Wow! What a week!
I have been posting little bits of information at various places, (thanks Catty and Madam M for allowing me to hijack your places), but haven't blogged at my own place yet. I'm a bit reluctant, as I don't want this cancer to define me, I still want my blog to be about my life, my friends, family and experiences, and I don't want the cancer to take over. On the other hand I DO want to be able to keep you informed, and maybe vent a little. Solution: TWO blogs.
This is where I will report in: tests, doctors, laughter, tears, frustrations and triumphs. Today will be a timeline of events over the last 8 days since my diagnosis, most subsequent posts will be short updates on daily occurrences and just generally how I'm travelling. Hopefully it won't just turn into a dirge, but frankly if that happens so be it. The rest of my life will continue to be chronicled at my number one. Drop in here if you want to, or not. Your call!
I should go back to the beginning:
Saturday 15th of May: right in the middle of Havock weekend, routine mammogram at Breastscreen QLD QE2 Hospital facility. In and out in 15 minutes, and off to lunch at The Morrison Hotel.
Thursday 20th of May: Phone call from Kim at BSQ around 10 am. Based on mammograms they wanted to do more tests, ultrasound, possibly biopsy. Now on a side note, I had previously had a biopsy (fine needle aspiration) on a lump in my left breast, through a different provider. The pathology on that occasion was normal, so while I was a little nervous, not overly concerned. Arranged to front up at 9 am Friday and took the morning off work.
Friday 21st of May: Arrived at QE2, gowned up, and had a second mammogram in short order. Next an interview with Doctor Kate. That is when my world fell apart. She showed me the film that had caused them to recall me. I thought it was pretty obvious the area of concern. Then she put up an old film, and it was GLARINGLY obvious. The difference in the two pictures was remarkable. Kate was amazingly up front. She told me straight out that the strong belief is that this is a cancer. She explained the procedures that were to follow, (ultrasound, likely core biopsy, even got me to sign a consent form for the biopsy in order to save time later), gave me a physical exam, and sent me off to have a smoke and make some calls while I waited from them to be ready for me in ultrasound. So I called Mum, told her what was going on, and headed back into the room I fondly refer to as the torture chamber. At some point in proceedings Kim, the nurse who had phoned me on Thursday, joined us. She took me in and introduced me to Chris, who would be doing my ultrasound, and settled me in. My God! The ultrasound took FOREVER. and I was FREEZING! Now from minute one, these ladies were entirely open and honest with me. They showed me on the scans and screens what they were looking at, and what was concerning. They had a bit of a chat about the technique they should/would use to perform the biopsy. There are two techniques, each with pros and cons.
Chris went off to find Dr Kate, while Kim kept me company, gave me a blanket and chatted. Kate and Chris returned, and set up to perform the core biopsy. They decided to do an ultrasound biopsy, as the ultrasound would help Kate guide the needle to the area of concern. Sorry, but it FKN HURT! They loaded me up with local anaesthetic, but apparently the breast tissue they had to get through is very tough, (I found out later they had bent a needle trying to get through it), and by the time they retrieved the 3rd core, I was feeling EVERY SINGLE movement of the needle. NOT fun! After the biopsy, they let me get dressed, and head back outside for a few minutes with an icepack. They asked me to stick around for a little while so they could make sure I was okay. I called Mum again, and arranged for her to ring my boss and let him know that I wouldn't be at work this afternoon, and why. After that I headed back to the waiting room to wait for permission to leave. Kim made me a VERY CRAP coffee and that's when the waterworks hit. One of the other nurses took me into a private room to cry it out. She came and sat with me, provided tissues, and reiterated the strong belief that what we were dealing with is indeed cancer.
That was pretty much it for Friday, they told me that they expected the biopsy results to confirm the cancer diagnosis, the results would be available next Wednesday, and I should come back Wednesday afternoon, bring someone with me, and we would then discuss what would happen next. In short, I have cancer in my right breast. I sat in the car, and called Mum again, assured her I was fine to drive and would be at her place shortly. I also rang my best friend, assured her that I was fine to drive and would talk to her soon. Then I rang my boss, assured him that I would see him Monday at work, and drove to Mum's. Meanwhile, Mum had been in touch with my sisters and brother, but I still needed to tell The Brat. He wasn't working so my brother went and collected him from home, to bring him back to Mum's. While we waited I phoned my GP. His reaction was CLASSIC. "Well that's a bit of a bummer". Through tears of laughter I told him he was the master of the understatement. He told me he hasn't lost a breast cancer patient in ten years and he wasn't letting me spoil his record. He asked me to ring the surgery (I got him on his mobile while he was attending a conference), and organise an appointment for as soon as possible after the results came in.
