Friday, 28 December 2012

On the third day of Christmas my Doctor gave to me.........

So we had a good Christmas - quiet - as ironically my Mother-in-law came down with flu and so it ended up being just the 4 of us after all.  I was, however spoilt rotten as were we all. I ate too much and drunk to the excess and fell into bed exhausted and content. Boxing day passed pretty much the same and then came the hospital appointment yesterday.

First of all I met the Oncologist Dr Sarah Smith and ironically she had the nicest head of hair I have ever seen. I couldn't stop staring at how gorgeous it was. I continued to stare when she discussed putting in for the "Hereditary cancer gene" test. She told me she would make arrangements for the paperwork to be sent to me, however as I am aware that most cancers are not hereditary I was not unduly worried. She however continued to tell me that the test - if it is offered to me - would involve a simple blood test, yet it would take a couple of months for the results to come through - bet Sharon Osbourne never had that long to wait! Unfortunately, Katie my daughter - who we had promised to take to the sales afterwards - sat in on the appointment. Dr Smith told her she shouldn't worry as all my female family that had died of breast cancer had been in their late 40's. She is only 17, but I am 46!

She then went on to discuss how large the mass of cancer that had been removed from my breast was, along with the fact that even though everything was taken away along with the lymph nodes, the cancer that I had was very fast growing and if I had some particles floating about my body cells that were too small to see under scrutiny, then it was possible that other parts of my body could quickly become infected. So in this instance I was to have a bone and brain scan in the next week or so and further treatment would start within the next fortnight. She then asked me if I wanted to know that with the type of cancer that I had, what my odds were for survival? I blinked a few times and quickly told her that I had decided that I didn't want to know. I just stated that I am sure the good old NHS have got my back and I would take my chances and have the treatment.

This involves 6 sessions of chemotherapy every three weeks over the course of around 4 months as long as I am up to it. A cardiology appointment has been booked for New Years Eve to ensure that my heart is strong enough to take the treatment. The first 3 sessions involve some very invasive chemo made up of a cocktail of three different types of drugs being put into a line - which I will have to have surgically inserted at Addenbrooks hospital in the next week or so under a local anaesthetic - this would go into a main artery through my arm and into my chest. This line would stay in for the whole of my treatment.
Dr Smith told me that my hair would fall out completely within 2 to 3 weeks after the first session of chemo. So I get to have a wig fitting beforehand. I was then told about the other side effects I can expect - joy! All I can say is hopefully I won't get them all.
Then the last three sessions are a different type of chemo. Apparently all this is the best chemo that money can buy.
We also touched on the radiotherapy I would have,  again quite invasive everyday for 3 weeks. This will be administered to the breast I have had reconstructed and near my collarbone, as this is the next lot of lymph nodes that could be infected. After this I have to stay on hormone drugs for 5 years and have regular check ups.

Now although none of this is a surprise to me, it now seems real - very real. I didn't realise the urgency of my condition and the speed of which my cancer can grow. I also didn't think that the possibility of waking up and finding my hair on the pillow would be a reality, I thought it was just something that people said to be scaremongery,  not a fact.

I asked Dr Sarah Smith what the good news was? She just did that small laugh that people do when they don't have any answers. Lastly, she asked if there was any questions, I looked at my daughter and my husband and muttered something about having to take everything in. She nodded her head and agreed. I then signed my life away once more on a piece of paper that says the aim is to cure. Blah Blah Blah.

When we emerged from Dr Smith's office I went to the toilet and wept, I wept because Dr Smith had lovely hair and mine was going to be gone in a matter of weeks, I wept because she delivered everything to me in a perfectly simple way that I could understand - and I understood too well everything she was saying. I wept even more because my daughter was in the room and had heard everything that her mum had to go through and I wept because I thought I can't snap out of this and make light of it. I wanted to wallow in self pity, but I had got to put being a mother first. So I dried my eyes and came out and got into the car all dignified, even though I was dying inside.

All three of us went to a cafe in Bedford and I couldn't help myself I broke down in tears and so did Kate. My husband had tears in his eyes as he rushed around getting serviettes for us to dry our eyes on. The cafe was packed but none of us could help ourselves. An argument broke out, as I kept apologising to Kate telling her I should never have let her come into the office and hear all of what was said. She told me she was 17 and it was her right to know what was happening with her mum.

I knew that if she wasn't there I would have sorted myself out and told both the children a watered down version when I got home. The fact was she had heard and I knew it was pointless to keep it from my son as she insisted that he was told. So we told him - and scared the bloody life out of him. Andrew and I argued he walked out. I shouted at the children.

Half an hour later when we had all calmed down and Andrew asked me how I felt, numb was the words that came to mind. I didn't want to tell any one as quite frankly I couldn't be bothered. Close friends texted and asked I told them to read my blog. Family called and I told Andrew to talk to them.

Today, I am still wallowing in self pity. I have eaten Christmas pudding for my tea, and I have washed my pain killers down with red wine. I've cuddled the kids, and the cat. I've hung on to my husband - wordlessly.
I know that I will come out of this very soon - but not today. Today is for me to feel sorry for myself. Tomorrow - with a bit of luck - I'll be back to my old positive self, cracking jokes and looking forward to the future. The future that WILL involve me being Cancer free and watching my children grow up. A future where I won't be scared to live each day without worrying if its spread, If its come back or if its hiding somewhere, waiting to pop up when I least expect it.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

All I want for Christmas is a new boob...........

So here I am three days before Christmas up and about and more or less pain free. ( I have my medication under control) A little bit blonder ( Courtesy of Carrie from Hair Perfection) and a little bit wiser. I've got ruby red glittery nails ( Courtesy of Donna of Smart nails) and I'm feeling more or less normal.

