Results – getting on with life

Robin Hood Half Marathon 2004

So whilst waiting for the next lot of results I continued life “as normal”. Decorating my daughter’s bedroom, depping for various brass bands, cleaning out the summer house and going back to work.

As far as most of my colleagues were concerned I had just been on holiday. I has only missed two days before my holiday (I was working 2 days a week during school holidays) and, due to cutting the holiday short, was back on the designated day. I had a few “handover” meetings and some chats with some colleagues to let them know what was going on. Then, feeling rebellious, bought purple hair dye on the way home. If I was going to loose my hair why not have some fun first!

So on 25 August 2015 it was confirmed that I had breast cancer. Treatment path to be 8 sessions of chemotherapy, radiotherapy then surgery. Appointment made to meet the oncologist next week.

Life goes on though – birthday party to organise for my daughter (hence the clearing out of the summer house). This turned out to be an excellent thing to do as it stayed tidy and has turned into our office – I am sat in it at the moment typing and spent many hours in here during treatment so I could continue to work remotely. It however it has transformed from “party shed” to “man cave”. My other half has installed a TV, speakers and various shed art. Latest installations are recent holiday purchases and he is going to be installing a weather station so he can see what the weather is doing – whilst sat in a shed in the garden!

A week of medical appointments followed – blood test for my finger, dentist for a pre-chemo check up (and filling) and opticians.

The birthday party went well. It was great to see my daughter singing and dancing in the garden with her mates.

This last weekend she was, I assume, singing and dancing again – this time at Reading Festival. Her first festival. Must admit I was somewhat jealous until the rain started! I, in the meantime, have started the “C25K” programme – couch to 5K. Whilst I used to run a lot – half marathons, 10ks, etc, due to first injury and then the cancer I have not run regularly for 6 years! So far so good – although only done 2 days so far.

 

Oh and we’ve booked a holiday – just the two of us – a long weekend near Carcassonne – one of my favourite places. I have been there a few times on my own and it will be great to share it with my other half.

More biopsies

So we are back from our holiday in Seattle had a great time but jag lack is the pitts.

Back to 2015 and our holiday in France. Whilst away my son received his AS results. We had planning on going out to eat that night but the results were not good so we were all in a bit of a funk. My finger reached a crazy size so my husband had to cut off my wedding ring. Unfortunately it still kept getting bigger and meant that riding the bike was painful. The day before we were due to leave our gite (a few days earlier than originally planned) I phoned my doctors for an appointment and, amazingly, got offered one for the next day. Had to explain that I would still be in France then so could I come on the Thursday. Arrived home late on the Wednesday night.

Doctors first thing on the Thursday. Appointment was with a newly qualified doctor who didn’t have any idea what was wrong so she called in a colleague – it was the doctor who originally referred me to the breast clinic. He was apologising for the fact that I had cancer, he was convinced it was a cyst. I was just thankful that he referred me when he did. A few tears were shed at this point. No further forwards on the finger though.

Back to the hospital in the afternoon. Still nothing concrete. Biopsies of both breasts were inconclusive but they wanted to re-do the right side with a right handed doctor (the last one was left handed!). They did however discuss likely course of treatment.

Before holiday it was suggested I would have operation then hormone treatment, now they have decided on chemo, operation and radiotherapy but still not found the source of the cancer. Another wait for the outcome of the biopsies.

This year’s holiday was definitely not the normal for us. Usually we load up our estate car with fishing kit, bikes and musical instruments (yes we have been known to take cornet, French horn and euphonium on holiday) and stay in a gite in rural France for a few weeks. This year we flew to the USA and stayed in a house under the SeaTac flight path. Rather than relaxing (which you can do on a 3 week holiday) we spent every day off doing stuff. The weather in Seattle has been hot – we chose to go there as it wouldn’t be too hot. Walking at altitude in Mount Rainier park was hard work – the most exhausted I have been for years. Also visited Snoqalmie falls and North Bend where they filmed Twin Peaks.

As for the jet lag …. never realised it was so debilitating. I thought it was just being tired, not feeling sick as well. Anyway home in time for the youngest’s A level results – she is off to her first choice university next month.

