The shell must break before the bird can fly. Today is results day and I feel nervous. Deep in my gut I know I will hear things I won’t like but I try to force the negative feelings far from my thoughts in the hope that I will receive positive results.
*Please note this post may contain emotional triggers, it contains medical stuff about my treatment, please seek your own medical advice.
When we arrive at the hospital to see my specialist she keeps us waiting, it’s frustrating because she’s not with a patient but instead she’s behind the reception desk only a few feet away from us getting paperwork ready. I can hear her on the phone to the breast care nurse trying to get her down to this meeting with me…uh oh, she needs the breast care nurse this can’t be good.
My specialist is looking totally pissed because it seems that the nurse won’t be able to join us. She busies herself on the computer and printer, I can tell she’s trying to buy time and trying to put off the inevitable. She calls us into the office and we take a seat, but seems she’s not in a chatty mood right now so instead it’s up on the bed to get my wound checked.
She inspects my bulging wound and suggests that when we are done I head upstairs to have the seroma drained. I redress and she excuses herself to get some paperwork that she’s left at the reception desk. My specialist is normally very direct and organised so her flustered demeanour instils us with no confidence.
When she returns she has my file and pathology results, she also returns with her quiet, slow, serious voice. It seems my tumour wasn’t small and in its early stages like they had bet on. There were actually 2 tumours. It was 3.5cm; much larger than they originally thought and it was also much more aggressive than they originally thought. The cancer had invaded more tissue than they originally thought, it had spread 4cm and here’s the kicker, I was positive for cancer in my lymph nodes…damnit.
NO! I didn’t want to hear it was in my nodes and I felt as if my body had betrayed me, I mean WTF? I gave them my whole bloody breast and that should have been enough…why the fuck wasn’t that enough?! This was not meant to happen!
The evening before my then 14 year old son had wanted to know what worried me the most about my possible results. I told him I could handle surgery and I could face chemo but that I didn’t want to have cancer in my nodes as it meant that it had ‘escaped’. I explained that this worried me because the thought of just one cancer cell floating around my body meant I would always live wondering if cancer would rear its ugly head later in my life. I explained to him that if it was in my nodes that I would have a bigger fight on my hands.
I felt devastated that now I’d have to return home and look my son in the eye and tell him I had cancer in my lymph nodes. I was pissed that cancer would pass my biggest fear onto my son, fuck you cancer…fuck you for changing my kids. Now my boy would know I was scared, he would know that this news would raise the stakes and he would know that cancer could return at any time in our lives. Now my kids would be forever changed and I felt overwhelming guilt.
Even more devastating and frustrating was how the doctors had been downplaying my cancer giving us false hope.
They would constantly say ‘that won’t be you’…or ‘I will eat my hat if that’s the case’. They had made me feel like a drama queen if I asked too many questions or if I wanted to know about possible outcomes. I was always put back in my box with a wave of the hand and promises they would ‘eat their hat’….well I hope they like hat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I get it I really do, I understand that some doctors don’t want to scare patients or ponder possibilities, but this outcome wasn’t a pie in the sky dream. It was a very real and possible outcome for me and I was standing in front of them at every meeting informed and asking questions so I don’t know why they were always so dismissive. It didn’t help us instead it filled us with false hope and left us feeling gutted on results day.
My specialist apologizes and shows sympathy which makes me want to cry and I stare at the carpet for a second trying to calm my spirit. I can’t look at my mister as I don’t want to see the disappointment or fear in his face, I feel I have let him down and am so sorry that my cancer is changing our lives forever.
My mind is spinning but I sit there composed and ask questions, lots of questions and this time my specialist answers them all. She books an auxiliary clearance (removal of all lymph nodes) for November 1st just a few weeks away. I’m still raw and in pain from my mastectomy only one week ago and I wonder how I’ll face being cut open again and I feel ill, just as I’m starting to heal I have to go through it all again. Are you fucking kidding me?!
She advises me that I’ll have 6 months of chemotherapy to come followed by 6 weeks of radiotherapy and then broaches the topic of reconstructive surgery. I tell her I want my other breast removed as I’m afraid it will betray me later and she is reluctant as she wants treatment to start pronto. She wants to pump my veins with chemo as soon as possible. Again she apologizes for the bad news and I thank her…WTF is with the pleasantries?
My mister and I head upstairs to see the breast care nurse and have the seroma drained. It’s painless but I’m left feeling a little violated, I don’t want to open my gown for any more doctors and I don’t want anyone else to cop a feel of my chest. I just want this nightmare to be over and I want to wake up from this cruel joke that my body is playing on me.