I've spent far to much money on presents for some people and not enough for others - just blame the drugs. However I have managed to sit on the floor and wrap them, but its escaped me to post any Christmas cards to anyone. I wrote lists for the food and "to do lists" I managed to catch up with East Enders and paid all the bills but I forgot to send out the blooming Christmas cards! All the food and booze has now been purchased but I know there still some bits I have forgotten - I just can't think what.
 My in laws have decided to come for Christmas dinner, not sure if you remember,  but my father in law was having a hard time after having Radiotherapy. They managed to drive over here last Sunday, they had hardly been out for weeks - my mother in law stated that Andrex can have their shares back now. However, we still ensured a safe path to our loo if he needed it while they were here. Anyway, over bacon sandwiches and mince pies we asked them if they would come for Christmas as always.  ( My Dad who is coming up for 80 is spending the day with my sister and my nieces are probably spending it with boyfriends. Mum lives in New Zealand so that's not going to happen. How time change.) Anyway, the proviso is that we get in plenty of toilet roll and I don't lift a finger to cook as Andrew and my mother in law have agreed to make the dinner between them. I hesitantly agreed but as I've always maintained - no one touches the roast potatoes. THAT IS MY JOB. No cancer or anything else for that matter is going to stop me from making the roasties, no man or beast dare even try!

I've been to the hospital twice this week, once to have my dressings changed - thank god, and again yesterday for my results. The surgeon ( who took away the cancer and lymph nodes) asked to take a look, so after all the dressings were taken off the words " Look at that" made my eyes water. I cannot believe how fantastic my breast looks. Everything has taken and the skin that was cut from my back has blended in and made my breast look wonderful. My side and armpit are still really swollen, and my back where they took the muscle and the skin still really hurts, however everything is coming together really well. My arm where the nerve and lymph nodes have been removed, is getting better every day. I can lift my arm above my head and the feeling is slowly coming back, but the best thing is that they got all the cancer. The tumour that they took out of the breast was 8cm, but only 4 out of 10 of the lymph nodes were infected. Basically this means that the cancer didn't spread to anywhere else.
I will still have to have chemotherapy and other treatments, but the cancer I have will be receptive to hormone drugs which is great news, so there is a good chance that I can be cured. Obviously I will have to wait 5 years to hear that news but with all the checks and treatment coming up I am very hopeful.
I see the oncologist the day after Boxing day to find out when treatment starts,  but until then life is good.
I'll also get an appointment with the plastic surgeon within the next month so he can see his amazing work. I then get to discuss having a new nipple. Apparently a machine can tattoo the areola - how amazing is that?

The day after coming out of hospital I  booked a hall and I've arranged a New Years eve party, so all the wonderful people that are in our life can all get together. I figure that by then even I can look half decent if I get a dress that covers my boob but still shows that I've got two! Also I want to end the year on a good note and maybe I'll be well enough to have a bit of a boogie! After all you've got to look forward, haven't you!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Its me and I look the same

Hi everyone, sorry I haven't wrote for a while. I have been through every emotion, pain, happiness, sadness, you name it I've been through it. I feel more on a even keel now. Morphine free I think. So I want to tell you how its been for me and everyone around me in the last 10 days. However, I don't want this to appear to be a sad recollection of my time in hospital. So I will just give you a brief synopsis of how it was. First of all I just want you to see a letter that I sent a couple of days ago to the Director of Nursing. On Tuesday I will be meeting up with this lady after I have been to the Breast Clinic to have my dressing looked at. Anyway here is the letter:

To whom this may concern                                                                                                   

I arrived on the Richard Wells ward as a surgical patient on the 6th December 2012 at 7.30am I was booked in for Breast Surgery, a mastectomy with a Latissimus Dorsi Reconstruction. This is where the problems started. I was told by a lovely apologetic nurse that unfortunately there was not a bed available for me, but she was working hard at trying to find me one – I didn't doubt it.
Unfortunately, in the meantime we were left in the staff room – it was quite comfortable but I felt that the staff although very pleasant and apologetic to my husband and me, felt uncomfortable eating their food and taking their breaks with us sitting in there – and quite rightly so we ourselves kept apologising. However, by the time we spent a considerable amount of hours in the staff room it had became quite apparent that the Richard Wells ward had more problems than just a lack of bed space.
During my stay, I experienced a great deal of pain because staff did not have the time to attend to me. On the second night I waited hours for my morphine to be topped up. Admittedly, this is quite sketchy in the amount of time, but no one could get another cannula into my arm or hand. However, I know I was left for a good few hours as I was panicking and texting my husband. In the end I asked for a doctor but again I waited for ages and indeed it took a while for her to fit it as well. Circumstances that shouldn’t have happened if the members of staff involved hadn’t been so busy elsewhere.  This may seem like an old cliché that you read about in the papers or watch on the television, however the medical staff that were involved were never at any time at fault – but when you experience this first hand it is without a shadow of a doubt the most soul destroying, inhuman experience to every happen to me.
I watched nurses on the Sunday running around like headless chickens; they could not keep up with the patients needs. When you are surrounded by people in pain, phones ringing, buzzers continually going off and cries of “help me” when you yourself are in agony, words cannot begin to describe how I felt.
Nurses were apologising left right and centre and there was no time for one on one patient care. I felt guilty ringing my buzzer asking for pain relief, I was constipated, I was desperately in need of a jug of water and my bed was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t move – and quite frankly I was not the only one!
The old lady in the bed next to me pleaded with me to help her – and I couldn’t. She along with the young girl the other side of me needed to go to the toilet. Suzy was running backwards and forwards between both of them. At one point in-between pleading, the old lady messed the bed. This was at lunch time – I could not eat.
The woman opposite also kept crying out in pain and – as I sat in the middle of all this, I eventually managed to stagger over to pull my curtains as I did not want to see anymore. I put my earphones in and cried and cried. After an hour or so of crying Suzy managed to pop her head around the curtain and ask me if I was okay and did I need to talk. I told her that that would be lovely but she didn’t have time did she? She shrugged and smiled and again apologised.
I was sick of hearing Sarah and Suzy saying to everyone “Sorry I’ll be there in a minute” “Sorry no we don’t have any more beds” or “I’ll be there as soon as I can” Sarah left her shift and handed over without being able to change my dressing – which she had been promising me all day, or to give me a suppository.  I know she tried her very best to get to me and did indeed hand over this information to the next nurse. However, by the time my husband turned up later I was in complete meltdown crying and generally so upset about what I had seen and heard, and my complete experience of the day.   I had the total realisation that each and every member of the staff on the ward, was, despite their best efforts unable to make a difference in patient care. Quite simply, they are too overstretched, too exhausted and too emotionally drained.
 Ironically I have no doubt that the sickness record on this ward alone throughout the staff is extremely high. I just hope that none of them end up on this ward.

