It feels like an age since I wrote something for the blog on here. A lot has happened during these past couple of months. Some good bits, some not-so-good bits. And some downright scary bits!
This week I found myself thinking back two years ago to when I finished Chemotherapy. Ringing that bell, wondering how on earth I got through the ‘evil drugs’ and their side effects. I say ‘evil’ of course, but they have their use – and a rather important one for me.
I had mixed emotions about it all as I looked at the photos (see Social Media and Me), fondly having renamed myself at the time to ‘Firey-Moonhead’.
On one side I had the ‘wow – look how far you’ve come’ thoughts, the ‘you’re still here’ thoughts. The ‘thank [enter swear word of your choice] that’s all over’ thoughts.
But I also had the dark thoughts again.
What if it hasn’t gone – what if it’s lurking inside me still, waiting to appear in another form – and I don’t recognise it?!?
I kept thinking about 2 of the lovely ladies I’ve met since being diagnosed, who despite having been through the mill with treatment, at the same time as me, they’ve got this ‘bas*^%d’ of a disease back again. Just two years on.
For a couple of days this week I was an emotional wreck. My poor friends and colleagues at work found me a few times, sat in a corner of a dark empty office, snivelling into a coffee. And god-forbid if they said anything nice to me!
Why was I so emotional this year? 18 months after hospital treatment finished?
I think I can now see how far I’ve come – yes. Although the aftermath has been a whole different matter, remembering how I felt then to now seemed so surreal – that it didn’t happen to me.
Fighting to get my lymphoedema sleeve on every morning resulting in thumping myself on the chin pulling the damn thing up, certainly reminds me that Cancer DID happen to me! Amongst other things that still remind me…
But the fear hasn’t gone – it faded a bit – then wham! A slap in the face. Something else to worry about.
I’d found another unusual lump.
Here We Go Again
I am lumpy. In general. And I don’t just mean my body shape. Some women like me are nodular by nature. Learning what is normal and what isn’t, is quite hard.
Hmmm, has that always been there? Is that new? Does it feel soft? Does it move?
The lump I found was in a totally difference place and I wondered as I was recovering from Gallbladder removal surgery, whether it was an enlarged gland. So I did what I was told to do – measure, mark it (tip – don’t use a sharpie, just saying), keep a note if it comes and goes, or gets bigger/smaller. If after 2-3 weeks it’s the same, contact the Breast Care Nurse.
Thankfully I didn’t need to go through my GP, so I gave them a call and made an appointment. Unfortunately I still had to wait a further 3 weeks because of the Easter break.
I tried to put it to the back of my mind, as the thoughts of Mammogram, Ultrasound, Biopsy, MRI, CT….CHEMO!!! started racing irrationally through my mind again. I didn’t tell anyone.
Before the appointment I did tell my other half, and he came with me. Of course that was after the telling off I had, quite rightly really.
The dreaded morning came again, and the same thoughts and feelings filled my scrambled head. However this time, because I knew the process, I was much more relaxed, weirdly, and I knew the nursing team, who put me at ease.
I couldn’t have a mammogram, as I’d had one less than 6 months before (radiation issue). A little panic stricken by this, she examined me and said that in her experience, it doesn’t feel like it was going to be anything sinister, but they would book me in for an ultrasound to make sure.
That helped ease the mind of course, and I came back the following day for it. That night I felt a little nauseous. But at least I was going back in the next day for the scan.
Laying there in the familiar room, I waited for the lights to dim and the Radiographer to come in. On went the gel and the clicking and measurements started.
Last time – when the 5.4 cm tumour was discovered, the Radiographer had a face a Poker player would dream of. She didn’t let on to ANYTHING. And said I’d need a biopsy as they ‘really didn’t know what it was’ and that would confirm it.
Liar liar pants on fire.
However this time, the Radiographer spun the screen round and explained what she saw. There were no solid masses, the lump on her screen I’d found was a fatty lobule (where my particular cancer grew) which had come to the surface as there wasn’t a lot of glandular tissue around it to protect it. Nothing to worry about, it will go down in time.
I had a letter a week later confirming there were ‘no worrying signs’.
The relief was enormous. But after I then felt guilty. The nurse said to me that I am going to feel every lump and bump on me and wonder. It’s only natural that I’m going to do that. And I shouldn’t feel guilty for ringing them. They will have a chat over the phone about things and if they feel I need to be checked over they will always book me in.
It’s reassuring that I can always call them in the first instance if I’m worried. It’s reassuring that they can get me into the system again without lots of questionnaires, blood tests or paperwork, IF a lump or something unusual presents itself.
But if nothing ‘presents’ itself, that fear of having to wait for an annual scan, is not so reassuring. It’s debated in many Moving On courses, and support groups alike, the whole subject of how often to scan. It may be true that more patients themselves pick up issues, than mammograms and ultrasounds, but for someone sat wondering if the Surgery/Chemo/Radiotherapy has killed off all the pesky cancer cells, would it not be in the patient’s best interest, mentally, to scan more regularly than annually? After all, part of my struggle was and still is with the whole aftermath of Cancer.
This booklet/online guidance by Breast Cancer Care, helped to explain some of my worries. But the brain is a funny old organ – it has a mind of it’s own… ahem… sorry 😉