From the hospital bed

A quick update from the hospital bed post surgery. All went well and am actually feeling ok emotionally at this point. I think it’s because I’m relieved that the cancer has been cut out of me. Pre op I honestly thought I’d be an emotional mess post op so I’ve surprised myself. I’ve shed a few tears but much less than I thought I would at this stage.

Going into surgery I was also surprisingly calm. I had to wait for an hour after leaving my room in the pre op area and I just breathed and rested my eyelids in between visits from the surgeon, anesthetist and nurses. I even ended up walking to the operating room and jumping up on the operating table myself as all the orderlies were busy. The anesthetist told me before surgery that because I’m allergic to egg whites he couldn’t use the normal anesthetic because it contains egg white proteins so he would have to keep me asleep with gas. He said this would probably make me more nauseous afterwards. He also had trouble finding a vein for the drip to sedate me. They kept collapsing as I was dehydrated and the needle must have been scaring them away. That part was painful and reaffirmed my decision to have a portacath during chemo treatment instead of trying to find veins in my right arm all the time. The portacath will be inserted under the collarbone and stay there for the duration of treatment. This will happen under general anesthetic. My left arm can never be used for taking blood or blood pressure eve again. I also have to be careful with it in the sun and watching for infections. Having no lymph nodes under the left arm may cause life long issues and I’ll have to be very careful with it not just now but always.

Back to the op. 3rd time lucky with the drip on the inside of the elbow which is the worst spot for it really as I can’t bend my arm. Soon after he got that in I was out to it. In la la land with my good friend Cheree who was having a hernia op yesterday. We thought of each other as we went to sleep. I remember waking in recovery and being given morphine for the pain. That’s some strong stuff! Wow. I also remember being wheeled back to my room and being given anti nausea medicine a couple of times. I felt pretty horrible from all the gas. Bloody egg white allergy!

I dozed off and on all afternoon having mini conversations with mum and Derek when required with eyes shut. Evening arrives and I thought I might like to try my dinner. I looked at the soup and thought that apple juice might be safer. Lucky because the nausea was still hanging about and did so for most of the evening until a nurse made my drink some frothy medicine really quick which also came back up. That seemed to do the trick though and I felt much better afterwards. I even managed to keep some fruit down. I slept pretty well waking up at 5am starving. Some toast and water and I was back to feeling almost human again. I’ve continued to eat and drink really well all day and they’ve taken my drip out (but have left the canular in just in case they need to pop the drip back on).

I saw my surgeon this morning and she also spoke to mum and Derek yesterday after surgery. She felt very confident that she got clear margins from what she removed. She also took the three levels of the lymph nodes. Unfortunately she couldn’t locate the internal mammary node but this area is going to be radiated anyway. She only put one drain in which will continue draining fluid from the area. It’s pretty uncomfortable and a little painful at times so I’ll look forward to having this out in 7-10 days if not sooner. The whole area is swollen and numb in places. I have looked at my chest and felt a bit numb myself like I didn’t know what I should be feeling. I’m sure the tears will come with time. At the moment I just want to focus on feeling better physically. I’ll have to deal with the emotional side at a later date.

Rosie and Polly also came to visit today. I was so happy to see them but sad at the same time that I couldn’t give them great big squeezes. Here’s a pic of the three of us:

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I’ll leave it there as my dinner has arrived and my appetite has returned to normal. Tomorrow is another day and I’m sure I’ll feel even better than I did today. Thanks again for all the words of support and encouragement. It’s all helping at this extremely difficult time.

The Start of the Road to Recovery

Just thought I’d pop up a quick post before surgery today to let you all know that the CT and bone scans came back as all clear.  This means the cancer hasn’t spread which is such a relief.  As soon as I found this out my anxiety abatted and I’ve been feeling pretty cool calm and collected since.  Even this morning, I’m as cool as a cucumber.  I thought I’d be a nervous wreck but I think I’m just relieved that this day has finally arrived so I can start getting better.  It’s strange but I’m looking forward to having the surgery to get this cancer out of me.  It’s a shame I have to lose a boob in the process but it really is for the best.  I was thinking a couple of days ago that at least it’s not an arm or a leg that I’m losing.  I can’t really imagine living without one of these.  It would be a huge thing to overcome physically and emotionally.  At least with losing a breast, I really just have to overcome my own body issues.   I’ve been pretty lucky to this point in my life with never having had any body issue in the past.  I’ve always been relatively happy in my body.  Hopefully I can overcome this hurdle and still love myself for who I am both inside and out.

Yesterday I had the lymphoscintigraphy to find the sentinal node (this was a 2.5 hour test).  They injected 5 needles of radioisotope (hello radioactive woman) into and around my tumour in the breast and told me to rub it to get the radioactive material moving around  before scanning the area.  The idea is that the radioisotope first drains to the first lymph node affected by the cancer.  This is useful if they are planning to do a sentinal node biopsy which is when they take only some of the lymph nodes under the arm, testing them and reducing the need to do the full dissection unnecessarily.  This doesn’t apply to me as they already know that at least one lymph node under the arm is cancerous with other looking suspicious under ultrasound.  They’ll be doing a full anxillary lymph node dissection.  The reason they decided to do this further test on me is to try and find the internal mammary node under my ribs that has shown as being swollen in the MRI.  The nuclear medicine guy couldn’t find it yesterday but I’ll still be radioactive woman during surgery and they’ll use some kind of machine to follow the radioisotope in my system to try and find it.  Hopefully K can remove it without any problems.

K referred me onto a physiotherapist who specialises in lymphodemia and cancer and she squeezed me in at 6pm last night when I rang her at 5:30.  That was nice of her!  I’ll call her R.  R said she is very passionate about her job and really prefers to see her patients before surgery.  She took measurements for an arm stocking in case one is required (it probably will be as I’m hoping to fly home all going well).  She also ran through the exercises I’ll need to do after surgery to get my lymph system working properly again.  This is all very important to keep lymphodemia at bay.  I’ll go and see her again once my drains are out.

I enjoyed shopping with Renae yesterday and then some family time last night.  It was great to see Derek and Rosie after being away from them for a couple of days.  They had a good trip down.  It was hard not to kiss and cuddle Rosie over and over and over but the radiologist said to refrain from too much contact with the girls due to my radioactivity.  Scary that this stuff is coursing through my body!

Not much else to write at this stage apart from the fact that I’m hungry and thirsty and looking forward to a meal and cuppa later today  The kitchen staff have dropped off my menus for the next couple of days to choose what I want to eat.  That’s just cruel when I’m fasting!  If I’m up to it I’ll be having chicken and hokkien noodles tonight plus soup.  Tomorrow I’ll be having tempura barramundi with potato wedges and salad for lunch and primavera pasta for dinner.  Yum!  Lots of good choices, just hope I’m up to eating.  Derek and I are just waiting now.  Mum and Aunty Marie are at home with the girls.  I’m actually having surgery at North West Private Hospital rather than the Wesley as my surgeon does surgery here once a week and it’s closer to my Aunty’s house, just 10 mins up the road in fact which is ideal.  I’m looking forward to a bit of a rest after surgery.  I think I deserve it.

