Did you know the stats are 1 in 8 get Breast Cancer?
It was a Wednesday at the end of October 2016. I had found a small pea sized lump on my right breast. Just felt exactly like a pea, no pain, no nothing, no discolouration, no dimpling, just a lump. Must’ve been there a while, but only got found that day.
As a health care professional, we are notorious at just going on and not going to seek help, but something like that – I made an appointment straight away – that night.
It was also my son’s ‘visit night’ to High School as he was starting the following year – so I went to that, hubby took the kids home and I went to the GP.
She was gorgeous, ummed and ahhed about how to go about investigations as it would be prudent to act quickly and warrant action, but last minute she decided to send me to the Breast Clinic – her reasoning being – if I needed anything investigating I would be sorted there and then – they had everything under one roof.
So…10 days later the following Wednesday I went with Hubby along to the breast clinic. We had dropped the kids off at school, and I saw the Breast Specialist. She too was lovely and said that because the lump was discreet and a definite lump it was most likely a cyst, but let’s get started and investigate away, get two tests done and she’d see us around lunch time for the results – I’d be looking at surgery either way as they’d want to remove it but let’s get it checked first.
So.. early morning mammogram – hilarious cos I’d always wondered how they did those with us gals that had little or no boobs- but yes they can -they just shove in what they can pinch!
Followed then by an ultra sound scan … poor hubby was patiently waiting all this time whilst I was waiting my turn inside…..the ultrasonographer was chatty – so great that you came here – so often when women go to more local places they may wait for the results of test one and then go a week or few weeks later for test two – here they are done all at the same time. No waiting – immediate results or reason to go for more investigations – at this point I was so grateful and realised why my GP had chosen this route.
Although lovely – at this point I started to get concerned – she took FAR more time going over and over the lump, and asked if I was due for a biopsy – Alarm bells were ringing – obviously something didn’t look right. She took AGES and keep double checking things….so I was getting a little edgy and more worried ….
Back to see the Breast Doctor – who said that we’d need to go for a biospy as there was something that they would need investigating further. I would now be there all day and things were starting to look dodgy. She toyed with the idea of getting the results from her but that wouldn’t happen til Monday, so she had her secretary make a few calls, and she got me into a great Breast Surgeon.
She showed us the ‘ dots/ calcifications’ and lump on the scan and said we need clarification but you will need surgery anyway to get it out so may as well see him now rather than wait another week, and you’re already in the right place – he can give you the results when you see him, rather than come back to me next week when she had her first available appointment.
An ultra sound guided biopsy was done – so basically a sample taken from a few different spots around and of the lump, a few stitches later and back to see the Doc – by this time hubby had to go and get the kids and we just told them I was getting some routine tests done that girlies need from time to time…
So what a whirlwind day – from a small pea sized lump, maybe a cyst – to more and more investigations done and a whole day at clinic with a surgical referral. It was such a small innocuous lump – easily missed….
Friday 11th November we attended the Doc’s clinic – nervous and to get ‘results’. He introduced himself, and then very matter of fact said – OK, so the results say you have breast cancer, let’s have a look and see what your options are as you will need to have surgery and remove it.
It was my hubby’s birthday, and a bombshell had just been dropped.
Our options –
1 – Lumpectomy – remove the lump and hopefully a good margin around it and test it. If all good – that would be it – maybe some radiation therapy for 6 weeks after – but if it looks good no chemo – back at work in maybe 6 weeks, longer if radiation required
2 – Mastectomy – remove whole thing and same as above – if all good same as above – just the issue of reconstruction.
The lump would be properly tested after removal – in theatre they do a quick screen, if it looks OK that would be it, if it look dodgy and has spread they will also remove the lymph nodes.
Surgery the next week ….. that was far too quick for me. Which option would be best?
I opted for the following week so I had time to think and made a FU visit for the next week so we could come back and discuss it with a bit of time under my belt, and I am so glad we did.
Running my own business my initial thought and the fact we have two kids with busy lives and no family that could help in Perth, I was keen to get done and dusted and back to full function ASAP.
The lumpectomy meant I may be back at work after Xmas, the Mastectomy meant I’d be out a little longer but OK by Easter.
The major factor here was how bad was it and how bad could it get, compared to convenience of time off work.
I was found to have a hormone based cancer – grade 1 or 2, so not conclusive as to how aggressive it was. The doc said it may go up or down when the whole lot was analysed but they couldn’t do that until after theatre.
I would need to get my Sentinal Nodes removed too – which is the first lymph node after the breast tissue – (dyed pre op ) to see if it had spread beyond the breast.
Also when in theatre they send a for a quick testing and that too dictates what route they take.
So – lumpectomy or mastectomy….?
My hubby was great and said he would do what we needed. Take time off work to look after the kids, and we chatted about the various options, but ultimately it was my decision.
I toyed with both. Life style and work wise the lumpectomy was the best deal, but as time went on and certainly after a couple of days, I was more convinced that I would rather be around for the kids, and lets just get the whole thing out and negate any cause for concern in the future – My kids were only 11 and 9 then – Year 6 and 4, and it was impossible for me to see that I wouldn’t be around for them growing up and I would take any option necessary for that to happen….
A big list pf pros and cons – for both options was what finally led me to my decision…. I listed them down – green for good and red for reservations…. and the full mastectomy won the vote.
The lumpectomy still posed risks – I had the idea it wasn’t a low grade cancer, I knew if could spread, I knew if they went in and found stuff I’d end up going for further surgery anyway, so lets just do it now, and negate it as a future risk.
D Day came and ended with a decision to go for a Double Mastectomy, with immediate reconstruction, and permission for removal of any lymph nodes that were affected.
I gave hubby the option as he’d always joked about big boobs – I was happy with them putting in what they could, rather than having spacers to make room for bigger boobs and having to go back and get ‘boobs done’.
I remember just saying – put in what you can and what look good for me – have never wanted big boobs anyway!
Surgery was set for Nov 22nd.
Telling work and friends was hard – there was no easy way to tell our staff – I just called a meeting and said –
I’ve got cancer, I have to go for surgery next week and I don’t know how long I’m gonna be off until they test and see what’s needing doing, I hope to be back after Xmas in some format, but definitely by Easter (2017).
To be honest – they knew something had been up – I was in and out, had appointments in the city and a couple had asked if everything was OK – Lori, one of our staff had asked and was obviously concerned, and I said ” I’ve got breast cancer… ”
Her profanity of a response said it all – it’s always a shock. And I am so grateful to her for looking at my pros and cons list with me cos you do need someone ‘impartial’ to chat to – Hubby was great but in shock.
So, the plan was maybe 2- 4 months off work at the most.
Little did I know that Easter the following year (2018) – I would still be part time……