in In Cin Erator road.
Please ensure that all your personal belongings and relatives including small children are all taken with you. Minerva's Body Incorporated guarantees to do their level best to remove and destroy any remnant of you and/or your family.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
People ask me all the time, 'What can I do?' Well folks, step up to the plate because I/we do need help. Cary Miller the wonderful editor of Cancer Newswatch started Real Cancer Real lives to present cancer as suffered, rather than cancer as celebrated. He wanted to convey how it really WAS to bear a cancer diagnosis, or to go through the treatment... But now he needs our help. Due to the nature of cancer suffering, those hosting Cary's carnival have been unable to help as much as he hoped and the carnival has days where there is no host or hostess. Could you help? All of you know someone who has cancer, all of you by offering to host this carnival could do something to counteract the media generated view of cancer. It doesn't matter if you don't HAVE cancer, all Cary needs is help to host the carnival. So many of you have asked 'what can we do?' Well, this is something that everyone who has a blog can do.
Please help by going here and signing up. Cary collects all the posts for you and the links and all you have to do is write them up. Cary's wife Lori has cancer and was diagnosed just after their honeymoon. Real Cancer Real lives means a LOT to Cary and Lori and I know how grateful they would be.....
On to the stories themselves...
Dana has been suffering since the end of treatment feeling as so many patients do nervous about the future and devoid of support. Go and read her post and offer her some of your support.
Black Looks here argues that reconstruction and the wearing of prostheses after breast cancer really should be unnecessary as women should be accepted for who they are rather than the amount of breasts they sport - read her thought provoking article here
Cary, as in our very own founder, expresses his anger at the disease which dominates so many of our lives. I urge everyone to read this post to understand the caregiver's frustration with this - Read it here. (Be warned - this post does contain adult language. )
Chrispian, whose wife Aeryn has had a bout with cancer, has had to watch her go through more surgery and pain as the treatment wreaks havoc too - read about it here.
If you would like to submit a post for inclusion in Real Cancer, Real Lives, please do so via the Carnival Submit Form. When submitting your blog entry, be sure that Real Cancer, Real Lives is selected in the menu space provided. If you are interested in hosting the carnival, you can check available dates at the Real Cancer, Real Lives main page...just drop Cary at Cancer NewsWatch an email to let him know which date you'd like.
You can take a look at some other great carnivals over at the TTLB UberCarnival page.
Monday, March 13, 2006
I went into my plastic surgeon today hoping, as you know, for an end to the uncertainty, with an ability to plan and scheme out the future but it wasn't to be. My oncology surgeon on Thursday told me that as this plastic surgeon worked so closely with the oncology team, there would be no problem in him doing the operation but my plastic surgeon refuses point blank - he said, and I quote, 'I don't do lumpectomies, I do mastectomies'.
I feel, to be honest, like a parcel being sent from one person to another, dispatched with no regard for feelings or worries. I vacillate between huge anger and great weariness of spirit and am so very disheartened... I mean, it is almost a joke, isn't it? How many surgeons does one need to see before having surgery??!!
The PS said that he would sort it out and I would have a call by the end of the week but that is still another week of uncertainty, another week of calls by my daughters wondering if they are going to see me over Easter, another week of limbo...
What a shambles....
Saturday, March 11, 2006
I am so lucky. How many other people are told that they are the 'best mother ever' when taking a cold child a hot water bottle? Truly, that title means more to me than any kingdom, any gift or any amount of money, treasure or gold.
Tonight, we talked of the operation, of the timing and what the surgeon would actually do. My oldest daughter asked me if I would wear a 'sponge' and almost looked disappointed when I said I probably wouldn't. We had a laugh about a breast with an 'inflatable' inside it, and I was asked if I (and it) would therefore float in the swimming pool. A perfectly valid question which made us all giggle. They asked if it would change my shape or make me look strange and I was, I hope, able to reassure on both counts as well as dampen down my own fears...
They are such terrific girls, such brave children and I am so very proud to be their mother...
Friday, March 10, 2006
And so, I could either pick the oncology surgeon who could operate me on this Tuesday coming or wait to see the plastic surgeon again and wait for a date. What would you have done? Certainly half of me craves the certainty of having a date, of moving ahead with this journey without any more delays. It would be wonderful to move into this weekend knowing that I was due to be operated on next Tuesday, to be aware that this would be early enough for me to be able to have my children for their Easter holidays and to be able to plan....
This is not about a short term decision. The choice I make about my breast surgery will affect so many areas of my life in the future; my self esteem, my femininity and my self confidence to name just three. I think it is vital that I make the right decision.. I feel that if a plastic surgeon does the operation, then he will constantly be thinking about the aesthetic appearance of his surgery and how it will look afterwards... Of course, getting the cancer out and clearing the flesh around it is terribly important to the future, but so is the way I look and I am not willing to compromise in one area just for the sake of speed... And so I chose the way of uncertainty...