Radioactive Woman

Radioactive Woman

On Monday my Mum, Polly & I flew down to Brisbane to stay with my Aunty Marie who loves doating on her loved ones.  We’ll be very comfortable here for the next couple of weeks, which makes me happy.  Aunty Marie cooked us scones when we first arrived, a yummy lamb salad last night and lasange tonight.  Eating yummy food has always made me feel better not just physically but also emotionally.  Derek found out early on that the quickest way to my heart was through my stomach.

Derek and Rosie are on a road trip driving down to Brisbane.  Hopefully they make it here calm and serene, although it’s more likely Derek will be slightly stressed and Rosie will be hyper active.  I won’t be here when they arrive as I have plans with some radioactive material and another scanning machine.  I’ve had to cancel my afternoon of pampering so I can once again become radioactive woman.  I am going to the shops for some retail therapy in the morning though.  More about radioactive woman shortly.

So today was spent at the Wesley Hospital again.  I saw the breast surgeon (I’m going to call her K) this morning and she confirmed that the lymph node under my arm is cancerous as well and there are a few other suspicious looking nodes under the arm (this is from the ultrasound and FNA done on Friday).  Because of this she is going to remove all of the lymph nodes under the arm, levels 1, 2 & 3.  Before having the FNA done she said she would most likely just need to remove levels 1 & 2 and leave level 3 in there.  There is a higher risk of lymphodemia when removing all of them but there’s also a higher risk of the cancer returning if they’re left in there.  Once again it’s a no brainer, take the little suckers out.

K also referred me onto a number of specialists to add to my team of medical professionals. A medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and a physiotherapist who specialises in lymphodemia and cancer treatment.  I’m going to try to see each of them before I head home in a couple of weeks.  I’ll see the medical oncologist once my pathology results are in (hopefully by next Tuesday).  It’s likely I’ll have to come back down for the first chemo treatment with her but then I’m hoping most(or the rest)  of the treatments can take place in Rocky.  Once again, I’d prefer to see someone more qualified in my specific problem, rather than settling for someone just because they’re close to home.  There are no oncologists located in Rocky, just visiting ones.  The medical oncologist I’ll see down here is doing a clinical trial for patients with HER2 positive tumours and my breast surgeon is sending all her HER2 positive patients to this oncologist.  It will be good to find out more about it anyway once resutls are in.  I also found out tonight that she was my Aunty Lyn’s oncologist and Aunty Marie tells me that I’ll love her.

K has spoken to the radiation oncologist in relation to my results so far and also about reconstruction at the time of mastectomy.  The radiation oncologist said it’s definitely much harder to do radiation on anything but a flat chest.  I assured her that I’m happy with my decision to wait until after treatment for the reconstruction.  K thought it was a good idea to have a chat to her while I’m down here anyway to find out what I can expect.  I’ll wait until after results are in.

K explained what I can expect before during and after surgery.  I have to fast from midnight Wednesday until around 10am (hopefully surgery isn’t much later than this, I’m second on her list for the day).  This is going to be extremely difficult for me.  I won’t even be able to drink water!  I can’t believe I’m sitting here complaining about not being able to eat or drink water with what I’m going through.  Talk about priorities!  Surgery should last a couple of hours and pain shouldn’t be too bad upon waking.  It’s more likely I’ll feel numb around the surgery area, including the armpit (which could be permanent).  I’ll have two drains in.  This means a couple of bags with tubes under my arms to drain off fluid from the surgery site. Yukky.  I am not looking forward to this bit.  I’ll be in hospital for only two days.  The first drain will come out whilst in hospital, I’ll come back to Aunty Marie’s with the second one still in for 7-10 days.  It’ll be nice to be here rather than in hospital but I am concerned about what Rosie will make of the drain.  She not so gentle with me a lot of the time…  She’ll have lots of distractions so hopefully there’ll be no grabbing and pulling of drain bag and tubes.  I’ve been given a lovely handmade handbag to put it all in to keep them hiddenn.  The breast care nurses at the Kim Walters Choices program at the Wesley gave me a bag of goodies which includes a trendy drain bag, a jelly bean pillow to put under my arm when sitting, sleeping, reading, being for the first couple of weeks plus a temporary prosthesis which I can stuff my mastectomy bras with.  They’ll also organise a free pocketed bra for me via BCNA and Berlei.  Anyway, they’ve been great at Choices and I’d love to say at this point that if anyone was thinking of sending flowers, I’d love you to make a donation to the Kim Walters Choice Program in place of anything like this.  Or any cancer charity for that matter.  Just let me know you’ve done this and that will brigthen my day as much as flowers, if not more.

After speaking to the radiation oncologist K decided she’ll definitely be trying to get to the internal mammory lymph node which looks suspicious and sits underneath my ribs.  In order to do this there is now another test I need to have done which will happen on Wednesday.  I’m writing this Tuesday night so it’s likely by the time I post this it will be Wednesday.  The test involves injecting radioisotope into me to try and find this naughty little node.  They take photos and pin point it during this 2-3 hour procedure.  If they find it then blue die will be injected during surgery so K can find it and pull the little sucker out, hoefully without knicking my lung, which it sits against.  The blue die will make my wees and poos green plus make me look grey for a day. That will be a bit strange!  It sounds like the radiation oncologist will most likely want to radiate there no matter what but we can only wait and see at this stage.

K gave me a prescription for some tablets to help dry my milk up as I’m still quite engorged.  My last feed with Polly was yesterday afternoon although at the time I didn’t realise it.  The plan was to give Polly her last feed tonight (Tuesday), take the tablets and then also pump lefty before surgery.  Unfortunately that plan was foiled by the evil radiologist who has banned me from breastfeeding as radioactive woman (insert evil laugh here).

After seeing K today I went to have blood taken for numerous tests then onto have a CT scan plus a bone scan.  I think in my last post I said the bone scan was to check my bone density.  I was wrong.  It was actually to check to see if the cancer has spread to my bones.  The CT scan was of my chest, abdomen and pelvis which was also to see if the cancer has spread anywhere in these regions.  Currently awaiting results which should arrive on Wednesday.  The bone scan involves being injected with radioisotope, letting it run through my body for 2 hours and then going back for a 30 minute scan (I even had a little nap while they were taking pictures of me, they make you very comfortable).  After they injected me with radioactive liquid, they also injected me with a contrast for the CT scan. The contrast made me feel like I’d wet myself plus left a horrible metallic taste in my mouth.  The CT machine then proceeded to take pictures of my warmed up chest, abs and pelvis.  What a strange sensation it was – the warmth of the contrast running through my torso.  These tests were a breeze, especially after the MRI where I had to lay very still for 45 mins.  I’d say I’ll become very familiar with these scans over the next 5 years.  Not sure what to expect for the one tomorrow (on Wednesday) but hoping it’s also a breeze.