 

 

 

 

Holiday Time (after 4 more medical appointments)

So on the Monday I had a doctors appointment. On the Tuesday I had an MRI – amazingly dozed off in the machine, must have been very tired! On the Wednesday I met my boss for coffee and phoned the ferry company to see if we could come home early. On the Thursday I had the results of the MRI. A lump in my right breast and a “dark area” in the left but still somewhat inconclusive so another appointment for the Friday.

Friday morning and yet again at the hospital. Had 5 biopsies – ouch! When I got home the kids had done the jobs I had left them, they helped to pack the car for our holiday and we left for France. My breast nurse phoned when we were travelling with an appointment for my results. We had changed our ferry and were coming home a few days earlier than originally planned.

Slept like a log on the ferry after the anaesthetics, pain killers and a Guinness!

Arrived in France on my daughters birthday and drove to our gite. We had a bit of a hair obsession going on this holiday as we knew the likelihood was that mine would be going. At the time it didn’t worry me – after all it is just hair. However I unexpectedly came across a photo of myself the other day  with long hair that I had not seen before and promptly burst into tears!

2015 08 01_Liz_1821  2015 09 01_Liz_1203

Yesterday she was 18! Cannot believe where that time has gone. We have planned a special holiday this year and are going to Seattle. It may be our last summer holiday together (due to the kids ages I hasten to add) so we thought we would do something special. As I type this nothing has yet been packed although I have a few things planned to do when we get there nothing is set in stone apart from the kids going to a gig.

Who to tell and when

So my husband told my kids the news. I unfortunately made the mistake of asking my daughter not to put it on facebook, etc. I should have been more specific as she took this to mean she could not tell her close friend/confident through a private message. It took a few days for me to realise that she was bottling up emotions when she should have been discussing them with her peers.

I phoned my mum. Quite a hard phone call but I knew I would be seeing her in a few weeks as she was due to come on holiday with us – we assumed at this stage that our holiday would still happen. We arranged for my brother-in-law to be with my mother-in-law when we told her – she was in her 90s. 

I was supposed to be “depping” for a band the day after the diagnosis. My husband managed to get someone to cover for me simply telling him that I was unavailable for “personal, non-trivial” reasons.  I think some of the band knew something was up though when at a gig 2 days later I was trying discreetly(!) to pick the brains of a nurse friend about MRIs. I was concerned as my ring finger was starting to swell and I couldn’t get my wedding ring off. Luckily a phone call to the MRI department confirmed that I could keep it on. With what happened next with my finger though I think we should have persevered and removed it then.

My husband told our conductor after our last rehearsal before our holiday. We were due to play in the national finals in Cheltenham in September and the likelihood was that if I had an operation on return from holiday I would not be playing.

I emailed my boss and arranged to meet her for coffee out of the office. It was school holidays so I was only due in the office 2 days a week but with what turned out to be 4 medical appointments that week I wasn’t going to make it in. I started writing handover notes for my colleagues.

So how do people react? You get those ” friends ” who don’t know what do say, so they ignore you. You get those that gaily inform you that cancer gets us all in the end and know loads of people who have not survived. You get some who repeatedly tell you that they will pray for you even when you ask them not to (to me this translated as “I am praying for you because I think you are going to die” – it did not bring comfort). Then you get the friends who supply you with tissues, let you cry on their shoulders, make you coffee and buy you cake.

I have some difficulty now when people ask me how I am. “Good thanks” doesn’t seem enough – they want details of my physical and mental wellbeing. Then the next time someone asks you reply “Good thanks, just a few side affects from the drugs but at least I now have hair” then you realise that you hadn’t actually spoken to this person for years or it was a work colleague who wasn’t around when I was in treatment and they didn’t know what you were talking about.

You have to be able to guess what people are asking and tell them what they want, after all who really wants to know our fears.

Results

Friday 24th July 2015. I don’t think I will ever forget that date.

My husband and I returned to the breast clinic. We were shown into a small interview room and were joined by a specialist and one of the breast care nurses. Alarm bells should have rung at that point.

