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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.