This is good news

Good news! The cancer has not spread beyond my lymph nodes. That means the rest of me is clean, according to the MRI, CT scan and bone scan.Sitting in the consultation room beside Zsolt, we both gave a sigh of relief. Whew.

However, the surgeon had more news: “You’ve got a rotten breast.” Rotten? It’s only been sweet to me this far in life. But it seems a little too sweet because the cancer has spread throughout my breast and crept into my lymph nodes. It’s like a cavity filled tooth – extraction is recommended. Anything else simply won’t be enough.

My surgeon proceeded to explain a little bit more. “The operation will take fifteen minutes.” Fifteen minutes . . .  surely my breast deserves more than fifteen minutes? Nope, just fifteen minutes because he “does this all the time.” And no, he doesn’t say it in a reassuring ‘pat-on-the-back’ kind of way; he says it in a ‘I’m a skilled surgeon, and you are lucky to have me’ kind of way.

Yes, I am lucky to have you. Please get every last scrap of this cancer out of my body. Please.

And that is exactly what I want – a surgeon who knows what he’s doing, and believes in his skill. Confidence is a huge asset, and it makes me think I’ll be in good hands.

Mind you, I’ve never been given a general anaesthetic. I have no idea what will happen, and have a slight feeling I’ll freak out before they inject the juice into my vein. Zsolt cannot even come with me. I’d rather his face be my last memory instead of the prep room’s empty white ceiling.

Hopefully his face will be there after waking. Something to look forward towards: Zsolt’s happy, smiling, and quietly concerned face. He is what I will strive for.

Wow – things have changed overnight. Life has shifted into high gear and turned a sharp corner; I’m along for the ride, reaching for the controls.  And eventually this drama will be over, and I can return to my nice, quiet life (wiser, bolder, stronger) just like always.

I look forward to my just like always.

B-b-b-bone scan

Ah well, home again. The day has been conquered.

Basically, it went well.

I’ve noticed that when Zsolt accompanies me into any sort of consultation or treatment, he’s assigned a chair. This chair is always to the side. But the thing is, Zsolt is part of my treatment – when they talk to me they need to talk with him too.

So I’ve started asking him to sit beside me. For instance, today while I was laying on the bed about to receive an injection of radiation (I literally become radioactive) I asked whether my husband could come closer. The nurse had assigned him a seat in the corner of the room. She said no problem, and he came round by the bed. Because my arms were occupied he held my feet instead.

Quick tip: Anyone who gets nervous while receiving needles, I suggest you have a friend or loved one accompany you and rub your feet. What a great difference it made. Having that second physical sensation took my mind off the pinch.

That was stage one of the bone scan: get injection.

Stage two of the bone scan: wait.

Since we came on the bus, it wasn’t worthwhile to return home. Instead Zsolt and I struck out for the only green space available  – the cemetery.

I love cemeteries. They are a refuge from the busy, loud world. And while literally surrounding myself with death sounds morbid, it isn’t. Believe me, it isn’t. My father used to take me to old cemeteries and we would read the inscriptions. People display real sentiment on grave stones; love shines through a handful of words, so why be afraid? Anyhow, I love cemeteries. They are history and family and nature and art and love and culture.

We took a walk between the graves, and I sipped on my water (4 cups of water must be consumed within those two hours). Eventually we found a patch of grass that bordered a plot of land with large horses, so we spread out the blanket and laid back in the sunlight.   The horses scratched themselves on fence posts, and I watched the clouds drift by.

Too bad my bladder didn’t enjoy the scenery – it filled to the brim and I jumped from beside Zsolt, making a break for the nearest toilet.

Stage three of the bone scan: the bone scan.

This is easy. A breeze. Nothing to it.  Zsolt and I went into the scan room, he was assigned his usual ‘corner of the room’ chair and I had my scan. The plates come very close to the face, but if you close your eyes that isn’t a problem. The only demand is to stay very, very still.

Meanwhile, Zsolt was chatting with the nurse (tip: bringing a partner into the scan room means they can quiz the nurses while you are laying there unable to move. She told him our doctor has a very good reputation for breast cancer surgery, and has a particular interest in young people). And while Zsolt had his talk, I listened to “Think” sung by Aretha Franklin play over the radio and remembered that awesome scene from the Blues Brothers in the diner.   Fried chicken and soapy dishes, with awesome back-up singers snacking at the counter.  I love that movie.

And Bing! Scan’s ready. They kept us five extra minutes to confirm the quality, but everything was fine so off we went.

There you go – a full body bone scan in three stages.

Tomorrow comes the CT scan. I’m not sure what it involves (apart from X-rays), but so long as it doesn’t induce vomiting or black outs, it’s okay with me.

Trying to relax

I’ve made it to the weekend. Next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I have a bone scan, CT scan and consultation (I may be given a surgery date). I’m trying for a dentist appointment next Thursday, and the Friday following is another acupuncture appointment.

So thank goodness for the for the weekend.  No hospital, no work, no tests. Nothing. Just my husband and I goofing around on a lazy Saturday morning.

This week has been overwhelming. Even Postie Chris noticed that I’m off. This morning he asked me, “Are you well, Catherine?” as I opened the door in my bathrobe. But in England they often ask are you all right? , and I never know whether they are serious or just saying hello. Am I all right? Do I look ill?

Anyhow, I told him I was mostly fine because talking about breast cancer at 8 am was not the start I wanted. Mind you, he was delivering a packet of breast cancer information from the BCC and an order from Amazon for Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Soul, so I guess the topic was unavoidable.

It feels as though many hands are reaching out and wanting to pat my back. Which is fantastic and supportive, but also a little tiring. Never in my life have I been good with receiving attention. And though a part of me craves that spotlight (to be a focus in something exciting and great), I generally run as soon as the stage becomes too warm. One way or another I find myself back and safe in my quiet life.

But the support is good, very good. I don’t feel so alone and that encouragement is strengthening. Though when it comes to advice it does get a little difficult.

Obviously trying all possible therapies is my best shot at beating cancer. But I can’t do everything to please everyone – and when it comes to that, it’s quite crushing to let people down. Crushing and frustrating and even angering. That look of disappointment is a difficult thing with which to cope.  And to know what people like my husband and parents are feeling inside is even worse – I can literally see the look on my mother’s face when I think of her worried. Which, by the by, is probably why it took me so long to tell them. Zsolt I couldn’t help telling, but at least I was able to stop that worry a little longer for my parents. However, they should have known earlier – and I do realize that.

I have these feelings swirling around inside, so thank goodness for the weekend. I need it.

Quick addition: Zsolt bought me an ‘easy pen’ for the computer. What a man! Now I can draw with more than just my fingers in Paint.