The hardest two weeks of my life...
The fortnight after my initial diagnosis was a blur… endless appointments, tests and scans. Because of my age, and the fact the cancer was rare and had already spread, they threw the lot at me. My consultant was fantastic, referring me for every single possible available test to make sure they hadn’t missed anything, and they were covering off every single angle.
I was in a constant state of fear. Terrified of what all these tests might find, and absolutely exhausted by it all.
There were cannulas needed for EVERYTHING, which just isn’t what you want to hear when you’re not great with needles (although I’m loads better now!) and you’re so dehydrated from not eating or drinking with the stress of it all, that they can’t find your veins. First up was the MRI which, apart from being slightly awkward laid face down with your boobies shoved into a couple of holes, was absolutely fine. The CT scan was quick enough, you just drink a shed load of water before hand (lukewarm tap water anyone?) then they inject you with some dye which does things to your lady bits and makes you feel like you need to pee.
That was fun.
The scariest one for me was the bone scan. I’d got it into my head that if it was in my bones then that was that, game over. The experience itself was actually fine. It was the quietest department I had been to and the team were absolutely lovely, they inject you with some radioactive isotopes and send you on your way for a few hours before you return for the scan itself. You lay there for an hour while the machine moves around you, the strangest part is afterwards. Because I was essentially radioactive, I couldn’t go near Frank for 24 hours. I got my dad to pick me up and take me to aforementioned (in my first post) worlds most depressing pub for some cheap fizz… followed by his first ever Nando’s.
Somewhere in the midst of all these tests was also an appointment with the fertility clinic. I didn’t realise this before (although to be fair, I didn’t realise a whole lot when it came to the big C) but chemotherapy plays havoc with your fertility. Having a second child had never been high up on our agenda, but because of my age, and the fact the decision was essentially being taken away from me, I qualified for fertility treatment… embryo preservation to be precise. We went for the appointment, and had a really lengthy talk with the specialist we saw, but due to the time of year (nearly Christmas) the plan for surgery, and my cycle etc it would have meant delaying treatment by up to 2 months which was something we (I) just didn’t want to risk doing.
It was more important to me that Frank still had a mummy, rather than the option of a sibling later down the line.
After preparing myself for the worst news (my motto is prepare for the worst, hope for the best!), my tests all came back with positive news… whilst it wasn’t as good as it could be (I mean, I still had cancer), it also wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it could be. Although it had already managed to make it’s way into my lymph nodes, it was primary cancer and hadn’t escaped to anywhere else outside my chest area. We had caught it early. We had a plan.
While I watched friends post about Christmas parties and other festive fun, I was getting myself ready for having a boob lopped off, trying to figure out what wig I was going to buy when I lost my hair, and whether my eyelashes would fall out too (spoiler alert… they did)
The tumour in my right breast was a 5cm mongrel of grade 2 cancer, a rare blend of invasive lobular and invasive ductal carcinoma. The would normally expect to see these be oestrogen receptive (basically meaning they are fed by oestrogen) but from the different samples they took from the biopsy and histology after my mastectomy, they showed either low or zero on the scale (it varied in different parts of the tumour)
The cells found in my lymph nodes were invasive ductal carcinoma and showed as ER+8 - so they were strongly oestrogen receptive. After removing all my lymph nodes with my mastectomy they discovered only 2 of my 32 nodes were actually affected which was really good in the grand scheme of things.
The final histology gave me the diagnosis of T2, N1, M0, ER+ (in places) and HER2 negative.
They don’t really use staging in breast cancer anymore which really confused me to begin with, but the oncology team advised it’s because there are just so many different anomalies that make up a breast cancer diagnosis that it’s really difficult to give a staging accurately. When I pushed for an answer (I don’t know why I felt it was so important!) they put me as a stage 2.
There was to be surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy plus additional hormone reducing drugs and other ongoing treatment after that (I’ll cover all the detail off in their own individual posts)
Because of the rare blend and the size of the tumour, the surgery came first. A mastectomy plus full lymph clearance, followed by starting monthly Zoladex injections to keep my ovaries turned off and from producing oestrogen, then 6 rounds of some of the most brutal chemo drugs out there. First up was EC (the Red Devil) for 3 rounds and then Docetaxel for another 3 rounds before being referred for radiotherapy (due to start any day now) Looking forward to the next few years I will continue with the monthly Zoladex injections, start taking Tamoxifen and also treatment for my bones.
So there we have it, by the end of November I knew more about breast cancer than I ever though imaginable… 4 short weeks learning the hardest lesson of my life. Always staying positive and hopeful throughout, I was ready to take Cancer on, and I was ready to kick it’s ass.
Until next time... check your boobs