In short, something must be done. I never want this terrible experience to happen to anyone else – and yet I know this is an everyday occurrence.

Wendie Webb

In patient 6th December – 12th December 2012

So you see, that was my experience in hospital - don't get me wrong the whole team were fantastic. On that particular evening I was moved to my own room so I could get away from all the noise.Not that I asked for it, I think the sister on duty took one look at me and decided I needed some sleep as  I was exhausted.
I had three drains in, one in my breast, and two in my back. After a good nights sleep one of my drains was taking out and I started to feel a bit more like me again - except for the pain. This was controlled better after I moved to my own room - thank god.
After 2 more days on the Wednesday I had the other 2 drains out, my dressings changed and I was allowed to go home. My Breast care nurse Rachel pulled a few strings and came to the conclusion that I would be better off in my own environment.

Here I am now in my own home - yes its been difficult, however the house looks great, all the Christmas decorations are up. Hubby and kids have been cooking and cleaning and running the house and me.
 I did wash my hair practically on my own today, can't wait to have a proper shower or bath after my dressings are off. I can sleep - albeit we have had to change sides of the bed with hubby - on my left side now. Lying down is painful as you can imagine as I have had a flap of skin and a large muscle taken out of my back, but I am getting stronger everyday. My reconstructed breast is amazing. It's extremely swollen and so is under my arm pit where all my lymph nodes were removed.. However it is looking good already. With my clothes on no one would ever know. I have to exercise my arm and my shoulder which is painful - but a must.

Who would have thought that 9 days after a mastectomy I would have been Christmas shopping. No I'm not cooking or cleaning yet, and it will be a few weeks before I can drive, but give me time. This Friday I get my results, and I am hoping that the cancer has only spread to the one lymph node and not to any of the others they removed.  I knew that they took quite a bit of cancer away from inside my breast as they informed me afterwards. Hopefully the next stage of my fight will be containment, but whatever it brings I've got my tremendous family and friends who I know will be there for me every step of the way - just as they always have been.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Everybody's changing and I don't feel the same

Today as the big op draws near I have cancelled all my plans. Plans which involved meeting up with friends. Don't get me wrong I'm not sitting here feeling sorry for myself -  reason is I'm sick to death of talking about cancer. Granted no one prepares you for how you're going to feel, you have to just get on with it. No - what's worse is there isn't anyone who can tell you how to deal with those around you, those special people who you love. Each and every one of them is different and no booklet, leaflet or professional who specialises in cancer can tell you how to deal with them - they don't know them like I do.  At this present moment in time - my husband who is always 100 miles an hour is asleep on the sofa - it is 8.15 in the morning. He looks shot to bits. When I talk to him he tells me he is so worried about me but he is exhausted. My son who is a very private 15 year old, hovered around me last night and kept hugging me, as we sat down he poured out how sad and scared he is. We talked and talked and have done our best to convince him that mum will be okay, he tells me that we have been here before and he is sick of it. My heart breaks a bit more for him and I cling to this tall man-child who is so brave yet so fretful, his eyes glistening with unshed tears and I curse cancer for doing this to him.  My daughter is in bed, I took one look at her exhausted white face this morning and told her to go back there. Filled up a hot water bottle and tucked her back under the covers. When we talked to her last night she tells me that she is not worried for me as she knows what a fighter I am, but her face tells another story - she is trying to be brave and carry on as if nothing has changed - but everything has changed. Apart from the fact that I cannot make this right for my immediate family. I also have friends and family in shock, friends that cannot talk to me as they break down in tears. Parents that are in disbelief that their daughter has got to go through this again and a sister that doesn't have a clue what she and my nieces should say to me. This horrible illness  affects everyone - and I cannot make it better for any any of them.
I am worn down and stressed out by looking at those around me. I want to rant and rage and scream because  my children should not have to go through this again. My husband's shoulders only have a certain broadness to them and my poor dad who is 80 next year does not know what to say to his little girl. My mum well she lives in New Zealand and I cannot imagine how she feels.

So all I can do is remain cheerful, stay positive and keep fighting for all those close to me. I am bloody well damned if I am going to let this stop me from living my live with the people that I love. I cannot allow anyone or anything to change my mindset, all the wonderful support I have had is immense but at the end of the day I've got to do this myself. 

Tomorrow is my last day until I go in for the operation. I've got a list as long as my arm on last minute bits I've got to do. So on Thursday I just have to get up and go to the hospital. I am assured that very good care will be taken of me. I just hope that while I'm away very good care will be taken of my family..........

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Thanks for the memories

This week's been one of the best week's ever. I've been spoilt rotten, taken out, taken away and had fantastic presents, cards and great words of love and friendship. In between all this frivolity, I've had blood taken, an ECG, x ray and just about every other test you can think of. I've been asked question after question about family history, past illnesses and medications that I'm taking. In between all this I've managed to have a laugh with all the nurses and doctors who've seen me, we've played guess the weight of the boob.            ( Obviously I will of course lose weight when its gone ) bit of a strange way to lose weight but well beggars can't be choosers  So that'll be at least 4 pounds I reckon!