It’s Wednesday morning and I’ll pop this up now and report back as radioactive woman later.

There and back again

I’m like a yoyo, up and down, up and down. This is definitely the case emotionally but I’ve also been down to Brisbane and back again and I’m heading back down again on Monday for the start of a very long week. A week I expect will be the hardest of my life.

Just looking back on my week since my last post, there’s been a lot of information still coming my way. It’s like a constant stream and sometimes I just need to turn the tap off and wrap myself up in my cocoon (or bubble as Beck would put it), my safe place where this isn’t happening to me. So on Tuesday morning I went to see a Cancer Council Psychologist. This was a helpful process for me and I’ve already made my next appointment with her for after my surgery. She also referred me onto some other resources and events happening that I can attend to help make my life a bit easier and more enjoyable. There are Look Good, Feel Better events which help you deal with the appearance related side-effects caused by treatments like chemotherapy and radiation such as hair loss and changes to the skin. I’ll also be attending a Cancer Council run Living with Mindfulness workshop which runs for 8 weeks from mid October. The Cancer Council also has a program where they can match me to another woman who has been through what I’m going through now. I already have a couple of contacts for this so may or may not make use of it. There are also local support groups in Rocky and Yeppoon. Unfortunately both seem to be full of mainly older ladies and this doesn’t really appeal to me. I’d prefer to mix with women around my own age who either have young children or are yet to start a family. I just feel we’d have more in common and reading stories of other young women going through breast cancer, it seems to be something that comes up regularly, the lack of young women support groups in regional areas. Maybe I’ll start one myself once I get through the surgery stage. I’ve already asked the local breast care nurse to pass my details onto anyone else in the area who’s in my age group.

On Tuesday afternoon a breast care nurse did a home visit and I was able to pick her brain about so many things that will happen over the course of the next year or so. It was invaluable and I’d feel comfortable calling her with any questions along the way. We talked about the surgery, what I can expect afterwards, possible side effects from post op treatments, length and timing of treatments, that kind of thing. In relation to treatment though, I won’t know exactly what’s going to happen until after surgery, once the pathology report has gone to the oncologist. One thing that nearly every medical professional I’ve seen has said to me is that I will be hit extra hard with post op treatment as I’m young and have everything to live for. This is obviously very scary but again, I’m just trying to focus on the next step which I’ll get to soon.

As a yoyo I was up after such positive meetings with the psychologist and breast care nurse on Tuesday. On Wednesday I had a down day, which is a shame as it was meant to be a fun day spent as a family. We started the day with a nice breakfast, mine consisted of egg yolk scrambled eggs, now that I’m allergic to egg whites. 30 mins after breakfast I was going down hill quickly. Egg yolks still contain parts of the egg white and this was enough to make me feel the sickest I have yet from this allergy. Maybe it’s because I stopped eating them for a while, now I’m even more sensitive to them. I spent the morning in bed feeling sorry for myself when I should have been at the park with Derek, Rosie & Polly. I started feeling better when the girls went to bed so decided to head to the shops for a change of scenery. As soon as I got there I realised it wasn’t a good idea. I was on edge and wired, feeling like I’d drunk 5 cups of coffee. It was a mix of adrenaline and anxiety from being out in public. Very odd and very unpleasant. As has been the case over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found it extremely difficult to make the smallest of decisions, like what to buy from the shops for dinner, which recordable book to buy Rosie for when I’m in hospital, whether to grab the groceries we needed or whether to run home for safety. I had to go to the bathroom, take some deep breathes and make myself slow down. I did what I needed to in the end but when I got home the chick from Lenards forgot to put my chicken parmigiana into the bag, so stressing over what to have for dinner was a waste of time anyway.

Derek went to work on Thursday, Rosie went to daycare and I pottered around packing and organising stuff for our trip to Brisbane the following day. Jo popped in for a cuppa, bun still in the oven at that stage…

Friday, the big day. Rosie stayed with Derek’s parents and we headed to Brisbane for a day of getting my boobs out to see what would happen to them (and me) from here. After having two children, breastfeeding and getting my boobs out regularly over the last couple of weeks, I no longer look at them as the sexual objects they were in my 20s. To the 30s me, they are a force of giving life and love. This is why it will be so difficult to part with one of them because I feel that I literally give life and love via my breasts, to Polly at least and to Rosie for the first 16 months of her life. Once again I well up thinking about this loss and my ability to give my love to Polly in this way. And it’s not just the milk itself (of which mine has been called double cream milk by many a child health nurse), it’s the act of breastfeeding that I will grieve for in a few short days, and have been grieving for since finding out I could not continue to do so. I know I have to let go though because not to do so would be detrimental to my mental and emotional health not just in the short term but also in the long term. What a relationship I’ve had with my boobs since they arrived in high school, one that most, if not all, woman take for granted until the day comes when someone wants to remove it in order to save their life. I know which I’d rather, my life any day of the week, so it’s really no contest in the end.

Okay, that’s enough rambling about my breasts in that fashion, back to the serious stuff. So firstly we caught up with Derek’s family member who had pointed us to some great options in Brisbane. Then onto the breast surgeon where she gave me a very thorough examination and we discussed my options. Unfortunately, a breast reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy isn’t recommended for me. Firstly, there is a risk of complications soon after the surgery from the reconstruction side of things. Secondly, there is a delayed risk of infection due to the implant once chemo has started (which will start approx. 3 weeks after surgery). Thirdly, there is a higher risk of infection for me due to breastfeeding. If my body rejected the implant and an infection followed I would be in hospital for weeks and treatment would have to be further delayed. The implant may also have to be removed which would mean I would be worse off then when I started all of this. I just couldn’t put myself and my family through all of that so have chosen health over outer beauty. It was a no brainer really.