Then it was time to tell The Brat. I was calm, so he took it calmly. I knew we would have questions and tears down the track, but so far so good. I left him at Mum's to play Wii, and headed off for some alone time, and maybe a nap. Of course there was no way a nap was going to happen, so I used a little time to let some other important people know what was going on. That includes YOU GUYS, my blog and twiiter friends, and I am grateful for your messages of support and offers of help. I also phoned my man's sister, so she could be prepared if he didn't take it well, then I bit the bullet and called my man. The LAST thing I wanted to do was tell him this kind of news over the phone, when he is SO far away. You know about the ups and downs we've had in our relationship, and I was very nervous about how he would react to the news. Let me tell you folks, he was BRILLIANT. He was still at work when I called, and he headed straight to the office to check how much leave he had available and tell the bosses wife that he would be heading up to see me.
Given that this post is in danger of becoming a novel, I'll cut the rest of the weekend short. Phone calls, followed by phone calls, and yet more phone calls. We did have an interesting Saturday night, when The Brat wrote himself off on vodka, and I had to collect him from a mates place. The vodka was the catalyst for his emotions, fears and questions to come tumbling out, and I spent an uncomfortable hour on the cold bathroom floor, talking and crying and laughing with him. It helped us both I think. One other conversation worth mentioning was with my man. I told him I'd just got him back after so many years, he wasn't getting rid of me that easily, and I had no intention of going anywhere. He responded that he had no intention of LETTING me go anywhere. He had talked to his sister, who will coincidentally be here this weekend, and they had decided that she and I would discuss the best time for him to be here, just let him know and he'd be on a plane.
Monday 24th of May: back at work more of the same, telling a few more people, discussing possible scenarios for time off work that sort of thing.
Tuesday 25th of May: Another call from Kim at QE2. Results are in, they're negative, we don't believe it, come back for another biopsy. When I arrived, Kim showed me the test results, and explained that they indicate they had biopsied the dense breast tissue around the lump. Apparently I am the personification of the phrase "tough titties", and bent or otherwise the needle didn't seem to have penetrated that tissue to get to the actual lump. So this time we did the biopsy with me pinned to the mammogram machine. Uncomfortable yes, but this time they used extra local, and I didn't feel a thing. This is when the uncertainty set in, and drove me a little nuts. Previously, I hadn't felt anxious about the wait for results. Now, even though Kate explained that even if this result was negative, she would be recommending surgery, it bothered me that maybe another negative result would slow down the process, kick me back on the surgery waiting list, and leave me with no real answers for a longer period of time, while this thing (whatever it is) sits inside me, doing God know what sort of damage. They marked this test URGENT, hoping that they would still have the results tomorrow, but it was an anxious wait to see if they would come back in time for me to attend my appointment on Wednesday.
Wednesday 26th of May: Finally about 1 pm got the call that results are in, head down to the hospital, and bring someone with me. Mum and I set off, and weren't kept waiting too long, for the results to be confirmed as positive. I was okay, the uncertainty was gone. I knew what I was dealing with, and between them Kate and Kim explained the next steps in the process. They handed over my scans, a letter for my doctor including pathology results and ultrasound report, and a letter to me confirming my diagnosis, and advising me of my appointment time at The Mater on Thursday the 3rd of June. Also got a kit and information about support services for breast cancer sufferers. It's a lot of information, and I am still wading through it, writing down questions as they occur to me, and trying to take it all in. I feel like I'm back at Uni, with the volume of material I need to get through.
Thursday the 27th of May: Appointment at lunch time with my GP. We went through the results, and the processes. A lot more of the same but from his perspective, how he and his staff can help me along the way. Questions about whether or not I should have Fluvax, whether or not we should remove my IUD, and blood tests to just check on my general health are all in order. He wrote to my surgeon to pose these questions, the surgeon after all is the expert, spoke to Kate on the phone while I was with him, and sent me off for blood tests without even offering me a slice of pizza, which his staff were scoffing in the waiting room during their lunchtime staff meeting. I've been attending the same practice for nearly 20 years, some of these guys know more about me that my own Mum, and they will all be invaluable support during whatever comes next.
Friday the 28th of May: OMG a bad day! No particular reason, just woke up feeling BLEEAGH! I know that I have to expect this, but I'd had a week of coping pretty well, some tears sure, but not the floods I was experiencing Friday. So it was a bit of a shock to the system. I called my Mum and my best friend, they love me and want to help, but I think when this happens, it's pretty much up to me. Then I got a call from a client, whose wife has had two battles with breast cancer, and has just passed 4 years cancer free. He was brilliant, talked to me for ages, and offered all the support he and his wife could offer. Told me to call them at home if I needed to talk at any time, not bad for a client I have probably met once, and don't remember. I should point out that I haven't told too many clients yet, though my boss and I have discussed it, and given the upcoming upheaval in the office, most will know at some point anyway. Also, many of our clients are older and have had their own battles with cancer and other serious illness. So I am gradually telling them, starting with the clients I have got to know reasonably well over the last 21 months, but this one was just an accident of timing I think. Whatever it was, it helped. I was in a much better place after I spoke to him, and actually managed to be productive for the afternoon.
Saturday 29th of May: Today. I have been tossing up about blogging my journey, but I don't want to turn off any of my regular readers who don't want this in their lives right now. Hence this new site. If you come here you will know what to expect, and I won't be upset or offended if you choose not to. This is mainly for me anyway. An opportunity to express my emotions and describe my travels.