Today while hubby and I were on our weekend away, in-between Christmas shopping - I really must stop spending now -  I found a shocking pink wig for when I start chemo - my son was not impressed, especially after I wore it with my black ear muffs to show him how cool his mum looked. I've also purchased a shocking pink sports bra that I'm taking in to the hospital to wear after the operation. I've also got some shocking pink false nails that I plan to wear as soon as I am able to. More new pyjamas, Christmas socks and to top it all a Christmas gift bag to put my chest drains in. So I think I'm all set. I did however draw the line at the Christmas nipple covers we saw in Ann Summers, although my husband was all for it!

I just hope that I can keep up with my positive attitude. If I'm honest I'm fed up with waiting, its been more than a month since I found out and even though I'm trying to stay upbeat, a couple of times today I've felt a bit tearful.  I've watched women go by with fabulous hair and I've looked at all the beautiful underwear in the shops that I can't wear for a while but most of all,  last night in the hotel after we came back from the fantastic restaurant that Andrew had booked we got chatting to a couple in the hotel bar. They had just taken early retirement aged 60 and were planning to spend the winter in Spain. All I could think was - am I going to get old with Andrew? Will we ever be in the situation where we can go away when we retire? Will I see my children grow up? Silly I know, I've got the mind set that I just want my boob taken away and replaced with a new one that isn't going to kill me but it doesn't make it any easier. When I look at myself in the mirror naked and see what I've always seen albeit a large scar running from just below my sternum to my pubic bone. I wonder what it will really be like this new boob will the scars heal as well and as quick as I did last time on both my chest and my back? Will the new boob be a good match, and will it look okay when I dressed and when I'm naked?

 So I've decided that I'm not going to read any more leaflets and booklets on breast cancer as it depresses the hell out of me. Instead Andrew has bought me Miranda Hart's -  Manuel for life, and I downloaded Mr Buble's Christmas album on my I pod. So unless he decides to turn up at my bedside and serenade me, I think I've got everything I possibly need to keep me upbeat and Christmassy. I just wonder if I'll be able to watch the X Factor final without my normal glass of wine in my hospital bed?

So this time next week, I'll have a new boob albeit no nipple, my pain should be controlled and I'll be thinking about coming home to see how the kids have decorated the tree and the house. To be fair at this present moment in time the house being decorated seems more daunting. So hopefully once we get this big hurdle out of the way ( the boob not the Christmas Deck's ) I'll then have the 2 and a half week wait till I get the results. So I'd best be prepared for that. One step at a time Wendie - one step at a time.....................

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Preparation is key

Yesterday I went along to the Primrose suite at the hospital. First of all Hubby and I were really confused by the chirpy ladies on reception. There they were chatting and laughing,  to be fair I wanted to say " Er excuse me" but then I realised - well its not meant to be a morgue is it!
 We took a seat and checked out the fish tank, well Andrew did. I walked round and saw all the books and leaflets on cancer and chemotherapy which to be fair is perfectly normal to me now.
After a short wait we were called up by my nurse Rachel, shown to a lovely room and immediately offered a cup of tea. I had brought a list of questions ranging from what cancer do I have - multifocal grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma with metastatic in the axillary nodes. Which to you and me means the cancer is in one area, but we don't know how big it is. The type of cancer is fast growing it's spread to at least one lymph node, but its a common cancer. So once the operation is done and everything is tested, I will get my results two weeks after whereas they will  put all of my statistics into a computer and it'll come up what type of treatment to have - which is aimed to cure me - amazing really. So two and a half weeks later I will be told what the future holds. I will be with the hospital for at least 5 years, but they are hoping that the treatment should take only 6 to 9 months, depending on the statistics.
Anyway,  I then asked Rachel a few more questions and had a little bit of a chat about my feelings. Which to be fair is mainly on the side of how bloody inconvenient this is at this time of year. As a control freak I wanted to get the house ready for Christmas and guests etc. I am convinced I will still be okay over Christmas and chemotherapy won't start until after. However not sure if I could rock a bald head for New Year's Eve! Although having said that on the way out -armed with loads more booklets - I am thinking of starting my own cancer publications library. We were taken to the wig department and the! There were at least 4 of them I'd quite happily wear. The room itself is made up like a little beauty salon with a dressing table and mirror for the fittings, while we were there I was also given a leaflet on pampering therapy entitled - Look good- Feel better, it's based around a complimentary make up workshop that I can go to - and I get a  free goody bag full of make up - happy days. I was also given a swimwear and underwear brochure although pricey some of it was very glamorous and I thought now you're talking. This having cancer lark is not too bad, wigs, free make up, new boob, what more could a girl ask for?

Through all of this my husband and children have kept abreast (no pun intended) of what has been going on. I sat the children down again yesterday and gave them an update of what's happening. My son pondered everything we had told him and  asked " when you go bald, please tell me you're not going to get a really wacky wig?" To which I replied " Of course I am Con this is my chance to look really outlandish, I want a purple and pink one. I will never get this chance again, to be able to express the real me" He looked at me - sniffed then asked if we could have sausage and mash for tea.
My daughter Katie is happy that even though I can't drive we can have a girls day in for her birthday the week before Christmas. Popcorn, hot chocolate and a movie day!

My husband Andrew hugs and kisses me everyday as if his life depends on it, we joke ( as always) that I am a selfish cow for getting cancer, but after Rachel  has told him I would probably only be in the hospital a maximum of 5 days tops he is slightly annoyed that he won't get the bed to himself for long to perfect his starfish impressions, but on the other hand he is relieved as he tells me he won't have to cook, clean, work and look after the kids for too long on his own - as it will be all too much for him...... I raise an eyebrow and we collapse into giggles. Laughter is never in short supply in our house.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Brave and beautiful