It wasn’t a hard decision to make but there are definite down sides to waiting for the rebuilding of my body. I’ll jump forward to my meeting with the plastic surgeon later in the day. Even though it was the breast surgeon’s recommendation to wait until after treatment to move forward with the reconstruction, from the plastic surgeon’s point of view, he felt it would be better to do the reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy. This was purely from an aesthetic point of view. His concern was the high chance of me also needing radiation therapy after with the chemo. My options will be very limited if that is the case. He explained it to me like this: My only option is an implant reconstruction due to my lack of tissue to steal from elsewhere on my body. This is generally called a TRAMS flap reconstruction where they take tissue from the tummy muscles and make a more natural looking boob from it. There are also similar reconstructions where they take tissue from the back or butt. This type of reconstruction could never be done at the time of the mastectomy as recovery can take months and would delay treatment. So implant it is, a smaller amount of tissue can be taken from my back to add to the implant to make it look a bit more natural. This would leave a scar on my back and would only be done if reconstruction was delayed until after treatment. The only option available at the time of mastectomy is implant only. What would happen is a tissue expander would be inserted and pumped up over a number of months, stretching the skin, until it was the ideal size and treatment had been concluded. Another operation would be done six months after finishing treatment to remove the tissue expander and insert the permanent implant. If I need radiation after chemo then the radiation therapy will most likely leave me with a deformed breast as the skin would most likely tighten around the implant. An attempt could be made to fix it up but not guaranteed. Personally I think that this would be worse than no breast at all as the tightness would feel awful and look horrible. He showed us some pictures and they weren’t pretty. So even with all of that in mind he still said that doing the reconstruction at the time of mastectomy is better than leaving it until after radiation. This is because if I leave it until after treatment and I’ve had radiation on a flat chest, it will be quite hard to stretch the skin after radiation therapy. This is when I’d need to move tissue/muscle from my back to the front for bulk and a more natural look. Either way the radiation will leave me with a less than desirable result no matter when I have the reconstruction done. It’s a loss loss where that’s concerned which is hard to swallow. If I don’t have radiation, then that’s a big win in more ways than one, so that’s what I’m really hoping for at this stage. This was the biggest let down of the day on Friday and I felt quite flat after finding out all of this information. The flat pun not intended initially but that’s pretty funny!

Back to my meeting with the breast surgeon. She was great. I felt very comfortable with her. She explained everything from the start even though we’d heard most of it already. Mastectomy still the only option and the nipple cannot be saved due to the DCIS being very close to it. She felt it was worthwhile to take a sample from the swollen lymph node under my armpit to make sure it was cancerous. She felt the chances were high but better to know as much as possible before the surgery. If it’s not cancerous maybe I won’t need a full lymph node axillary dissection, which is when they remove virtually all of the nodes under the arm. This can lead to other issues including lymphedema which I’d be stuck with for the rest of my life. I popped down to the breast clinic at the Wesley for an FNA test that afternoon and the breast surgeon will have the results early this week. There is also a slightly swollen internal mammary lymph node under my ribs. This could simply be from the numerous tests I’ve had since April or it could also be cancerous. She will try her best to remove it during surgery but it’s a hard one to get to apparently. She’ll need to use some sort of blue die to find it. If it’s not cancerous that will hopefully reduce my chances of needing radiation but if it is or if she can’t get to it then it’s more likely I will need radiation. The surgeon in Rocky wasn’t going to chase this lymph node and said treatment would kill anything in there. He didn’t say which type of treatment but I’m guessing now it would have been radiation although at the time I assumed the chemo. Fingers crossed she can find it during surgery.

The breast surgeon also went into detail of the type of incision she normally does depending on whether a reconstruction is on the cards. If it was an elderly lady who wasn’t going to have a reconstructed, the scar would be longer and this means less skin is left. For me she’s going to do a medium size incision and leave a bit more skin so that it’s easier to stretch out for a replacement boob. She’d love to do an even smaller one for me but leaving a flap of skin isn’t ideal. If necessary, the lymph nodes will also be removed from the same incision so I won’t have two separate scars. I’m preparing myself for a full lymph node axillary dissection as am assuming the node under the arm is cancerous although it could also be a reaction from the tests I had done back in April.

Um, what else was discussed… Well, I made the decision whilst seeing her that I would definitely be having the operation in Brisbane with her. We discussed other things that needed to be done. I’m seeing her for a pre surgery appointment on Tuesday morning at 9am. Then I’ll go in for a CT scan and bone scan. The CT scan will check my chest, abdomen and pelvic region to see if the cancer has spread anywhere else. Waiting to hear the results from this test will be excruciating. If it has spread then the surgery will be cancelled and I’ll have to start chemo immediately. This wasn’t really discussed any further and I’m trying hard not to even think about this as a possible outcome. We’ll cross that very scary bridge if we come to it. The bone scan is done to check my bone density. I’ll most likely go through a temporary (or possibly permanent) early menopause and this can cause a higher risk of osteoporosis. They just need to see what my bone density is like before starting treatment and I’m guessing will monitor it along the way or at the end to see if I need additional treatment for this such as calcium supplements or weight bearing exercise.

So that’s Tuesday. Wednesday I’m having some pampering and a bit of a girly day with my good friend Renae. It will be good to keep my mind off of the next day. Thursday – surgery, and as my lovely Aunty Gail put it, the start of the road to recovery. What a great way to look at it.

I was also meant to meet up with another breast care nurse at the Wesley from the Kim Walters Choice program but she was called away so I’m hoping to meet her on Tuesday. She’s going to give me a temporary prosthesis (a piece of foam that will become my replacement boob for a while), a mastectomy bra for recovering from surgery and a pillow to pop under my arm for comfort whilst sleeping. I’ve also started looking into more permanent prostheses and mastectomy bras. We’re lucky enough to have a shop in Rocky where I can be fitted for these items. I’ll leave this until after I’ve healed from my surgery but hopefully before treatment starts. My best girl friends Beck and Amelia will be here around that time so I’m hoping they can help make light of the situation. I’m also putting the call out to anyone who thinks they might be able to sew some pockets into bras for me as I have a feeling the mastectomy bras won’t be my thing. The pocket is required to hold the silicone prosthesis in place. The cost of a silicone prosthesis is nearly $400! Lucky I can claim this back on Medicare. That’s one expensive chicken fillet!

I’ll leave it there. Once again it’s late and I should be in bed. I think it’s going to be very difficult to sleep as surgery gets closer. I slept a lot today as I was exhausted from the trip down to Brisbane. I wasn’t the only one. Derek worked out that Polly slept over 20 hours out of 24 hours at around 2:30 this afternoon. Friday and Saturday really took it out of her. She handled it all amazingly well at the time though and wasn’t any trouble at all. Oh, we also sat Rosie down this afternoon and started explaining to her what was going to happen this week. My mum, Polly and I are flying down to Brisbane tomorrow. Rosie will go to daycare tomorrow and Tuesday to keep some normality in her little life. Derek will then pick her up on Tuesday afternoon and they’ll start driving to Brisbane from there, stopping overnight along the way and starting up again on Wednesday morning. With the help from a book from the Cancer Council, we explained to her that I have some bad lumps in my boob and the Dr needs to take them away and that I’ll only have one boob after they do that. She was fine and hasn’t even mentioned it again. I think after the surgery on Thursday we’ll have to explain it again. We haven’t yet explained what is likely to happen during chemo as I thought it best to take it one step at a time and wait until we know the possible and probable side effects of the type of chemo they end up giving me. It’s no longer a one fits all treatment and there are many chemo agents available, depending on the type and grade of tumour.

