Blimey. I did not expect the response I got to my last post. You guys are all so bloody nice! And you all said so many lovely, wonderful things that made me feel exceptionally strong. And so many people stopped by to read what I had written and leave comments. And so many of you wrote to me to tell me you had checked your boobs or gender appropriate parts. I’m not sure you can quite understand how that made me feel (I just read that back and realised how creepy it sounded. Decided to leave it in because it made me lol).
Since diagnosis, I’ve had appointments coming out of my ears so that the surgeons and oncologists can gather all of the information they need to make an informed decision on how we’re going to proceed. I want to clarify again that my breast cancer has been detected super early which makes my prognosis very, very good. That said, despite how I’ve felt recently (I.e like I’m a fraud, more on that later) I do still have cancer. Just have to keep reminding myself.
I thought it would be helpful to give a quick outline of all of the appointments I’ve had since being diagnosed. If you haven’t just had a BC diagnosis, this might be a bit dull, but if you have, here’s a big squeeze for you and encouragement to read on. Buckle in team, this is a bloody long one.
Just two days after being diagnosed, I came back to London from a couple of days in the healing air of Yorkshire for a contrast mammogram. As a younger lady, my boobies are more dense than those usually looked at on a mammogram, so they injected me with dye so they could get a better look and took two pictures of each knocker. I was warned that the dye might make me feel like I had wet myself and literally 30 seconds after they’d injected the dye through a cannular in my right arm, I had to do a pat down to make sure I hadn’t had a little wee (you’ll be glad to know I hadn’t had an accident, despite how it felt). The mammogram looked scarier than it was but actually it was super straight forward. My boobs were basically pressed between two plates of plastic at various angles and while it was mildly uncomfortable, I think it’s unfair to say it hurt.
After that I was shuffled into another room to have a metal marker popped into “the nonsense” so they could find it when they needed to operate. They’d also found another lump which they took a biopsy from to make sure it wasn’t nasty too (spoiler – it wasn’t, yay!). The biopsy wasn’t pleasant. It’s kind of like having a piercing gun injected into your boob and it sounds about the same as being stapled to the wall – with the same loud bang, but I had had one of these in Lewisham before I got diagnosed so it was practically old hat .
Because I’m so young and have no family history of breast cancer, there’s a possibility (albeit a small one) that I have the BRCA gene – which is basically a faulty cancer gene, so I also had an appointment with a geneticist to talk me through the risks of having that gene and what would happen if I did. Though it’s going to take three months for that to come back, as they’re also testing for another gene called P53, this will affect whether I need to have a mastectomy and my ovaries removed at a later date. The geneticist said “cancer” a lot of times, but other than that, it was kind of alright. And the geneticist was lovely and helpful and kind so I felt so well looked after.
The following Monday, Chris and I went along to probably the most distressing appointment I have had when we visited the Assisted Conception Unit to chat about fertility options. Basically, they reckon chemo ages your ovaries by about 10 years so they need to offer me ways to protect my ability to have sproglets in case I want them in the future. Ok so I don’t particularly want kids, but being forced by some pesky little cells into making decisions about my fertility pissed me off a bit. Cancer, who on earth are you to dictate this part of my life? Apparently you can get away with anything!
Anyway, we still found the time to have a big old laugh during this weird experience. As they’d squeezed us in for an appointment, there were no regular rooms available for us to chat with the fertility doctor in. We were taken along a corridor to a sterile treatment room and handed hairnets, shoe covers and white coats. While I was having one of the most bizarre conversations of my life and getting my ovaries internally scanned (blegh) to check on egg production, I looked like I worked in a cheese factory.
I also had an MRI late last week. After donning a rather fetching hospital gown, I was given a cannular so the radiographers could inject some more dye into my system half way through the scan, enabling them to see things a bit clearer. This one did not make me feel like I had lost control of my bladder. It’s important to prefix this story with the explanation that despite having a massive breakfast (at Roast in Borough market with my wonderful friend Georgia) I hadn’t had enough to drink, and during one of the attempts at putting the cannular in – and there were four – I passed out. Blurry vision, confusion, cold sweats, the whole shebang. But after a couple of minutes, a cold cup of water or two I was cannulated and ready to take on my stint in the MRI machine. Because it was my bossies being checked, I had to lie face down with my boobs in a weird plastic bra mechanism enabling them to examine the lump and all of its surrounding tissue, as well as making sure there was nothing sinister lurking in any other nooks and crannies. The oncologists were a bit concerned about the tissue in between the bad lump and the good lump but, spoiler alert, the tissue is totally fine!
The day I went to see the oncologist for the first time since diagnosis was the day after I had published my first blog and I had a bit of a wobble. The night previous I had decided it was a good idea to watch The C Word (at home, on my own), a drama about inimitable blogger Lisa Lynch who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late 20’s. I’d recorded the show before I knew I had breast cancer and I thought it was a good idea to watch it. And it was. But I think that combined with all of the empowering messages of support I had received from you lovely lot made me short circuit and shit myself. Not literally, but figuratively. I panicked. I was scared of what was to come and what I would find out. But it was kind of ok.
Getting a cancer diagnosis makes you feel all kinds of emotions. I have been so, so positive for most days. I’ve got the best of a bad diagnosis. So many women have this so much worse than me. I am so lucky. But, as I’ve said before and as I have to keep reminding myself, I do still have cancer. I am facing possibly losing my breasts if the surgeon decides it’s the best course of action or I am positive for the BRCA genes. I am going to lose my hair this year. It’s not going to be easy. And even though I feel OK right now, I’ve still got cancer. And even though it doesn’t feel real and that’s making it difficult to process, it’s definitely real.
I’m not going to lie, after the response to my last blog post I was worried I’d made too big of a deal about my diagnosis. Should I have just kept my head down and got on with it? I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined so many people would read my little blog and see the start of my (x factor word) journey. I just feel like this is something I have to get on with and if it helps anyone else then that’s a wonderful thing. But it’s also a bit scary.
Will let you know when I’ve got a treatment plan in place. Hopefully that will be VERY soon.
Did you check your boobies this week? Here’s a picture of me in a hospital gown for your amusement.