This week I have had the pleasure of spending time with some lovely people. First there was the wonderful lady who invited me to her home and showed me her boobs. Now that doesn't happen every day, but if you hold the C Card apparently it's a regular occurrence. I have to say they looked so fantastic - they made me cry. She then showed me last month's Sun newspaper where she and her hubby along with 2 other couples appeared topless in a centre spread. I found myself having to take a step back from embracing this lovely woman - who after all didn't know me, but had the good grace to allow me to tell her how fantastic I thought she was. When I left her house over two hours later,  I realised this would not be my first encounter with a brave and beautiful woman, who'd overcome Breast Cancer.
Whenever you see pictures of woman and indeed men who have come through this terrible ordeal, or are in fact coming through it, it seems to me they all have one thing in common - a radiant smile.
Yesterday, I went over to see my father in law who's just finished his last course of radiotherapy. In the summer he had a large operation for Bowel Cancer, and this time the treatment was for prostate cancer. I was anxious to see him, as we hadn't seen either my Mother or Father in Law for a while as he hadn't been  up to it. We knew that he would be weak, and we had joked that we would clear the way pretty quickly as he had the toilet 2 step - as we called it, and would continue to do so over the next three months because of his treatment. I had begged my husband not to tell them about my diagnosis, as apart from the fact that my husband's uncle - ( My father in law's brother ) has terminal cancer. I felt they didn't need me to add to the mix. Little did I know that my husband felt awful for lying to them. So in the end we agreed to tell them.  I have spent quite a few phone calls where they are trying to be cheerful because of their situation, and I'm trying to be cheerful because of my situation - oh the bloody mindless things we do so as not to worry our nearest and dearest.
During our visit yesterday, after hugs and kisses we skirted round each other' s illnesses -so as to not upset anyone. Then finally after a cup of tea and a slice of cake, we decided to plunge right in. We compared notes and talked about wigs and the beeping of radiotherapy machines. Biopsies, and our aches and pains, and all through this there was one thing that stayed at the forefront of my mind. My Father in law told me that in the radiotherapy suite where he went everyday for his treatment, all the people who were having the same treatment, were always happy and smiling cracking jokes and nobody came away - least of all him -  feeling sad.

 The lady who showed me her boobs earlier in the week had told me the same thing. The unit where she'd received her therapy was a happy, tight knit place. She had told me that these people had become her friends.

All through our visit with my in laws all I saw was my Father in law's radiant smile. He laughed and joked even though it was obvious he was in discomfort, and as I looked at both of them I realised that they were overcome with worry about me, and I was overcome with worry about them.

As I sit here typing - an old clinch I know - but I can't help thinking that if this people can get through it, so can I,  the grand dads, the Mother's the Sisters, Aunts and Brothers, and all the wonderful people that have battled this terrible illness.

 Last week during Children in Need we sat - my husband and I over a glass of wine or two, and as I watched a mother with 3 young children prepare them and herself for her inevitable death, I turned to my husband and said, " Just to get one thing straight, I'll never get like that - I'll know if it comes to it when there is time to stop treatment and not have my body swell up like hers, enough is enough"  but of course now I know that she never stopped fighting, and even though at the end she was swollen up. She was still their mum and all the time she was alive she carried on being mum. But thinking back now I realised that she - even though she had accepted the inevitable - still had this radiant smile on her face.
Hopefully my cancer, will never get to this stage as my nurse has told me the aim is to cure. But I aim to battle - yes I bloody well do, and like I told my son today when he was embarrassed to sit in McDonald's with me. "There will come a time when I am going to be very weak and have no hair, but I still might want to go out, how embarrassed are you going to be then?" - to which he replied " I'm not going to be embarrassed to go out with you if your bald mum, there's no shame in having cancer" I looked at him and realised that whatever happens I'm still his mum, I'm still a sister a daughter, a wife and an aunt - so I owe it to all these people including my friends to just bloody well get on with it. After all there are people out there that are worst off then me. They might not have cancer but some of them don't have a family and friends....... I know what I'd prefer!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Cups of Tea

When I had my last operation 3 years ago. I waited 6 weeks, 6 weeks all over the summer as the tumour in my stomach got bigger and bigger. The amount of tea friends and family got through as we sat around the kitchen table waiting for the operation was phenomenal. 
This time I am continuing work, as I'm self employed I can do so. I also don't have anyone to tell me I have to produce a sick note all the time in order to get paid. The fact of the matter is - I just don't get paid - but hey ho you can't have everything. Good points are as I work within the wedding industry - things quieten down this time of year anyway. Also as a great plus point I look normal. (?) No large stomach and questions about when its due.
Bad points are - no I don't get paid, and I have to ensure I am fit for work as soon as. Hence I have already booked in work leading up to next Autumn. So in my mind, wig, false eyelashes and lovely drawn on eyebrows and just like now - nobody will know I have cancer.
However, I am under no illusions that it will be easy, so for the sake of bad days. Which I won't have a clue about. I have decided that I will sit with the cat and catch up on all the thriller books I have tucked away upstairs, watch catch up TV, feel sorry for myself and drink tea.
When I was in pain after my last operation, waiting to heal. I still managed to put my make up on and look good - even if I didn't see anyone all day. So whether I feel sorry for myself or not - I will still be wearing lipstick, and when I go bald I will ensure I have a great hat or scarf sitting by the front door in case someone pops in and joins me for a cup of tea. After all not only was I was raised to coordinate, I was raised to always make the tea. My daughter is the same.

For those of you that have been following my blog you'll be pleased to know that I have done quite a bit of Christmas shopping and sorted out a few bits and pieces that were floating round my head. I've not ruled out going out for dinner Christmas Day, think I still have a bit of time to sort that one - I have asked the kids and either way they are fine. Andrew not so keen - after all he'll probably be paying!
So what with that and booking in a last minute book club with the girls. My next move is to make sure my roots aren't grey when I go in for the operation! Imagine the plastic surgeon looking at nicely painted toes and finger nails, threaded eyebrows. plucked and waxed bits and bobs and grey roots!  He would be horrified. Especially as he wears nice hand made suits. I wouldn't want to let the side down.

Yesterday, I went out to buy a sports bra, hmmm not happy they don't come with lace.  I've also been told that my PJ's have to be buttoned , so that they can open up as I won't be able to lift up my arm. Buttoned up PJ's seriously? Oh well as long as they coordinate I suppose that's the main thing. Also it will give my visitors something to laugh at whilst they drink their vending machine tea.