My beautiful girls:

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Thanks to everyone who has been mkeeping in touch. Even if I don’t respond please know that I love getting your messages and to keep them coming this week as I’ll need them now more than ever. One more thing that makes me very sad but also very thankful that I’ve been able to help a friend in this way. A friend I worked with years ago went and had her breasts checked at my request in a previous post and after some tests has found cancer in one of her breasts. I just can’t believe it. Never did I think that me asking my female friends to check their breasts would result in someone else being diagnosed with cancer. 1 in 9 woman. Derek and I were discussing the stats the other night and as the years go on and we grow older, the chances of us knowing other women who will go through this are particularly high. Because we’ll have gone through it before them, we know we’ll be able to help in ways that will hopefully be invaluable to them. Of course, we don’t wish this upon anyone but facts are facts and it’s obvious that breast cancer has affected so many people as we’ve been bombarded with stories about others who have been affected by this terrible disease. Thankfully most of them are about these women surviving breast cancer. I personally don’t want to hear the other side to this so please don’t share them with me or my family.

Okay, I really am finishing it up there. Thanks to Beck for gathering stories and memories from many friends and families and compiling them into a document for me (which I’ve printed out and will be taking to hospital with me) plus creating this video for me. It made me laugh and cry and I absolutely loved it. Thanks to everyone who contributed also. Beck said if anyone else wanted to contribute to let her know. Get in touch with me and I’ll pass her details onto you by email. Check the video out on You Tube here:

To end on a very positive note, we have a new addition to the Hower family! Harry Ted Hower was born on Friday after a speedy labour. Jo and Toby are very much in love with their gorgeous little man and we can’t wait for our kids to grow up together.

A bit of normality

Friday, Saturday and Sunday provided a bit of normality. We took the girls to the park, I went for a massage, a walk on the beach with my sis in law Jo (who’s going to have her first baby any day now), markets and lunch at Emu Park, pottering around the house, spending time with my beautiful girls and in between all of that further educating myself about what’s to come. Plus having little bursts of feeling totally overwhelmed, having a good old cry, wanting to crawl into bed for a week – then getting back up, brushing myself off and getting on with things again.  The normality has definitely helped me not get too far ahead of myself.  I’m trying to focus on the next immediate decision that needs to be made and leave the rest in the futre where it belongs.

It’s funny because over the last year I’ve learnt a bit about mindfulness and living in the present moment.  I’ve read about it, meditated here and there, tried to practice mindfulness in my day to day life and attended a mindfulness & meditation weekend whilst pregnant with Polly earlier this year over on North Keppel. It’s serving me well at the moment.

So, I’ve been looking into the option of reconstruction surgery at the same time as my mastectomy.  I do feel I’d cope better emotionally and mentally after surgery if I could have a new boob built sooner rather than later.  There are two options, first is TRAMS flap which means they take bits from other parts of my body and make a boob out of them.  How cool is that!  Unfortunately (and fortunately) this isn’t really an option due to my lack of excess tissue 😉 Second option, an implant.  Initially a tissue expander would be inserted and pumped up over time, then after all of my post op treatment I would go back for surgery to remove the tissue expander and insert the implant.  Of course there is always the third option of having one boob for life and wearing a prosthetic breast but I’m young and I personally wouldn’t even consider this as an option long term.  Some of you might be thinking this is “TMI” (too much information), but I’m guessing there will be some of you who are curious about what happens after it comes off.

On Friday Derek, Polly and I will head down to the big smoke, Brisbane, to see a breast surgeon and plastic & reconstruction surgeon.  It’s not possible to get a reconstruction here in Rocky and I really need to work through all my options before deciding what happens next plus when and where. At this stage I don’t know whether I’m suitable for a reconstruction but I’ll find out on Friday and then can decide from there.  It’s pretty much a given that I’ll be having chemo but they won’t know for sure about radiation therapy until after my surgery and the pathology has been done.  There is already one lymph node affected by the cancer and if there are 4 or more lymph node affected then it’s likely I’ll also have to have radiation therapy.  It’s not ideal to have radiation on an implant so if they do think it’s very possible I’ll have radiation, then it’s unlikely I’ll be suitable for a reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy.  If that’s the case I’ll just have to deal with it.  I am already preparing myself for that happening but it’s good to go through the motions so that I’ve covered all bases.  I would be very disappointed in myself if I didn’t explore all of my options before my surgery.

Even if I don’t have reconstruction surgery with the mastectomy, the reconstruction surgeon likes to see his patients before their mastectomy and I can certainly see plenty of benefits to that so the trip won’t be a wasted one.  I’m also seeing a breast surgeon in Brisbane and may end up having surgery down there even without the reconstruction.  The surgeon in Rocky is a general surgeon and I’m not doubting his ability but it makes sense to at least talk to a surgeon who specialises in breast surgery.  If I have the mastectomy in Rocky, it will be on Monday 27 August.  If I have just the mastectomy in Brisbane it will be either Thursday or Friday or next week.  If I have the mastectomy and reconstruction in Brisbane then it will be as soon as both surgeons are available together.  They like to do breast cancer surgery as a matter of urgency so I’m guessing it won’t be too much later than my initial surgery date.

So my head has been in a whirl today trying to sort through all of this.  I was on the phone nearly all day in between tending to Polly (Derek was at work for an important meeting and Rosie at daycare).  Apart from numerous calls to all the doctors’ rooms, I also spoke to two breast care nurses, one from the Kim Walters Choices Program and one from Rocky who is coming to visit me at home tomorrow.  Great service!  Both women were fantastic and offered support before, during and after treatment.  I’ll be seeing the nurse from Choices when I’m down in Brisbane on Friday.  From what I’ve heard, the breast care nurses will be my go to people for practical and emotional support throughout this whole “journey”.

I’ve also made an appointment with the Cancer Council Psychologist, I’m seeing her in Rocky tomorrow.  I thought about leaving this bit out of the blog but then I thought better of it.  I’m putting a lot out there and it just didn’t feel right to pretend that I’m not worried about my mental state.  I am.  I’m very concerned about how I’ll get through all of this without being able to unload to an outsider.  It’s a free service and one which I may come to rely upon at some stage.  What can I say, I’m a woman!  Talking through things helps me feel better.