I was given those dreaded words, I’m sorry Mrs C traces of cancer were found in your lymph nodes. I just sat there in shock. This wasn’t meant to happen. We were taken to the “green room” for a quiet sit down to absorb the information. I have been in many IMGP0081egreen rooms but definitely prefer the ones in concert halls!

Whilst traces of cancer were found they could not tell me that it was definitely breast cancer. The mammogram was clear so more tests would need to be done to determine the source of the cancer cells. They had told me when I had the biopsies that I had dense breast tissue and this can make it more difficult to see tumours on the mammogram results. I was booked in for an MRI, CT scan and further biopsies.

Feeling very shell-shocked we returned home via my doctors surgery to try and make an appointment to get my coil removed – apparently this had nothing to do with the cancer but as the cells they found were hormone receptive I wanted it gone.

I left my husband to do the hard task – telling the kids! My daughter cried, my son just went quite.

Tonight we have a rehearsal for a friend’s wedding. My husband and I are both playing in a small group at the ceremony – one of my rare outings playing a drum kit. I will try not to take my emotions out on the drums, especially as I am using someone else’s, but today might feel like giving them a real battering.

 

Mammogram time

So Monday 20 July 2015 I attended the Breast Clinic at City Hospital in Nottingham.

First a physical exam. The doctor thought she had found a lump but wasn’t sure. She was surprised that she could see my ribs – I was skinny then!

No-one warned me about the mammogram. I’m not very big and they don’t half squish you. You have to be a bit of a contortionist as well.

Back to the waiting room then biopsy time. I had two biopsies of the lymph nodes. Again not pleasant but a very nice nurse held my hand tightly throughout. The first of what was going to be many needles.

I arranged to go back for the results on Friday 24th. I could have had them the day before  but I insisted I had to be at work that day. Waiting a day won’t make a difference, I was fine after all wasn’t I?

One the way home I popped into my office – I needed a wee. The girls asked me how it went. Fine, I say, but the biopsies hurt a bit. There was some surprise at that point, out of all my work colleagues who had routine or referred mammograms none had had a biopsy as well. Was I worried? I didn’t think so but apparently I was distracted at work the next couple of days. Luckily it was school holidays so I was only working 2 days a week.

Back to 2012 and we spent 21 July watching Bradley Wiggins win the penultimate stage of the Tour de France. As was our normal at the time there were 6 of us were on holiday in France, me, my husband, 2 kids, my mum and her partner – along with our bikes, fishing rods and musical instruments! My son, husband and myself went to see the tour whilst the others watched it on the tv. The day3032100438 ended with a trip to the local chemist as my son had been led on the grass taking photos and both arms came up in an allergic reaction.

 

Unfortunately no trip to France planned for this year so keeping up with the Tour on the tv his year.

First Appointment

As I mentioned in my last blog I was starting to get a bit twitchy about waiting for my doctor’s appointment so I phoned for a “48 hour access” appointment. Luckily I managed to get this with the doctor who specialised in skin cancer.

So I go to see the doctor and ask him to check an itchy mole on my left breast. He took one look and declared that there was nothing wrong there. Hooray.

Then I asked, while I’m here can you just check these funny bumps in my armpit”

He did.

“I don’t think it is anything to worry about. I am sure they are just cysts but I will make an appointment with the breast clinic just to make sure”

While he typed into the computer to send off my details we chatted about our kids and schools. Quite civilised.

So that was the Monday. The next day at work I had a call from the breast clinic making an appointment for me to attend an appointment 2 weeks later. Bit surprised it was that quick (I didn’t know then about the 2 week rule). I mentioned it to my boss – “I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about but I have to go to hospital for a mammogram” Turns out I am probably the only girl in our group who hadn’t had one. Apparently it is nothing to worry about.

Back at the doctors again next week. In order to see a particular doctor I made the appointment a month ago! It’s not urgent so I am not complaining. My surgery have always been very good if you have the need to see someone quickly, you just don’t necessarily get the choice of who.

At this point I would just like to remind all you ladies and gents to check for bumps and lumps and, if you find something out of the ordinary, please make that appointment with the doctors. Early detection is key.