Now to fake tan beforehand or not........................

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Limbo Land

This morning after another sleepless night I found it extremely difficult getting out of the bed. Don't get me wrong I'm a miserable cow first thing in the morning any way, but this was not a morning like that, this was like I had flu. Even brushing my hair was a monumental task.
I decided that I was going to sit on the sofa and have a do nothing day, and what did that bring me - guilt! Guilt that I hadn't done anything and believe me there's a long list. Lets take for instance Christmas - I've bought 2 presents. Normally I'd have got the lot by now. My daughter has her birthday the week before Christmas and I haven't even got her a card yet. I have, however got my mother in laws present, unfortunately we've had to cancel all the plans that were made for her - its her 70th, as I go into hospital that same weekend. How inconsiderate of me!
Another round of guilt that keeps me awake at night is, who's going to cook the Christmas dinner? My family have all said don't worry about it this year, just have the four of you and the cat, the kids are older now so they won't mind. This has made me really angry. Even though they are 15 and nearly 17. I still love to carry out all the little traditions. Stockings left on the bed, wrapping the presents to match the colour of the tree (yes sad I know) Cooking eggs benedict and serving bucks fizz for breakfast. The list goes on. It even includes shouting up the stairs every half an hour on Christmas Eve whereabouts in the world Santa is as I follow him on Google.  The kids obviously just raise their eyebrows at me. We've had the same conversation for the last couple of years. "Mum you know there's no Father Christmas don't you?"  Me " Well then you won't get any present will you! You know he'll use his magic key to get in the house to leave them" At which point, including my husband they laugh quietly and let me get on with it. The truth is Christmas is precious in my house, its a time for friends to come round Christmas Eve for a mulled wine 'home made' mince pies and shortbread. How the bugger am I going to pull that off this year? Andrew says the same thing to me over and over. " Don't worry about it just concentrate on getting yourself better, the kids and I will sort everything out" this makes me even more worried, poor Andrew and the kids how will they cope. I need to be able to support them, how can I put them through this again. Unfortunately, I am a control freak. When I had my last operation I came home and started mopping the kitchen floor. So there is no hope for me really.

One thing I have let go of (sort off) is decorating the Christmas tree. When I told Andrew and the kids that it would be really nice if they put it up whilst I was in hospital, they all just looked at me - " Mum you are joking, you'll only come home and moan that we hadn't done it property and change it" I said " No I wouldn't" but I know and they know that I would, when no ones looking obviously. That's why every year they put balls and other decorations on my gorgeous work of art,  that don't match my colour scheme and I know they do it. They all sit around sniggering, as I moan " who put the gold/silver/red ball on there?"
So this time I plead " Can't you just do this one thing for me this year and match the tree in - please, I've got Breast cancer"  but no they still snigger, pat me on the head (my son) and say " course we will"  whilst exchanging smirking glances. So even that's going to keep me awake at night now!

Other things that keep me awake apart from - has the cancer spread? Do they really have to take my breast off, can't they just zap it?............ and that all time classic..... are they sure I've got cancer maybe they've got it wrong? All mingle in together along with the should I be eating or drinking that? Will drinking coffee, eating red meat etc. make it spread? So all this waiting around  is excruciating. I've got another three weeks yet.

Trying to act normal and continue to work is difficult, yesterday, I went to see someone - suited and booted as usual, to give them a proposal on some events they'd like me to do. Do they know, I think? Are they not going give me the job because they think I won't be able to handle it in-between  all the treatment? After all who would hire a woman waiting to have treatment for breast cancer? Then, I think am I kidding myself here, am I going to be able to handle it? I've already put my life on hold before, but didn't I read somewhere that the hospital can fit my chemotherapy and radiotherapy in around my work? Or did I just make that up?  What if Andrew isn't busy how are we going to survive money wise? Round and round my head go these questions as I lay there at night.....but maybe the biggest thing that worries me and its really petty but I don't care I can't help worrying about it is - if I put on weight or lose it, will my new boob stay the same? Or will it grow and shrink the same as the other one? After all when I lose weight or put it on, my boobs are the first place to show. Especially when I put on weight and stand in front of my husband, you can see the pure delight in his eyes as I say " My god my boobs are huge." " Yep" he says like the cat that's got the cream..............

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Isn't it ironic - don't ya think!

Today I got to thinking that after hearing  " Isn't it ironic" twice in one day, that I wonder why God doesn't share luck out fairly? Or in fact why he gives bad luck to some more than others? As I was working at the office today,  I mentioned this to Kim, she looked me in the eye and said what I would have said " Because you're strong and you can take it" Don't get me wrong I could sink into a pity party here, but I think I'm going to need a few of those on other days in the future.  Even so, certain thoughts run through my mind -such as -  how much stronger do I have to fucking be? Not that I would wish this on my worst enemy  but come on, if there is a god, is this some sort of test and have I still not bloody well passed? Am I going to have a wonderful rich life when I'm older? Or is this some sort of leveller after marrying a great man, and this is Gods way of saying - you've had a bit too much good luck Wendie, and to be fair we've got to chuck you a couple of major catastrophics to make up for it? I hope there is a God, because when it is finally my time - we will be having words.....

Yesterday, I joined the "official cancer club" I phone Macmillan and registered myself as a cancer sufferer. Makes a change that I didn't have to pay a subscription, normally when I register for anything these days - as I'm self employed there is always someone who is ready to take your money. Having said that, I have got a blinder of an excuse now. Let me give you an example, this week alone I have had, Yell, Facebook and Thompson Local call me on the business line. Normal spill happens when they rattle on about their fantastic offers and don't let you get a word in edgeways to say no. I usually carry on working, or if I'm at home I sort the whites from the colours and load the washing machine as well as sticking the kettle on. I've been know to watch a whole episode of " Homes under the Hammer" and eat my lunch on one occasion with Thompson Local.  Any how, now I just blurt out very loudly " Can I just stop you there I have just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and I can't commit to anything at the moment" This is then followed by a mumbled apology and a CLICK BURRRRRR as the phone goes down. It's brilliant I recommend anyone who is close to me to use it. Hubby to N Power, Daughter to PPL. So if anyone out there wants to use the breast cancer card and use me as an excuse of not shedding out loads of money - please do.

