Courage is learning to hang on…even when you want to let go. Here we go again up to the eighth floor to sit and wait to see the specialist. I can’t stop thinking about what my test results might reveal, god I hope there is no cancer any where else.
*Please note this post is about medical procedures and may have emotional triggers.
PLEASE FORGIVE THE QUALITY OF FOLLOWING PICS. PS…THERE’S A BOOBY SHOT BELOW OF MY BOOBS THE NIGHT BEFORE I SAID GOODBYE TO MY BUNG BOOB. THIS IS NOT A GRATUITOUS SEXY SHOT…BREAST CANCER IS ABOUT BREASTS (DERRR).
Eventually I’m called and we head into the doctor’s office. Small talk is made and then it’s onto the test results, the bone scan is all clear and I breathe a sigh of relief. Then onto the CT scan results, all looking good BUT…”what? There’s a but!!’. Shit, my body starts to get all shaky, fuck… the fear rises in me. “There’s a small mass on your liver Jennifer, it’s most likely nothing in fact I will eat my hat if it is anything to be concerned about”. Oh crap my legs turn to jelly and I freak out. I start thinking this is it, now I’ve got two bloody cancers and I’m done for.
My doctor sends me straight away for an ultrasound to get a clearer picture I gown up and stare at the screen willing the mass to be gone. My heart sinks when the radiographer calls for a second opinion and I’m filled with fear. Terrible thoughts race through my mind. There’s no falling maple leaves or calm lakes, instead my mind is filled with thoughts of having to tell my children I’m dying, of leaving my husband a widower and funerals. I try to shake the thoughts from my mind, they aren’t helping me and I tightly squeeze my eyes down hard and force that image of maple leaves to appear. Finally my head’s clear except for floating rust coloured maple leaves dripping in dew on a sunny winters afternoon…calm is restored.
After another short wait in the waiting room Craig and I are once again called into my doctor’s office, she’s oblivious to the dread that fills me and casually dismisses any danger telling me the mass is nothing to worry about and that we will keep an eye on it from time to time.
I’m relieved but feel like I’ve aged five years during that appointment. We discuss the mastectomy and she walks me through the procedure and gives me some literature and it seems she now understands why I want my bung boob gone. That first meeting with her did put some doubt in my mind and I backpedal a bit, opting only to have the one breast removed and leave the healthy one where it is….something that I will later regret.
We leave the doctors rooms a little shell shocked but relieved that everything is ok and we now have a date for surgery I’m booked in to have my mastectomy on Friday 12th October. I head home to start planning for the family get together on Sunday to celebrate my Misters birthday and try to put cancer out of my mind.
Blake did a wonderful job of wrapping his father’s IPAD it looked so professional in white glossy paper with a wide red ribbon, almost too good to open. The boys climbed into bed with us including the dog and we watch as Craig opens his presents and we sing ‘Happy Birthday’. As I lay all snug in my bed surrounded by my four biggest loves, yes the dog is included, I feel enormous love. My heart swells as I watch the boys goof off and my husband playing with his new presents, I am totally in the moment just enjoying life.
Joel made a birthday cake for his Dad which is great because I just didn’t feel up to it this year as there was too much going on in my mind. We all sing then everyone eats cake while I settle into the kitchen making cup after cup of coffee. I curse having a coffee machine to be chained to and feel sad when I look out into the yard and see everyone socialising, laughing and deep in conversation while I’m all alone making bloody coffee. After a couple of hours everyone leaves and I clean up, wash the mountain of dishes and glasses and make some dinner, I’m exhausted but it was all worth it to see my Mister happy and smiling..
On Tuesday we attend my pre admin appointment at the hospital; this is where I meet with everyone who will be involved with my surgery. First a nurse weighs me and I curse all the Florentines and cake I’ve consumed lately as I’ve put on 5kg, the true indignity was being weighed in front of a full waiting room.
Next I meet with the pharmacist who goes over any medications I’m taking that might affect surgery and then it was on to the Breast Surgeon who was joined by the third year medical student and the breast care nurse. He goes over the surgery including the procedure to remove the sentinel lymph node which would be analysed to see if cancer had invaded my lymph nodes.
