"Nobody gets to live life backward.
Look ahead, that is where your future lies." Ann Landers
Look ahead, that is where your future lies." Ann Landers
What a year 2011 was! My God, I'm sooo glad it's over! It's been sodding awful & to me, it feels like I've lost a year. I suppose I have in one way cos the whole year has been dominated by hospital appointments & extreme emotions....it's all been a bit of a blur to be honest.
I realised earlier today, that I've never written a post about the day that I was actually diagnosed with breast cancer. I don't know why......I think it's probably because there's been so much other stuff to blog about, I just never got round to it. It's almost a year since I was diagnosed & of course, I will acknowledge that day when it comes around but, I don't want to re-live it; I want to be celebrating the fact that I'm still here. So, I feel like I need to write about diagnosis day now. I want to 'get it out of the way' so that I can start this year afresh. Cos I am determined that this year is going to be completely different. Yes, I still have hospital appointments looming in fact, I have THREE appointments this week but, these appointments are all about moving forward. One's regarding my reconstruction, one is with my psychologist & one is to see a genetic counsellor - which I'll blog about as usual.
I don't want to be 'looking back' too much. It's a new year, I'm back home in Liverpool where I belong & as far as I'm concerned, my life is about to start again. So, let's get it over with. This is what happened.......
This time last year I was just getting over Swine Flu & was getting ready to go back to work after almost a month off sick. It was when I went to see my GP about the flu in early December that I'd asked her to take a look at the lump that I'd found in my breast. I'd had the lump (& pain in my breast) for months but, I'm not really one to take time off work & I don't go to the Doctors very much either. At the time, the lump was about the size of a grape but I'd had cysts in my breasts years earlier; I'd had two mammograms in the past so, I wasn't really that worried about it. So, I had the mammogram on the 4th of January last year.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I went back to the hospital three times. Firstly I had an ultrasound scan on my breast then, during the same appointment, I had a 'fine needle aspiration' biopsy which involves taking a sample of cells using a fine needle & a syringe which is a bit uncomfortable as they don't give you any anaesthetic for this type of test! The next visit to the hospital was so that I could have a 'core biopsy'. They do give you anaesthetic for this one as they take tissue samples from quite deep inside the breast. They took five samples from me but towards the end of the procedure, the anaesthetic was starting to wear off & it hurt like hell. I remember telling the Consultant that the pain was like having an elastic band twanged at my nipple! Weeks later she told me that she'd actually passed this comparison onto the rest of the medical team at a case conference meeting about me! I've still got the bloody scars from that biopsy too.
The whole time I was going back & forth to have these tests, I still wasn't concerned. The Consultant I was seeing said she hadn't been able to get hold of the results of the mammograms that I'd had years earlier. She knew I was intending to move back home to Liverpool when the contract with my job came to an end in August. She said she was being 'a bit fussy & over-cautious' because she had nothing to compare the most recent mammogram to &, that she wanted to send me home with 'a clean bill of health.'
Immediately after the core biopsy - when I was seeing another Doctor about what happens next - he actually said that the lump was 'probably a cyst that has calcified; we'll probably discharge you when you come back for the results in two weeks time.'
So, I went back to work that day. It was Monday, the 24th of January.
That Friday afternoon, the 28th of January, I was in work as usual when I received a call from the hospital. 'Cheryl, we're expecting your results back this coming Tuesday, can you come into clinic?'
I still didn't think much of it - even though my results were coming back a week earlier than anticipated - & I arranged an appointment for 11.30am on Tuesday, the 1st of February. Little did I know that, my results were already back & the medical team were preparing to give me the bad news......
Tuesday came along. It was a lovely, sunny morning & I went into the office for a couple of hours first. I left all of my files, pens, notepads etc on my desk & said to my colleagues "I'm going to the hospital now, shouldn't be too long, see you all later!" I really, really didn't expect the worst......
When I got to the hospital, the clinic was really busy but I was seen to immediately. I was taken along a corridor & was asked to wait in a side room which was quite comfortably furnished with two pale green leather sofas, a book shelf (full of books & leaflets about breast cancer) & there was an electric kettle, mugs, tea, coffee, sugar etc.....it was like a small lounge.
"Why am I being put in this room?" I asked the nurse who'd taken me there, "Why aren't I in the waiting room with everyone else?"
"Oh, we're just really busy today as you can see & we're running out of consultation rooms......Mr Johnson the Consultant will be along to see you in a moment." She left the room. I still didn't feel very anxious! I believed her! So, when - fifteen minutes later - Mr Johnson & Carol, one of the Breast Care Nurses came into the room, I greeted them both with a big smile.
"You're expecting to be discharged today aren't you Cheryl? We told you that your breast lump is more than likely a cyst that has calcified." said Mr Johnson.
"Yes" I answered, again smiling.
Mr Johnson looked at me & said: "Well, that's not the case. I'm sorry to tell you, you have breast cancer."
BOOM!!! That was it. That was the way he said it. He'd been in the room for a minute at most.
In that split second, it felt like my heart had stopped & like a ton of bricks had just been dropped on me.
"You are fucking joking?" I asked him in total shock.
He raised his eyebrows at my colourful language. "I'm afraid we don't tend to joke about these things" he said. Both him & Carol were watching me carefully.
I just didn't expect it. My mouth dropped open, I looked from Mr Johnson to Carol, they both had really serious looks on their faces, my heart seemed to start again & I could feel it beating in my chest, I started to sweat, I just didn't know what to say or do......my eyes began to fill with tears. The first thing that came into my mind was thoughts of my daughter.
"But I've got a little girl" I said, trying to hold back the tears "she's only 3.....I'm only 38.....oh my God.....what the fuck am I gonna do.....shit! Definitely?" I asked, I really thought there had been a massive mistake, "I definitely have cancer?"
