I was reading another girls blog about her journey so far with first a lumpectomy and then down the track when some lumps resurfaced her having a full mastectomy. I experienced what some of you must feel as you read my blog. She made jokes and lightheartedly told how her whole breast was taken and her subsequent follow-up Chemo then Radiation. I thought, it isn’t funny why do we joke about something so awful. The seriousness of her situation screamed louder at me than her funny stories. I felt shocked as I read, and felt so sorry that she had to be going through something so tough. The truth is that any brush with Cancer is serious, and there is also a chance that whatever we had could come back and that the result may be no laughing matter. The opposite is also true, many people go through an ordeal and many years later are cancer free and living a full and healthy life. It is not that we are in denial and putting on a brave face, we can’t afford to let our mind go down the what if trail. Dwelling on a worse case scenario that may never happen is a waste of precious time that could be used more productively. It is what it is, there is no use saying, ‘why me’ and crying in our soup, none of us knows how long we are going to be here and while we are worrying that every twinge we feel is something life threatening we could be run over by a bus. I chose to give sickness as little of my time as possible, especially this bout with Cancer, which out of over 700 months in my life has only been a part of 10 of them. Why should I allow the minority to rule. Life is too short I have things to do and if I feel ok, I am going to do them. Meanwhile, some people (Poppy the dog) don’t have anything to worry about. Lazy bones here heard a dog barking on television and couldn’t be bothered getting up so she just barked where she was lying without moving from her sleeping position on the lounge. The past eight months since I had my biopsy have been surreal. A bit like I was in a cocoon, dropping out of the rat race into a world of Chemo and appointments, then Radiation and more appointments. Sometimes I would feel quite tired and unwell, and although my brain was thinking of stuff I should be getting done, I would have to think, well I just can’t do that right now, I am too tired. That is a very weird feeling as I would normally if I had the slightest bit of energy, force myself to go on, so this was a valuable learning thing for me, letting go of my expectations on myself and just resting when I needed to. Having gotten off the merry-go-round I am hesitant to get back on. In a way I will miss having the time to sort lip glosses and other frivolous things one does while recuperating from illness, and I can feel life sucking me back in already, as those things I left undone while I had no energy to do them are starting to catch up with me. Spending time with grandchildren always makes me happy. They are just so darling and do the cutest things. Beau wanted to help me make our scrambled eggs for breakfast, and did a good job not touching the hot pan. Meanwhile, I woke up this morning feeling better than I have for ages, so started sorting out the pantry cupboard and got some baking going. Pizza for lunch, some no-knead bread which I had been proofing over night, and easy muffins which I bake all the time and varying the fruit and nuts I put in. We had muffins for brunch with Plum and Ginger jam which Hayley bought from Frans Jams at the Markets where she was selling her Sweet Esscentials candles, which are divine. Muffins : melt 50 grams butter, then add 1/2 cup milk (you may need a little more later), vanilla, 1 egg, and two mashed bananas, stir into dry ingredients till just combined. Dry ingredients: 2 cups flour any combination (I usually use 3/4 cup white, 3/4 cup wholemeal, 1/2 cup oats) 1 tsp baking powder, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup cranberries, 1/2 cup walnuts chopped. 2 tsp’s cinnamon. I sprinkled mine with some pumpkin seeds. Makes 12 muffins, bake in moderate oven till golden. Allan and I visited his Mum today, who is in an aged care facility. She needs to be turned every few hours and is unable to do a lot for herself. It is so frustrating for her. The days are very long for someone whose brain is still in top form, to sit in a chair gazing out the window, having very little interaction with other people. Her very plain and boring room is off a storage area, and even with her hearing aid in, conversations are very hard. It made me think we need to enjoy life while we can, if you can’t walk about and enjoy a chat and cup of tea, there is not a lot to live for. We are off to Sydney in a couple of days, so I don’t know why I am sorting the Pantry out instead of packing. Check us out on Facebook: Breast Cancer Ready or Not
I can see without looking very hard, that not all cancer stories have a happy ending. My new friend in the bed next to me had been battling cancer for thirteen years, facing endless treatments for cancers popping up in different parts of her body. She still had a bubbly positive attitude, although she felt God had put her on the earth to torture her. I know she is not alone, in feeling like sickness and disease is God’s fault. I could only share my story with her. Being a person that has faith in God’s plan for my life I trust in His outcome. Just after being diagnosed I pulled out my Bible and sat in the quiet reading Psalm 91. Verse 14 seemed to jump out at me ‘Though a thousand fall at your side, and ten thousand are dying all around you, none of these evils will overtake you, Yvette’ I put my own name in to read it as a promise from God to me, from then on I felt completely peaceful, knowing that no matter what I go through in the next months, I will not be alone and I have a promise that I will be alright.
Before I came for surgery, Sarah and I had gone shopping to buy a pod machine for her Dad, this way he would still have good coffee while I was gone, and be able to make me one when I get back. We got a nice white Caffitaly machine with the breast cancer logo on the side. I thought it only right to support the cause. It was not until I got involved in the breast cancer world that I was aware how busy the surgeons and radiology fields are, in dealing with many many breast cancer patients, day after day.