Naturally I have plenty of questions which makes him a little tense as I wasn’t keeping to the script. I want to know what would happen if the nodes showed cancer while I was under, again I’m assured it will all be fine that I was young and my cancer has been caught early. In fact he would almost guarantee there would be no cancer in my lymph nodes yada, yada, yada. I wonder if he would eat his hat too.
After signing forms it’s time to see the anaesthetist who goes through what they would be doing on the day. He asks to see how wide I can open my mouth and wants to know if all my teeth were mine. ‘Um yeah…why?’ seems that while under they can sometimes damage your teeth. Perfect, I could come out with no boob and missing teeth…add no hair from chemo and just sign me up for miss world…glamorous.
Then I’m off to see a researcher to chat about what they would do with my bung boob, I hadn’t even thought about where it would end up. Some of it would be sliced up by the pathologist to look at under a microscope and some would be held by the pathologist for a few years. The researcher wanted to know if I would give permission for them to use the results and some tissue for research purposes, of course I obliged. There would also be a researcher phoning me in a few weeks to do an hour long questionnaire to gather information for study on breast cancer. After I’ve been given multiple forms, signed multiple forms and finished all the meetings Craig and I are exhausted, it was information overload so we head to our local cafe to debrief…stuff the extra kilos.
Over the next couple of days I catch up with close girlfriends and make phone calls to the ones that live far away. I sunbake on the back deck soaking in the sunshine, enjoy a long bath and prepare for surgery and chemo by having my acrylic nails removed. Then there’s the seemingly mundane jobs like paying bills, taking a son for a haircut and loading up on groceries so that the pantry is well stocked; life still goes on when you have cancer.
The day before surgery I pack my bag and make sure that I have all the ‘little’ things to help make my hospital stay comfortable. I wish there was a manual for what to pack for hospital I’ve taken many trips to the supermarket and department stores blindly wandering aisles in a haze wondering what to buy…what did I need? After each shopping trip I’d return home with random items like a lip balm or some rosewater spray or a pair of socks. Would I need tissues? Should I take face wipes? Did I have a travel size shampoo to take? I knew that front opening pyjamas would be necessary but trying to find a roomy, pretty pair for my ample size 18 body was impossible. My mind swirls with random thoughts and it’s driving me nuts!
A friend arrives to share a cuppa, she comes with a basket of freshly cut home grown roses and a warm smile. I busy myself trimming the roses and we both pretend there is no cancer and chat about kids, school, and friends…anything but cancer. Finally she asks how I am feeling and wants to know if I would like to talk about my operation, I’m grateful she has the courage to bring it up. We talk about my cancer and her Dad who passed away from cancer years ago. We cried and laughed and drank tea, that’s what girlfriends are for.
Afterwards I head out for a girly catch up filled with laughs…and coffee! Then it’s off to meet a couple of dear friends at Brighton for, and a little shopping…of course. I race home eager to clap eyes on my boys and share stories of their day at school, well as much as teenage boys will share. When I come inside they’re excited to show me a HUGE parcel that has been delivered. I guessed it was my recently ordered breast cancer pack from the BCNA and nearly didn’t open it.
I have a few minutes to spare so decide to open it and squeal with delight when I see the gift card inside with the ‘Eb&Ive’ logo printed on it; it’s from one of my favourite clothing labels. I’d recently purchased some of their kaftan tops from a gift shop in preparation for surgery and had been so impressed with the service at the shop and with the product that I dropped the girls who own the label an email to let them know. I’m a big believer in letting people know when you receive great service, not just whinging…comes from years of working in retail. Well the girls were touched by my e-mail and had reached out to show me love and wish me well.
Their timing was perfect and I head out the door to work with a grateful heart and a smile on my face….and cancer in my boob. Work proves to be no distraction, it’s quiet and almost no customers around. My heart aches to be at home with my family so I close early and head home to spend some time with them.
Before I head off to bed I place my packed bag at the door and lay out some comfy clothes to wear to the hospital, I wonder if I should leave notes for my family under their pillows in case I don’t wake up from the anaesthetic. I’m so fuckin scared of not waking up. I put the negative thoughts out of my head, take a selfie of my boobs then climb into bed. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to my bung boob.
Til next time,
*recount of my cancer journey. Diagnosed Sept 2012.