So I’m feeling pretty good about most things at this point.  As good as one can when faced with this situation.  Polly is taking a bottle well and I’m still considering donor milk but only with proper screening (blood tests and reassurance of a healthy diet).  The first step was her taking a bottle well, she’s even taken a couple from me.  I was quite worried about her rejecting the bottle from me and expecting the breast.  She’s been pretty good about it but is still having breastfeeds so I can stay comfortable in the process.  I think she’ll be fine once weaned totally to a bottle, it’ll be me who will be upset about it.  Time will heal though.

I have a bit on tomorrow but not much for Wednesday and Thursday.  Hopefully Jo has her baby as that will take my mind of off things until Friday.  We’ll do some fun stuff with Rosie on Wednesday and Derek and I might go to the Johnny Cash tribute show with Tex Perkins on Thursday night plus out for dinner first.  It’s nice to have little things to look forward to…

More tests + results

Firstly I’d like to thank everyone for all their messages of love and support. They mean so much to me at a time like this. They really do keep me going so please keep them coming. They are also a great distraction and allow my mind to stop racing so much. Thanks to those who have sent flowers and gifts also. And while I’ve got everyone’s attention I’d also like to thank everyone for their messages and gifts after Polly was born. I feel terrible that I haven’t yet sent written thank you cards with a lovely photo of Polly as a newborn. I will get around to it but maybe not in the near future. Here’s a photo of Polly only 7 days old.

Pretty Polly

The last few days have been extremely difficult for me. After playing the waiting game from Friday to Tuesday morning, I called again to chase up my results after lunch on Tuesday. I still had an appointment booked for further core biopsies at 2:30pm on Tuesday and I needed to find out if I had to make it up to Rocky for it. I was told that the Radiologist did want to do more tests before writing up the report from the MRI. So up we went again, Derek, Polly and I.

I had mammograms done on both breasts, just as a comparison (although the thought did cross my mind that if they started focusing in on the right breast I’d start to freak out a bit!). The Radiologist decided at that stage he didn’t need to do a further scan or core biopsies, he had enough information to finalise his report. Right breast is all clear, thank goodness.

Once again, the news wasn’t good. To go with my invasive breast cancer (which is approx 1cm), there is also a large area behind the 1cm tumour which is approx 6cm long from nipple running upwards. The Drs are confident that this is DCIS – ductal carcinoma in situ. DCIS is the name for abnormal changes in the cells in the milk ducts of the breast. ‘In situ’ means in place. DCIS is a non-invasive breast cancer. The abnormal cells are contained inside the milk ducts. Just so you know the difference, early breast cancer is invasive cancer that is contained in the breast and may or may not have spread to lymph nodes in the breast or armpit. Some cancer cells may have spread outside the breast and armpit area but cannot be detected.

Anyway, because of the size of the DCIS compared to my relatively small boobs, it has been recommended that I have a mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy (or breast conservation surgery). The Drs feel that if they do a lumpectomy my nipple will be pointing upwards instead of outwards and the chances of having to go back in for a mastectomy soon afterwards are pretty high. This is because when they do a lumpectomy, the pathology report needs to show clear margins on the tumour(s) they remove. Clear margins mean there can’t be any cancer cells on the outside of the tumour. If there aren’t clear margins, it’s straight back to surgery for a mastectomy. They can see from the MRI and mammogram that the DCIS area is quite large. I can actually feel the DCIS as well as the smaller tumour, and I know there is no way they could do conservation surgery and come out of it with anything that looked “normal”.

So I have decided to have the mastectomy and the decision certainly doesn’t come down to the cosmetic side of things. It’s because I’m shit scared of the cancer returning in the same breast. At one point I was even thinking take the other one too! There is a gene that can be tested for called the BRCA2 gene mutation. If someone has this gene then there is a 70% chance of cancer returning to the second breast and also a higher risk of ovarian cancer. I’ve been told the BRCA2 gene mutation test costs $1000s to be tested for and because I don’t have a strong family history it’s very unlikely I have the BRCA2 gene mutation. This is something I’m still considering being tested for though. Did you know that the chances of a woman developing breast cancer (in Australia) is 1 in 9? Another interesting stat is less than 5% of all breast cancers are caused by a family history. So it’s pretty obvious to me that most of the women who develop breast cancer over their lifetime do not have a family history. And here I was thinking that it was unlikely to ever happen to me because I don’t have a family history. If I knew this stat before I may have been more vigilant in keeping a close eye on my boobs! As scary as it is, it’s something to think about girls. How about you all do a self examination tonight and next time you’re at your Drs, ask them to do a check for you. People keep asking what they can do for me, please do this for me. At this stage I don’t know if they have caught mine early but obviously the earlier this horrible disease is caught, the better.

More information from my core biopsy last week is that the tumour they took a sample from is HER2 positive. This is good and bad. Bad because it’s a more aggressive form of cancer but good because they can now treat it with hormone therapy. I’ve been told that they consider most cases of breast cancer in women of my age to be aggressive. So, my cancer is hormone responsive and it most likely occurred during pregnancy when my hormones were going wild, estrogen in particular. The tumour is estrogen receptor positive. What worries me is that it started during my pregnancy with Rosie. What if it has been going on for this long? That’s a thought that would keep me awake at night if I wasn’t so tired…

At this stage surgery is booked for Monday 27 August. I have been extremely lucky to be able to talk to two amazing women over the last few days. One is an old touch football friend who has had breast cancer, a mastectomy, chemo, another mastectomy and more chemo plus a double reconstruction. It was scary talking to her about what’s ahead but also empowering at the same time as it helps me prepare myself mentally for what’s to come. One thing that will stick in the forefront of my mind is when she said, “Don’t fight the situation as it will just make it worse”. I think about giving birth to Rosie and Polly and how I didn’t fight the pain. I managed two labours with no drugs, not even gas. This is because I went into both with a mindset of not fighting the pain but working through it and knowing that I could do it. Mind over matter worked for me then and I’m sure I can make it work for me in my current situation.

The second woman I spoke to is a family member on Derek’s side who just happens to be a Gynaecological Oncologist (I think that’s right!). She has offered to look over my test results at each stage and also answer any questions I might have. She gave me a lot of information and once again I feel knowledge is power, even if it scares me at the moment. It’s like having a second opinion but even better 🙂 Both women have given it to me straight which I appreciate. No use pussy footing around.