Finally, I spoke to Rachel yesterday and told her my decision that I wanted to have the mastectomy  and reconstruction done all in one go. So now the letter is on its way out to me to confirm the date and time etc. This should arrive the day before the operation as the NHS tend to use Timbucktoo postage. Anyhow, after visiting Holland and Barrett, and Boots and asking about an alternative to HRT ( I've had to come off it) Primrose oil seems to be the only thing I can take as the hot flushes and night sweats are taking hold. So when I asked Rachel whether I could take anything, she basically told me that I have to get on with it until after my treatment. So when I've finished writing this post I'm going to just pop my head in the fridge again for 10 minutes or so.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

I've hit the wall

On Friday I went back to see the consultant and he confirmed that the cancer had indeed spread to my lymph node. So not only would I have to have a mastectomy I would also have to lose some lymph nodes. As I am now getting used to the terminology ( I practically live on the Macmillan site) the official name is Mastectomy and axillary clearance. Its seems I have stage 3a cancer. Which includes a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and then a couple of years of hormonally balancing medication. So obviously I can't think about all of it and I have to take it day by day.
My operation is scheduled for the 6th December.

I was fortunate to also have secured an appointment with the plastic surgeon in the afternoon. Where he measured me up and after some oohing and ahhing he told me that although I will lose all my skin over my boob including my nipple - tumour is attached, he can do something called  a Lattisimus Dorsi Flap, which to you and me means that a muscle, skin, tissue and fat are taken from my back and used to make a new breast. So no implant yippee! Unfortunately, he also told me that he recommends that I don't have this procedure done until all my treatment is out of the way. Which means that I will have no right breast for at least a year!! Apparently, it can interfere with the radiotherapy and can make the boob hard and lumpy. Also the operation can last up to 10 hours, can put me in hospital for 10 days. Will mean I have limited use in my arm and back for up to 12 months, oh and not forgetting leave me open to infection. He then went on to tell me that if I wanted it done regardless he would consent and be available on the 6th. He gave me till Monday to make the decision.

So here I am Sunday night after having a terrible weekend of trying to please everyone, trying to stay my usual, strong, upbeat and jokey self (even though I have been crying my eyes out, and tossing and turning in bed)  I  have decided that I am going ahead with it. Christmas or no Christmas, I can always supervise everyone else.
 Why you ask?  I could say it was because I cannot image waking up and looking in the mirror every morning and seeing no breast and just a massive scar - which would be true. Or, I could tell you  that trying to figure out what I would wear each day that would cover up my chest area and not seeing my cleavage , would be heartbreaking considering I have to look good for my job. I could even say that the though of wearing a prosthesis in my bra when the scars heals fills me with dread. Again this would be true -  but the biggest fear is going through the operation, having chemo plus all the side effects, baldness, tiredness, mouth ulcers, weight gain etc etc. Then radiotherapy, burning skin, diarrhoea etc.  Then having to put up with the Hormone medication, that also has some terrible side effects, after all this I may just turn to my husband and say " darling - I've had enough and I can't go through another operation I've had enough and I want to get on with my life" and never being brave enough to have a reconstruction. I know this would put me on a head fuck for the rest of my life, along with the - will I get cancer in the other boob and will it come back questions?
So yes I am prepared to live without a nipple ( another small operation in the future - that I may not be able to go through) and yes I am prepared to lose my hair and wear a wig, but I 've got to be realistic and realise that even I have limitations to what I can put up with, and not having a boob isn't one of them.  After all there is only so much anyone can take. Everything else has got to be left to the skill and the live saving drugs from the breast cancer team, that and my positive attuitude and a great big dose of luck.  

So now the decision is made - I just have to tell the hospital............

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Of course I'm fine

Today was the day that I had to go back for another ultrasound to see if the cancer had spread. Andrew came with me and while we were in the car he asked me if I was okay. I answered him truthfully - I really was. I dressed to the nines with full make up and blow dried hair ready to do battle, I wasn't going to  give cancer too much of my time today as it was my son's 15th Birthday. He was more important.

After we booked in and I put on the lovely NHS gown that I did remark as I walked into the room, how well it went with my blue tights and high heeled boots. I was full of joviality.
Things started off well, the consultant scanned my boob and my armpit and basically asked me if I has discussed anything with Mr Charfare my consultant. I admitted that yes I did know I had a tumour and that it was cancer, I told him that we had touched on discussing my options, but he wanted a second opinion on my armpit. Basically my lymph nodes.
Without a local he put a needle into my armpit into the lymph node as we continued our discussion. I told him that I had decided on a full mastectomy as I wanted to avoid chemotherapy. He told me that he thought there was no reason to take another biopsy from the other side of my breast then if I was going down this route. Then it hit me BAM - I was discussing having my breast removed, my nipple had a tumour attached to it, so this had to go, there was a distinct possibility that I would have to shrink the tumour through chemo and  a good chance that the cancer was all over my breast and had seeped into my lymph nodes. Here was I as cool as a cucumber discussing cancer treatment like I was choosing what to have from a menu to compliment the wine, confirming that my wishes were to remove my boob completely and have a reconstruction.
I asked for water as I felt that I wanted to faint, voices were coming from far away still talking about cancer, my options - what fucking options? I had cancer whether I liked it or not. The nurse came with me as I struggled to leave the room, I told her I needed to go to the toilet  I could barely stand. She took me into the hallway and I put my head between my legs and prayed for the room spinning to stop. After a while I took myself off to the toilet  where I looked into the long mirror at myself. I gave myself a good talking too, told myself to shape up, this was nothing compared to what I had to go through. For god sake if I couldn't manage a small needle, how was I going to cope with everything else that was chucked at me.