I meet with the plastic surgeon again on Monday to choose a date and I am hoping it will be next week - cross your fingers for me,
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Strange how the world turns. 5 years ago, I was wealthy, not a financial care in the world but had emotional and marriage problems. Now, five years later, I am emotionally and mentally well, with huge health issues and money worries. But I wouldn't change my situation for the world, and even despite all these other worries, I do mean that. I may be financially precarious, health in the balance but I am content with my lot, happy with my self determination of my boat. I may be steering into dark seas, but I am in control of this yacht and whether it sinks or floats is up to me.
Strangely enough, cancer, whilst scary, is not the worst thing about this disease. No, it is the living with uncertainty, the inability to plan or to have one's life under one's direct control which is the worst thing. We are tossed by pain, by doctors, by hospitals, by money worries, living worries and cannot plan for the next holiday, the next birthday as always lingers the fear, the uncertainty that we might just not make it...
Together with the news about my financial status, good news swims from the ocean. My bone scan was negative for cancer. Strangely enough, I 'felt' that. I am a huge believer in instinct and I sensed that the pain that lingers in my hips and legs was not cancer. However, it isn't arthritis either and the doctors have asked for further tests...
Could I be the first woman to celebrate her fortieth birthday by walking with a zimmer frame?
Monday, March 06, 2006
Back to the hospital again today to have a bone scan and to meet the plastic surgeon. Strange how 6 months ago, I had the first and today the second. So much easier when you know what is happening but today as I gazed at the machine scanning my body only about three inches above my face, I realised that my life was much like the grid of squares on the machine. One quarter, chemo is now over and I am moving into the second phase of treatment, the next box... Amazing how metaphors abound in the most unlikely places..
And on to the surgeon where we discussed options and actions and reactions. In six months I have become quite used to taking off my top to men that I don't know. I haven't quite advanced to doing it in public yet but if I have to go on like this, I may well. The boob flasher of London has quite a ring about it, don't you think?
As for the surgery, we are decided. If it is only a part of the breast, then that shall be taken and the rest of the flesh inside manipulated so as to form a smooth homogenous whole. If a mastectomy is performed, then an implant will be put under the original skin for radiation and the full operation will follow about 6-9 months later. That will consist of taking flesh and muscle from my tummy and pushing it up to make a new breast. Discussing it today felt alien, like a part of me was outside my self, almost observing this woman talking to her surgeon, showing her breasts and talking about surgical options. It really didn't sound like me at all...
So now we know the options for the plastic surgery, now we just have to find out what the final decision is or rather professed to be vis a vis the actual amount of flesh they have to take to ensure that the cancer is completely excised. That we find out on Thursday. Of course, even that decision may change dependent upon what they actually find when they get in there...It really does sound like an installment from The Merchant of Venice - pound of flesh anyone?
And so the latest installment passes... The glazed look leaves the eyes of the person to whom I am chatting as we move to other subjects..and then they leave and the spectre of cancer cuddles in close to me, breathes in ice cold shivers down my neck and scrapes his fingernails across my skin. It is near, very close and again the lump dominates my days and nights. That is why I need to share, need to talk, as I cannot leave this body for even an instant. It is my constant companion....It may be old news to you, but to me, to me it has the power of a constant updated newsflash...
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Now, I want it out. I can now understand those women who used to cut out their silicon implants by themselves when the news broke about their poison.. If I wasn't such a wimp, I would willingly wield a knife myself. Time to worry, not about not having a breast or being deformed, but time to worry about the serious stuff, the main point which is if this isn't cut out, and cut out soon, then I won't be here...
Death is very good at focussing the mind, and I want this sucker taken out of me...
Thursday, March 02, 2006
But there is good news too - my appointments which I was worried about being postponed over and over again are both next week - Monday with the plastic surgeon and Thursday with the oncology surgeon. Hopefully, all fingers and toes crossed, I should be able to get some kind of surgery date by next week....
But the fear lingers like rain streams down a wet window....
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
One third though - no surgery date yet, no radiation date yet, but everyone that I have spoken to reinforces the debilitating and enervating effects of chemotherapy. Even the foods and drinks that I have managed to stomach during the treatments, are now anathemas to me. I never ever want to have ginger biscuits again, the thought of anything coloured the same as epirubicin, ie, bright red, makes me want to hurl multicoloured chunks all over my house... Cranberry juice is out, methinks...
And so we have crossed our mountains - they lie behind us, conquered and beaten, shrouded in mist. I will, dieu volant, never ever have to open that map again and retrace those hard worn steps. If I have to, I will know that I have done it once, and if really really necessary, I will be able to do it again...but now my body turns to the next stages of my journey. The lake of surgery lies before me, sharks of fear swimming beneath its apparently placid surface and after that? After that the deserts of radiation....
But for now? For now, we rest in the foothills of chemo and recover..