Emotionally I have been up and down over the last week as I may have mentioned earlier this week. After the news on Tuesday I had a very down day on Wednesday. I’ve been to see my GP twice since receiving my diagnosis last Thursday and she has been fantastic. One thing she said today described exactly how I’ve been feeling. I’m like a duck floating along on the water, I might come across calm and strong on the surface but underneath I’m paddling like mad to stay a float. I have a feeling of anxiety that just won’t quit which is making it hard to eat (I know right! Not much suppresses my appetite.) I’ve already lost 2kg and I’m sure I’ll lose more, especially during treatment. This is obviously of concern because where is it going to come from?! Derek has also lost 4kg so the stress of the situation is affecting us all. Trying to wean Polly is stressful in itself, she’s not taking the bottle as easily as I thought she would. I have had offers of donor breast milk from friends and I am seriously considering it but I’m finding it hard to make a decision about that at the moment. This might be something to work out after my surgery. Polly had her 4 month needles today and hasn’t been herself this afternoon plus she’s still getting over her bronchiolitis so not exactly the best time to be weaning her from the boob and breast milk.

Rosie is probably doing the best out of all of us at the moment. She does seem to know something is happening but is getting on with things. She’s always been a little obsessed with my boobs so it will be hard explaining to her that there is something bad in my left boob so it has to be removed. Finding the right words is going to take some thinking. Any suggestions are welcome! I try not to use good/bad and like to use other words but that is often harder said than done.

Anyway, it’s late and I need my rest. I find if I go to bed exhausted, it’s easier to get to sleep and my mind doesn’t race as much. I’ve always been a night owl anyway, I doubt that will ever chance, no matter how much I’d love to be an early bird 😉

The Waiting Game

So I’m still playing the waiting game. A game I’m guessing we’ll need to get quite used to. When I hadn’t heard from the surgeon with results from the MRI yesterday afternoon I called his office. He’s only in his rooms Tuesday and Thursday and the receptionist told me they hadn’t received the report from the radiologist yet. I called CQMI to find out if the report had been done. Nope. The receptionist there was going to chase this up to be done for the surgeon by today. I’ll call CQMI again soon to see what’s happening at their end.

The practicalities of life are keeping me grounded at the moment. As are my girls. They still need looking after, and even though Derek and my mum are doing a fantastic job of doing most things around the house and for the girls, I’m also doing my bit. It feels good to be needed. Rosie’s gone off to daycare today after missing last week due to illness. She loves going and some normalcy for her is what I think she needs right now. She asked last night and today if daddy’s going to work. She knows something isn’t right as obviously he would normally be there right now. Derek never has sick days.

Derek left work on Thursday as soon as I told him the news. He’ll be taking off as long as is necessary and then may go back in a lesser role. He’s job has been pretty full on since taking it on in March last year. I think his work will be quite understanding about the situation but I know they do heavily rely on him so I’m guessing he’ll be missed while he’s not there. We need him here though and obviously we come first. Derek will be taking care of the financial and lots of the practical side of things. He’s strong my boy but I know he must be hurting like hell inside. It’s got to be hard for him to see me going through this and I hope his friends rally around him as he’ll be needing support and kindness as much as I will be. Maybe even a night out here and there to relief the stress of the situation.

It’s also got to be really hard on my mum. Mum’s been through cancer herself and lost a sister to cancer two years ago. What a horrid disease.

Polly’s much better today and we’ve started giving her expressed breast milk to get her used to bottles. I want to wait until she’s 100% before weaning her onto formula. She’s still got a cough and blocked nose. I’ve decided not to give her a bottle myself just yet. Just can’t bring myself to do it. Its nice to have our cheeky smiley Polly back. She’s so different to Rosie who was a very serious baby, hard to crack a smile from. She’s just what I need at a time like this. She really lightens the mood. Rosie is keeping us grounded too by being your typical self centered 3 year old. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just the way it is and has been since soon after Polly’s arrival. If she’s not getting the attention she wants we all know about it! It will be hard to give her what she needs from me going forward. I expect that her behaviour in this manner will get worse before it gets better. There are going to be days when I’m not physically or emotionally capable of fulfilling her needs and that breaks my heart. I’m really unsure of what approach we should take if and when I do become sick from treatment or after surgery. Complete honesty? Can a 3 year old handle this? Or do we play it down? I think that would require more energy and I’m not sure I’ll have it in me. Which is better for her I wonder…

Anyway, still waiting and wondering. If you’d like to receive updates in your inbox just sign up to the top right of this page.

Love and kisses, Cas

Shocked…

What a week, the worst week of my life so far. On Thursday I found out that I have invasive breast cancer. Yep, the big, bad “C”. I wasn’t exactly shocked when I found out (even though that’s what I’ve called this post) but I was devastated and nearly passed out upon hearing the news and relaying it to Derek.

A bit of background information:

In my third trimester with Polly I found two lumps on my left breast. I mentioned them to my OB and he sent me for a scan. I had the scan on 10 April and then had Polly on 11 April (2.5 weeks early). When Polly was 2 weeks old I then went back for a FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration) of the lumps so they could take some samples to test for anything abnormal. The pathology results came back as lactational changes and I was told to come back in 3 months for a follow up. I was really just going through the motions and was never concerned that it could be cancer. Breasts are lumpy during pregnancy and breastfeeding and I’d had a lump scanned when feeding Rosie that came back clear and eventually went away. I was not worried one little bit.

About 3 weeks ago I discovered a lump under my arm. I was due to go back to my GP for a follow up anyway and mentioned the lump under my arm at the same time. She referred me onto a surgeon who sent me for another scan and FNA on the new lump. This took place on Tuesday last week and I go into detail below. At this point I still wasn’t worried and the thought of cancer didn’t even cross my mind, again I was just going through the motions as it was the practical thing to do.

My week looked like this:

Monday:

Home with 2 sick girls. Calling Dr for results to a blood test I had last week to find out if I have an egg allergy. Nurse telling me Dr wants to discuss results with me in person. At this stage I was thinking this was the worst thing that could happen to me this week. I love eggs! I also booked girls in for Dr app on Wednesday.

Derek was away with work and Polly woke up overnight vomiting from coughing so much. She rarely vomits so it had me quite worried.

Tuesday:

Ultrasound and core biopsy on left breast and me thinking Polly could possibly have whopping cough (she doesn’t).

When I was in getting the scan done there was a moment when I realised that something wasn’t quite right. The radiographer’s demeanour towards me changed and there was a discussion with the radiologist about concerning breast tissue around the lump, not just the lump itself. They pretty much ignored the lump under my arm, except telling me it was a lymph node, and then decided to do a core biopsy on the larger of the original lumps (which is situated 12 o’clock, 6cm from my nipple with a smaller one 2cm below this lump). A core biopsy takes a larger sample than a FNA, which is what they did originally. Looking back I realise they would have a fair idea of what abnormal breast tissue would look like having done this many times over. I think they knew there was a problem then and there, even before the pathology results came back.

Polly’s cough was worsening and she was very tired from a big day of driving up to Rocky, waiting around with Armah (Derek’s mum) and driving back again.

Wednesday:

GP – Rosie: chest infection, antibiotics. Polly: Bronchiolitis (viral infection, lots of coughing and wheezing), watch and wait. Me: Egg white allergy/intolerance. Shit. Could this week get any worse! Back to GP on Friday to see how Polly’s doing.