I realised that having breast surgery, may pose some dressing problems. I own very few button down the front shirts or tops. Even if they only do a lumpectomy I will find it hard to pull tight tops over my head. As it turns out, the Physiotherapist does want you to lift your arms and do gentle exercise to keep everything moving, but, take it easy and don’t hurt yourself. There are websites dedicated to tops for after a mastectomy with little pockets to pop prosthetics, and the round ends of drainage tubes into. On a search, engine just type ‘What to Wear after a mastectomy’, for lots of ideas and sites to order from. Also breast cancer foundation WA has access to many resources. I did some online shopping from Target, which turned out to be very good. They have a couple of very inexpensive Bra styles for post surgery with no underwire to dig in to tender areas, and some do up in the front.
They proved to be invaluable after my operation. It always amazes me that our mothers warned us about strangers, yet when the Resident who could have been anyone, told me to take my top off so he could admire their work came to see me the morning after surgery, I flashed my boobs to him and his entourage without a second thought. He did say, put your bra on and leave it on, not because he was so shocked at what he saw (stop laughing, he didn’t say it immediately) but to help support the area. This was great advise. The support helped with the pain management. Mostly you do everything one handed, especially bending down which I tried to avoid, but did whilst holding the sore boob tightly as I bent over. While we are on the subject of pain, one of the sisters said good old paracetamol taken regularly is very effective in keeping the pain under control and she was right. I feel for ladies who have double mastectomies, that would be another ball game entirely. Apparently it hurts to sneeze for months and coping with a large expanse of your body in a very up front position which suddenly has no feeling must be strange. It actually hurts to sneeze or cough after any surgery, the Physio said to hug a pillow or yourself, that helps. Did you know they have pillows with an arm, how sad is that so you don’t have to feel lonely, you just snuggle in and pretend your partner is there. Mind you at least you don’t have to make the pillow breakfast.
They are very keen to preserve your breast if at all possible. They first remove the tumour with a section around it. If this section or margin is clear of cancer cells, all good. If one of the margins has cancer cells too close to the edge, they may go back in a slice a bit more off. If it has invaded too far then they may do a mastectomy. Now we just have to wait, it takes about 10 days to get all the results.
On the day of my lumpectomy I needed to be at Royal Perth Hospital for an 8 am appointment at Nuclear Medicine, for a Lymphoscintigraphy so we set off at 6.45 to allow for traffic. My breast was injected with a radioactive substance that maps the drainage from the tumour in my breast and shows up which Lymph Node it will drain to first, this way while you are being operated on they can take that Node named the Sentinel Node and check that along with any others they think they should check, to make sure no cancer has spread to them. I am not going to lie, the injection stings and goes on stinging for a little while after, but it is not that bad. You lie still for five minutes while the scanner takes its images, then another five for the side view. I was worried it would be claustrophobic but even though it is quite close to your face your head is out and you can stare out the window or count sheep to keep you occupied.
I didn’t need to be at the surgery ward till 11.30 so we went and had coffee with our son Scott and his wife Dani who live very close to Royal Perth Hospital. Well Allan had coffee, I was fasting so had to just sniff the fumes and watch. Scott makes the best coffee. He was so passionate about good coffee, he did a baristas course some years back and gave us all lessons. Consequently, we are all coffee addicts and very fussy about a good cup. Allan’s mum has been moved to an aged care hospital a little further up the road, so after we left Scott and Dani we called in there to have a quick visit as I wasn’t sure how long it would be before we got down there again. Even though aged care facilities are necessary as families don’t always have the nursing skills to care for elderly relatives at home, it must be hard on the patient. The staff are generally friendly and when they deal daily with older folk who may not be in very good shape mentally, you can understand a certain amount of complacency, but, Mum has all her faculties and is just frail in her body, so to be stuck in a loud room lined up in a wheel chair with a dozen others to watch a television that you have no chance of hearing must be in total contrast to whatever lifestyle you had eeked out for yourself through the years before your incarceration. One old gentleman asked me to help get him up, I was nervous to assist as I wasn’t sure if I was radio active, so said I would get a staff member. They assured me his trolley wasn’t all connected and didn’t bother to go and see what he wanted. Very frustrating, if your trolley is in fact connected and you just cant get the body going. We sat outside in the forty degrees for a while with Mum, who doesn’t like air-conditioning, then left her with Allan’s niece Diane who has been driving down from Joondalup every day to see her Nan. What a blessing it is to have a big family.
We arrived at the hospital and after checking me in I sent Allan home to have a sleep.
Twiggy eat your heart out
My surgeon came to examine me and was shocked that the tumour had grown quite considerably since she had last seen me. Still, they prepared me for surgery, sexy circulation stockings and backless gown, and I spent the time waiting chatting to the girl in the bed next to me. She had been fighting cancer for thirteen years, had multiple sites throughout her body, but still had a very positive attitude. She was just having the old port for her chemo removed as she now took tablets. What an inspiration, she made me feel that my breast tumour wasn’t so bad after all.