I went back into the room has a biopsy of the other side of my boob, came out booked an appointment for Friday. I then told my husband we were going to go shopping to get my son his favourite dinner for tonights birthday tea and a bloody great big chocolate birthday cake. Panic over!

Here we go again

On Friday the 2nd November I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Now I know what you're all thinking, " We've read diaries from woman before who have had the same, why should your blog be any different?" Well, I can't answer that one, all I can say is that writing is suppose to be therapeutic - and to be fair, I've got the urge to say things that family and friends may not understand - but strangers might.

When the doctor told me at the hospital that they had found a tumour and it was cancer, to say I was shocked would be a fair assumption. However, relief was a great word to use as well. Let me explain, 3 years ago in 2009 as I was planning for my wedding, a tumour was found in my stomach, well to cut a long story short it went on to grow to 13lb before I had it taken away. It was a very traumatic time and even though I had to postpone my wedding, I did finally managed to walk down the "aisle" with my dad and son supporting me. After the wedding and after lots of problems health wise, I was put on HRT, I argued and rallied against it but as I had gone into premature menopause, it was a final solution, and it worked. However at the back of my mind, I knew I had been given a intermission, and it was only a matter of time before I got breast cancer. Now I am sure most people reading this would think how morbid, fancy thinking that.

It took me a long time mentally to get over the operation, one year after I broke down and had to go for trauma counselling, two years after, I cried continually and became moody and horrible, so by Christmas 2011 I decided, after a long chat with my husband, in which I described myself as a broken woman - that I had to get my head around what had happened, stop worrying about what may or may not happen health wise in the future and get on with my life. So after being subscribed anti depressants,  I told my story in a woman's magazine. Remarkably, seeing the story in print like  it had happened to someone else worked and in July this year - three years after the operation, I forgot about the upcoming date and sailed on with life - any thoughts on breast cancer reeling its ugly head, was pushed to the back of my mind - still there but controllable.
However, only one month later as we were packing for our holiday, alarm bells started going off as I noticed that my nipple looked a bit strange, I showed my husband and he told me to get it checked out. I decided I was going on holiday first, we were all tired and we needed a week away, my nipple would probably clear up in its own time. After all I was on first name basis with everyone at the doctor's surgery, and I didn't want to renew my season ticket, to the NHS again!

We had a great holiday and when I came back I kept looking at my nipple, I couldn't figure out if it looked better or not, but still didn't go to the doctors. Then around 5 weeks ago I was watching Lorraine and it was breast cancer awareness week, they pointed out 5 different signs of how to spot breast cancer, I had 4 of them. Of course, you can scare yourself stupid and self diagnosing is not the best thing to do, so I plucked up the courage and went to the doctors. I came out of there with some steroid cream and was told I had psoriasis of the nipple and to go back in a week. I wasn't entirely convinced but if that's what the doctor said who was I to argue. At this time I had convinced myself that this so called belief that I would get breast cancer - was in fact only going to be psoriasis of the nipple and all these years of worrying were for nothing. My constant yo yoing of thoughts was exhausting, but in fact I was so convinced that this was all it was, I actually took my daughter in with me two weeks later for a second check up. Also by this stage I had convinced my husband and myself that the lumps that had now formed in my breast were in fact blocked ducts from the cream that I had been applying.
So when the doctor told me in front of my daughter that he was sending me to the breast clinic I was fine, last time I was given a so called emergency appointment it took 2 months for it to come through. So in my mind, that was fine - I could carry on with life.
In less than a week I was at the hospital, now for anyone who has every had a mammogram, it is safe to say that it is one of the most awful experiences - especially when you're not prepared for it and you have a sore and swollen breast - which is what I had by now. (another reason to think I had an infection)  I was asked to have an ultrasound  then another, and by this stage I've got 6 people in the room and my boobs hanging out. whereas I am laughing and joking with the nurses and consultants who had gathered.  One biopsy later, lots of blood and a little bit more discomfort. I drive myself home and am told I need to come back the following week.

So when I went back last Friday, whilst wearing another set of matching underwear, I am examined and told I have breast cancer. I looked at the doctor and a million thoughts go through my head, and I can't believe that one of them is relief. I hate myself for the feeling as I really thought I had convinced myself that I was just being silly. Who in their right mind would convince them self they would get breast cancer? However, after the chat with the nurse and a few tears over the possibilities of losing my hair, talking about reconstructions, and what happens next. The one thing that kept playing in my mind is now this has been confirmed I can get on with the rest of my life. In fact while driving home, I start to think that after, hopefully after getting pert boobs, a great wig and eyelash extensions I can get on with living.

So where am I now, after telling my family and close friends, I think it’s okay to blog about this. I am under no illusions that I have a tough and painful battle ahead, but I am determined that cancer will be the start of my life and not the end of it. My children aged 15 and 16, have been told. They were great - I know that's not always going to be the case, as after all I am their mum. I told them straight, I have breast cancer and as a family we are going to fight it, there will be good days and bad days. But, I also told them that they cannot use this as an excuse to get bad marks at school, or use it as a get out clause. We should be available to talk to each other at all times, and we are going to try our best to not be sad. We've decided that we can all back each other up if one of us is having a bad day. 
In fact my son laughed yesterday when he heard me using the pain in my breast as an excuse to my husband, I overheard him telling his sister " Mum is using having her tit off as an excuse for not doing the washing up"
On showing my daughter my new reindeer PJ's for hospital she commented " Mum you are the most positive person I know" I did tell her there are days when I am not going to be positive and she is to use those days to kick my arse and vice versa. She replied " No mum we are going to kick cancer's arse" 

As I sit here now, tomorrow is the day when I go in for another ultrasound to see whether the cancer has spread into my armpit and lymph nodes - and yes I am scared. Friday I will get my results so I will then have my care plan put into place, I am scared of chemo, I am scared of being poorly. One thing I am not scared of is dying. I have thought about it and today is one of those days I am not scared of it. Tomorrow may be different, but I'll take my chances, after all I've got a lot to fight for.