Thursday:

Worst day of my life. Finding out I have breast cancer has been a surreal experience and to be honest I don’t think it’s quite hit home just yet the enormity of what’s to come. I’m trying hard not to look too far into the future because it’s just too overwhelming. That’s not to say that thoughts don’t pop into my head that aren’t welcome there, they do but at this stage I really have to try to focus on the here and now. Anyway, I digress.

On Thursday morning Rosie and I were lounging around in our PJs and Polly was back in bed. Rosie was playing Lego blocks with Playschool on in the background. We were building a house, having snacks and having some quality time while Polly was in bed. At 9:40am the home phone rang. I thought to myself it was either Mum or Sue as they’re normally the only ones who ring on the home phone. It was the surgeon who’d sent me for more tests (which I wasn’t expecting back until Friday or Monday). I can’t remember his exact words but he told me it wasn’t good news, he was sorry for telling me over the phone, but that it was breast cancer, what did Derek do and could we come in that afternoon. A feeling of absolute dread took over my whole body, I cried, he apologised again for telling me over the phone and I managed to get myself together for long enough to make an appointment for 2:45pm later that day. I hung up and immediately phoned Derek, my head was spinning and I thought I was going to pass out. I was having trouble standing, talking and breathing and poor Rosie was witness to it all. Derek left work immediately and called my sister in law, Jo who lives around the corner, to come sit with me until he got home. I called Mum and gave her the bad news whilst waiting for Jo to arrive. I did not want to be alone with my thoughts for one minute. Jo arrived, followed by Derek’s parents, followed by Derek himself.

There was a lot of crying that day.  Lucky for me one of my oldest and closest friends, Rebecca, was in Yeppoon up from Canberra.  Beck underwent a similar experience 4 years ago when her Drs discovered a brain tumour.  4 years on Beck is going strong and will be fantastic support for me going forward (and has been already).  Beck came with Derek and I to my surgeon’s appointment.  It was great to have her there as she picked up things that went over our heads due to her history not just with her brain tumour but also in pathology.    There was so much information to take in, it was very overwhelming. Information overload…

I won’t go into details of the conversation with the surgeon at this stage because we’re currently waiting on more results so that we can make decisions about where to go from here.  The results we’re waiting on are from an MRI I had on Friday.  I will be having surgery, that’s a given.  The type of surgery will depend on the results from the MRI.  What happens from there will depend on what they find during the surgery.

On Thursday evening my parents arrived and Derek’s mum Sue prepared a meal for 10 of us.  I had lost my appetite during the day but it came back with a force that evening.  Beck helped us relay all of the information to our families.

Friday:

I woke up feeling a bit better than I did the day before.  Derek, Polly & I went to my GP for a check up for Polly and for me to have a chat with her.  Polly was put on antibiotics as her Bronchiolitis had worsened.  I was given a lot of information which I’m slowly making my way through.  We were heading to the shops after the appointment when my surgeon called at 11:50am.  He asked if we could get up to the Mater in Rocky by 1pm as the mobile MRI machine was headed out of town that afternoon.  Before I knew it I was in a gorgeous blue gown that opens at the front and was told not to move whilst in the machine otherwise they’d have to do it again.  I was face down with my boobs inserted into two holes, arms above my head, feet first into the machine.  I was told to stay still for 45 minutes, which I did manage even though my arms went completely numb and I had restricted breathing room due to my positioning.  I wouldn’t allow my mind to wander and I focused on my breathing and thinking about my beautiful girls during happier times.

Unfortunately I didn’t get the results on Friday afternoon even though the receptionist at CQMI thought that I might.

Saturday:

I had a pretty good day considering the circumstances. Just playing the waiting game at this stage.  Things were surreally “normal”. Beck, Di and the kiddies came for a visit.

Sunday:

Went to bed late and we were up during the night with both girls.  Polly’s cough seemed to be worsening and she was having trouble feeding.  I woke up very fragile on Sunday morning and spent the morning in tears when I wasn’t sleeping.  A good cry and sleep seemed to be what was needed after being in a bit of denial for the last couple of days.  The afternoon was much better than the morning.

Today:

Waiting, waiting, waiting.  Hoping to hear from my surgeon very soon with results from the MRI so we can move forward instead of living in limbo thinking the worst but hoping for the best. I woke up with the girls’ colds this morning.  Yuk, last thing I need right now.  Feel sick to my stomach with nerves and worry today.  It’s bubbling up my chest and into my throat.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more sick with nerves and worry.  Thinking about giving birth never made me feel like this.

While I wait on hearing what the next stage will be, I dwell on how and why this could happen to me.  I’m 34 which means I’m in the 2% of women who get breast cancer in Australia (20-34 year olds).  I have no known family history (it’s normally maternal).  I’ve had babies and have breastfeed, both of which is meant to reduce the risk of breast cancer.  I live a relatively healthy lifestyle and don’t eat a lot of refined, processed foods or foods high in sugar.  It’s less of the why is this happening to me, more the how did it happen?!

The thing that upsets me the most at this stage is not having the cancer itself but how having it affects my role as a parent and my ideals as a mother.  I absolutely love breastfeeding.  If you know me well, you know this.  I’m not one of those breastfeeding mothers who thinks everyone should breastfeed as I know everyone has different circumstances but for me personally, it is absolutely devastating that I’m going to have to wean Polly when she is only 4 months old.  If this happened a year down the track, I would still be very upset at the situation but less so than now as Polly would be older and closer to being weaned anyway.  I fed Rosie until she was 16 months old and had planned on feeding Polly for at least 1 year and seeing what happened from there.  Being forced to have to stop doing something I love so much as a mother breaks my heart.  I was hoping there could be a way to continue on with feeding from my good breast after the surgery and even possibly after treatment by pumping and dumping every day but it looks like it won’t be possible as it’s most likely that I’ll be on hormone therapy for some time after surgery.

In some ways it’s a good thing Polly is so young as she’ll adjust to changes easier than if she were older.  Poor Rosie saw me during my darkest moment, something which I hope she doesn’t remember when she’s older.  Rosie’s developmental stages are spread out now but Polly’s are much closer together and I’m worried I’ll miss out on some of them over the next year or at least not be able to enjoy them as I would have.  Rosie is at an age where she needs routine, which may be difficult going forward.  On the up side, Polly rolled over today!

Plenty of if onlys, buts and whys. I know I’ll need to be super strong to get through this and I know I’m capable of it, I just hope that my body can handle it.

I’ll sign off for now and will be back with more information once we have it and have made the next lot of decisions.  Feel free to leave comments under this post or over on the Guestbook page of the blog.  I’d love to hear from you.