Finally the last tube of seroma is taken, there’s quite a lot today, it’s the biggest haul yet and I feel instant relief from the tightness once again. I dress and the breast care nurse chats with us about the results and upcoming surgeries and treatments. She shows me samples of prosthetics and post-surgery bras. It all feels too much and the tears start to flow. I try to stifle them as I explain to her that I can deal with anything but I just didn’t want it in my nodes. I feel so let down that it’s shown up there.
Her eyes fill up with tears and she has no words, I feel bad for making her cry. She makes some more appointments for me and then my mister and I once again take the lift down the eight floors in silence. Somehow we accept what we have been told and on the car ride home we try to make sense of it all. I read the pathology results and see that my bung boob weighed 1.216 kg…not bad…not bad at all.
When we arrive home I have to tell our boys the outcome of the results and I try really hard not to cry but my voice cracks and I do cry. God damn, why can’t I be strong and not let them see me cry…mother guilt sets in again.
It’s just shitty. Its shitty news and a shitty time. A couple of hours later my sisters in law arrive and I’m surrounded by their children and my poor dog is banished outside where he cries and barks nonstop. It feels surreal that I’m making coffees and indulging in small talk while on the inside I am having thoughts of surgery, chemo and death. It was one of the worst days of my life but life still had to go on and instead of falling to pieces I smiled and got on with it.
One of my sisters in laws gives me a bunch of lilies and my mind is vacant, I aimlessly wander the house looking for a vase. They are all being used as my house is filled with flowers, 16 vases in total so I leave the flowers on the dining table and worry that she will think I’m rude for not putting them in water. I’m worrying about flowers and cancer is in my body trying to kill me.
Later I thin out a wilting vase of flowers and mix the lilies in with them. My mister’s family have all chipped in to give us a delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables for 3 weeks to help out which we gratefully appreciate. Finally that night I fall into bed with racing thoughts that make it hard for me to sleep, I just can’t believe what is happening.
The ‘nodes news’ has really rocked me and I feel like I’m starting the roller coaster ride all over again. Yesterday I wanted to smile but today I sob in the shower alone, naked and vulnerable…it kind of sums up how I feel. I find a way to shake it off and enjoy a day of watching my son play ‘A grade’ cricket. I sit soaking up the sun’s rays with my blue pillow and grinning with pride silently cheering on my boy. The car ride there and back was excruciating, I feel every bump in the road and when we return home I ‘m exhausted and in agony, the pain is unbearable so I find my painkiller friends and collapse on the lounge to enjoy the haze they bring.
This period through surgeries is my most teary and emotional time and when I feel the most sorry for myself. The difficulty in sleeping, the pain and the inability to resume my normal life all mess with me. Later that night I head to the kitchen to warm up a wheat bag, as I stand in front of the microwave my head swirls with dark thoughts once again. I can’t stop thinking about my scar and chemo, of baldness and weight gain and more surgeries. I feel sorry for myself that I can’t drive and I can’t lie properly in my bed. Instead I rely on my mister, friends or my son to take me to the shops or to appointments. I sleep propped with pillows all around to stop me rolling onto my wound. What the hell happened to my little life?
Once again I’m in disbelief that this is happening….to me. I slump over the kitchen bench and sob, silently at first and then I can’t control it. My shoulders heave and the girly cry escapes and my mister hears me and comes to console me. Through my sobs and tears I relate all the things I feel I’m losing and that I can’t believe this is now our reality. It’s not fair, why now? He soothes me and tries to hug me, but now he’s in disbelief that he isn’t even able to give his wife a proper hug because of her recent surgery, so instead he gives me a goofy one sided hug and wipes my tears and we have a giggle at our goofy hug. After a chat and some deep breaths I suck it up and head back to the lounge room to get on with living.
I don’t want to be angry, grieve what is gone or live in denial, yesterday was a really tough day where everything came crashing in on me. I had to face our new reality and say goodbye to our old life.
I allowed denial and fear to sneak into my thoughts but I won’t let them stay there. Today I regroup and get ready to fight harder. It’s all up to me how I deal with this cancer caper and I realise the attitude that I choose to go forward with will dictate how I feel and how I look at life. It’s time to put one foot in front of the other and kick cancers arse.
Til next time,
*recount of my cancer journey. Diagnosed Sept 2012.