They both nodded their heads & were looking at me sympathetically. It was starting to sink in.
"Oh for fucks sake!" I shook my head in disbelief & rolled my eyes. "Well it fucking would be me who gets it, wouldn't it? I've had a shit few years, I've gone bankrupt, had to give up my home, my relationship has ended....what else can go wrong? Oh, there you go, have a bit of cancer Cheryl!" I was still shaking my head & I was laughing now - not cos it was funny; I think I can safely say that this has got to have been the unfunniest moment of my life to date - I was absolutely reeling in shock. I was devastated.
I remember thinking, 'pull yourself together Chez'. I took a few deep breaths & fought back the tears "Ok" I said, "What do we do now?" ('We'. As if I'd known them for ages & we were all in this together.)
"Surgery" said Mr Johnson. "We will probably offer you a mastectomy. You have a large spread of early stage breast cancer spattered across the breast & you also have an invasive tumour which, will spread unless we remove it."
"A mastectomy? Two types of cancer?" They were 'offering' me a mastectomy? Fucking hell, that's drastic I thought. "You can't do anything else? It's got to be surgery? You're going to take my whole breast away?"
"I'm afraid so" he replied, "at this stage we can't tell for sure if there has been any spread to the lymph nodes so you'll have an MRI scan next week & another biopsy."
"Next week?" I asked. Shit, I thought. They don't hang about do they? "And when will I have the mastectomy?"
"Very soon.....probably within the next three weeks." Mr Johnson said.
I just couldn't get my head around it. A mastectomy? That's some heavy shit. My head was spinning.
Mr Johnson left me to talk to Carol, the Breast Care Nurse. I was with her for about half an hour. She explained how & when things would happen & gave me her direct line telephone number & a shed load of leaflets to take away with me to read.
I will never, ever forget that day for as long as I live. I've never had the greatest memory, my personal organiser goes everywhere with me for that reason but, I remember this as if it happened half an hour ago. I remember walking through the hospital corridor back to the exit & I felt like I was under water. I got outside, got into my car & lit a cigarette. I sat there for about ten minutes in a total trance. I was shaking my head again thinking, 'Fucking hell Chez, you've had a bit of a mental life but this is major! This is unbelievable! What are you gonna do?'
I finished my cigarette & immediately lit another one. I was still sat in my car in the hospital car park. I got out of the car. Got back in it. I needed to get my head together, my hands were shaking & I sobbed.
I sobbed my heart out for about twenty minutes. And then I rang my mum.
I could barely speak. "Mum, I'm not going back to work today......mum, I've got breast cancer."
I could hear her voice breaking as she said to me "Now don't cry, you're gonna be ok. Do you hear me? You're gonna be fine. We'll get through this, come home now. Do you want us to come & pick you up?"
She was so brave, she was trying her best not to cry. I hated having to tell her such awful news. She was heartbroken.
I drove myself to my mum & dad's flat which was literally two minutes away from my house where I lived with my little girl. By the time I got there I was calm again. I had a lot to think about. There seemed to be no sense in crying about it. There were decisions to be made, arrangements to make, people who needed to be told......
I took some time off work after that day. I needed a bit of time & space to get my head around things. I don't really know what I was doing during that time, I was mainly sat at home in shock & reading as much as I could about the type of breast cancer I had. That was my way of taking back some control. I had to know exactly what I was dealing with. I felt that in order to beat it, I had to understand what I was facing.
I picked myself up, telling myself everything had to be 'normal' for my daughters sake. I found a new resolve, went back to work & carried on as normal. I remember one of my colleagues telling me she was proud of me for the way in which I was dealing with my diagnosis & other people saying I was handling it all so well.
I worked up until Friday, the 4th of March & I had my mastectomy on the 7th of March.....&, if you've been following this blog from when I started it on the 12th of March then, I suppose the rest is history.
I've had so many ups & downs since I was diagnosed, it's been really hard going, they're not joking when they say 'it's a rollercoaster from here on in' but, I felt on top of things for a while. I think that when you're going through treatment, you don't really have time to dwell on things, it's afterwards that it gets to you. That's when you have to deal with the emotional fallout & I think for me personally, this has been the hardest part of it all. Taking the breast away was the easy bit. Of course, I'm still having treatment in the form of anti-hormone therapy & this will be the case for at least the next four years but, other than that, it's all about moving forward for me now.
So I find myself with new resolve again.
I feel stronger than I have done for a long time. I've had a lovely Christmas, my first Christmas in Liverpool for six years & it's been brilliant. I've been spoilt, my daughter has had a great time, we've had a lovely time with my family, I've had some crazy nights with friends & to top everything off, my sister, Leah, got engaged on Christmas day!
I had a great time at a family party last night & then came home after midnight & ended up at another party in a neighbours house until the early hours!
I've really enjoyed myself & I'm so, so happy to be back in Liverpool.
I'm excited about the future & just want to get on with my life now. It's a new year, in a new home, I have a new outlook & hopefully I'll have a new boob soon!
2011 was arguably, the worst year in the history of my life but that's exactly what it is now. History.
I don't wanna look back at all & I hope & pray that I never have to go through anything like this ever again. On the anniversaries of my diagnosis & mastectomy, I will be celebrating being alive & the fact that I'm here to 'tell the tale'.
I'll still be blogging in the meantime though!
So there you have it. The story of diagnosis day. It seems like so long ago, yet as if it only happened very recently. I just want to put it behind me now.
And on that note, I'll leave you with my very best wishes for a happy, peaceful, prosperous & HEALTHY new year for everyone!
Love Chez. xx