One Step at a Time…

So a week after the initial appointment at the Breast Care Clinic we sat back in the same waiting room unable to speak – just clutching each other’s hand.

The room at that time filled me with fear, little did I realise that within a few months that place would come to be a place of security for me. We were moved to the waiting area for the consultants and the realisation of what was potentially going to happen. Women with no hair, growing back hair, wigs…I felt guilty looking so healthy in that place. I didn’t look ill. I could see the fear in Mark’s eyes and tried not to show tears in mine…”They could still turn round and say it isn’t Cancer’ I said trying to believe what I was saying.

My confidence quickly deteriorated though when there was a hive of activity of people going into the consultants room where I was going to be seen. A big folder, well that couldn’t be for me- I had only had the one appointment so far. One of the nurses kept popping in and out, then eventually called my name.

We were introduced to Miss Murphy, a Breast Cancer Surgeon. I could try and remember the technical information that they gave us, but to be honest it is irrelevant. Straight to the point…yes as they thought, it was breast cancer, they still didn’t know enough about it’s make up to confirm how they were going to treat it. She explained the Breast Care Nurse Claire was going to be my key worker and that they had a multi-disciplinary team looking at my cancer. Initial thoughts were that I would have a mastectomy in 4 weeks time and before we had we chance to take this information in her computer was switched round to show us various reconstruction surgeries she had done. OK I should have been worried about the news that we had just been given but I just wanted to giggle at the look of shock on Marks face. I must say that wasn’t a decision that I was expecting to face!

The only question we asked that day was would this kill me. Not unless spreads to vital organs was the simple answer, if it stays contained to the breast then you wont die!

They wanted to do more biopsies and an MRI scan but these would be another day. Little did we realise how many visits we were going to make to that department over the months to come. We then went to the Quiet Room where Claire gave us a nice folder (I do love stationary!) and lots of information.Oh, and a form for free prescriptions. Bizarrely this is what really impacted on me, our minds were frazzled and all we wanted to do was get out….and down the pub!

So back to The Fleece in Haworth for much needed Gin (for me) and Cider (Mark). For the first time we talked honestly, and I started crying at the realisation of the conversations that I was going to have to have with my family, my kids, parents, sisters….the only good thing was, thank goodness it had happened to me, I couldn’t have coped if it had happened to them.

I practised what to say in a long text to my manager. I was very lucky to work for a really supportive team and from that moment I was able to take the time to digest everything that was happening the best that I could. As I lived 300 miles from my parents and sisters I would have to use Face-time and texts. Olly was in America and meeting up with his dad, so I had to text my ex-husband to let him know that I was going to have to give him the bad news by phone as I didn’t want to leave it until they got back. “OK I will bear that in mind when I see him” was not quite the response I would have hoped for from the father of my children, who I had been together with for 27 years but the that’s probably why he’s my ex!! Millie had been in Amsterdam so I was due to go round and see her anyway. Her housemate was in, so I had to make an excuse to go into town, and as soon as we got in the car I just blurted it out. She has been my rock throughout all this, she gave me the crystal above for positive energy which I put on a chain and wore throughout treatment. It’s her positive energy that kept me going. Oh yes, and she said I needed to become vegan…something which I have actually taken on and enjoy as its helps me feel in control of something.

At that time they didn’t actually know much about the cancer, the only bit they could identify was some DCIS so it was nice to be able to say that it was Early Stage Breast Cancer. I think that made it somewhat easier for everyone to digest.

The following few days I was back in for an MRI scan and the extra biopsies. They also put metal markers in the lumps so that they could identify where they had biopsied when they did the mastectomy. I was starting to get used to taking my top off a bit too quickly and telling people all about the huge bruises I now had!

Back to see Miss Murphy and the results weren’t great, the cancer was invasive so basically they were going to hit it with everything. The plan changed and I would start with Chemotherapy followed by Mastectomy with Reconstruction and the finish with Radiotherapy.

I continued to work, from home so that I could go to all the appointments but this time was invaluable to be able to adjust to the changes in our lives. Mark’s work were amazingly supportive and he was able to also work from home and come to every appointment with me. For someone who had always felt very in control suddenly I couldn’t function and taking in what was happening was virtually impossible. Fortunately he was there to ask questions that mattered.

The one thing that I wish we had known at that time, was that it would take a while to decide how to treat the cancer. I naively assumed that everyone’s treatment was the same. I wasn’t aware that not all cancers respond to chemotherapy. We found it frustrating waiting, and felt that every day treatment was delayed was costing me time and risking it spreading further. With hindsight I would have had those cancer cells in my body possible for years before I could feel the lump. In fact 4 years previously I had questioned whether there was a small lump in the exact same place but both me and my husband at the time had felt that it was sunburn scar. How different life would have been if I had gone to the doctors then.

For the next appointment we were introduced to the lovely Dr Rehman, my Oncologist who explained how they were going to start with 2 types of chemo while they continued to try and understand the make up of the cancer.

Finally we had a plan, and I could start planning. 10th November – Since I was going to lose my hair I decided to go short straight away, to me it seemed better than watching long hair fall out. Family is everything to me, and Christmas is family time. We just needed to bring Christmas forward before I was due to start chemo on 29th November. So presents were bought and we spent a weekend of 17th Nov in Kent, enjoying a meal with all the family and meeting up with friends for breakfast. Then back past the in-laws for a Thai meal with Marks sister and brother-in-law. Christmas Decorations up that week. Olly and Millie came up for the weekend and we had a lovely carefree eve out in Leeds…with no bickering. For a moment in time, life was good.

The lesson I learnt from this time? It was take time, time to realise that life will never be the same again, time to digest what was happening, that this could potentially kill me, but then who knows whats round the corner. but that’s OK. Time to step back and realise what was important….

Family Time ❤

Cancer treatment is often described as like falling off a cliff, and I was about to be pushed over that edge…

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