Friday, 15 March 2013


I'm writing this before I see the breast cancer nurse.  I might not publish it... but I probably will when I feel the time is right.  Some friends and family may not understand this but for me it's cathartic - this writing lark.  And if I can help just one person on a similar journey it'll be worth it. 

I went to my first breast screening really to get Her Next Door along.  After 70 a certain age you don't get invited automatically and I'd missed my original appointment because of tooth problems.

There was a Breast Test Wales mobile unit travelling round Pembrokeshire so we caught up with it in Pembroke Dock.  It was a more uncomfortable experience than I realised and I remember wishing that I didn't have to go through it again in another three years. Be careful for what you wish for.

I received a call back letter to attend an assessment clinic in Swansea - I postponed my appointment as it clashed with something else I had arranged (delaying tactics?) Eventually though my re-arranged date arrived. I had a second mammogram and they showed me some white dots on the x-ray known as calcifications, although some were 'suspicious' and were not the right shape\density (or something) in two areas of the right breast. I remember looking but not really seeing. The doctor could find no lumps and the long and short of it was I had a core biopsy taken.  A computer and mammogram were used to accurately find the calcifications that needed closer examination. It was a long process and the computer crashed, which meant I had to remain squished and in place whilst it was rebooted. They told me not to jump as the staple gun (that's what it sounded like as I didn't dare look) went off.  Hard to do.  The results would come back a week later.

Off to Swansea again - the drive is long.  I had a bad feeling. That feeling was confirmed when my breast care nurse opened the door. And with a sledgehammer that was backed up when I saw the doctor in the room.  I remember very little.  Except the word mastectomy, 8cm and I didn't have secondaries.  They've picked up Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS - I wish I didn't have to learn this lingo).  The positive is that it's contained.  So breast off, problem gone. 

I've gone through the remit of emotions; denial, shock, bereavement, anger, relief, sadness, feeling fraudulent (some people don't think DCIS should be termed a cancer - it's rather a pre-cancer) and of course why me! 

I've certainly wept in the middle of the long nights for the upcoming loss of a part of me that defines my femininity. It's always been a favourite play thing for J and I in the bedroom (sincere apologies to any relatives reading this, I'm sure that's way too much information) and I fed my daughter G11 with it for many months - I was so proud to do this. Both useful and fun!  Now it is to be cut off and discarded. I find it difficult to get my head round that.

I'm waiting for the nurse this morning who is coming to my home to discuss my reconstructive options, there is a lot of choice which is rather overwhelming.  They would have talked to me in Swansea for as long as I wished but at that time I just wanted to get out of there, run away.

The nurse has now been and gone. Think I need some time to digest what she has said... my cells are in grade 2 and 3 which means some are pretty active little buggers (the grades range from 1 to 3).  There is no desperate rush for surgery - I have weeks, but can't wait until next year.  So Jill (can't keep calling her the breast care nurse, I have a feeling I will get to know her quite well) suggests I talk to the surgeon. The operation I'm currently favouring is DIEP (stands for deep inferior epigastric perforators, which are blood vessels) and so it looks like I'll be getting a tummy tuck thrown in. The recovery time is longer but my own fat (which I have some of) and skin is used and this particular procedure also preserves the abdominal muscles.  After this meeting I will tell you more, there are a lot of reconstruction options and this is just one of many procedures.  I may change my mind yet... which I am given full licence to do. They are keen that I feel happy with my choice. 

At the time of the mastectomy they will also examine my lymph nodes and of course all the tissue will be inspected for any signs of invasive cancer.  What they have sampled from the biopsy is 'non-invasive' (i.e. in situ and contained within the milk ducts) but of course there is a large area yet to be looked at. That's a new niggle at the back of my mind.

I haven't hit the menopause yet and am not sure whether oestrogen is a factor. I also have a coil, but think I will wait now for the results after the mastectomy to decide whether to have it removed or not (at least the thought of that pales in comparison).

That's it for now, I'm feeling quite upbeat... course that changes from moment to moment. xx

Cards, messages and 'The Tree of Life' made for me.
Friends and family I love you! xxx


Chris Stovell said...

Lins, I simply don't know what to say because it's too easy to reach for platitudes. I do mean it sincerely though when I say that I will be thinking of you and wishing you the best possible outcome throughout the treatment. Your brave and honest post has given me lots to think about and put my annoying sinus problem in perspective. With love and all best wishes, Chris.

the veg artist said...

I'm so sorry you've had such terrible news. I've had several mammograms (and yes, they hurt!). I have them religiously because, and this is personal, my mother died of breast cancer. She was 45. I was 5. You must do what you have to do. Leave all vanity and titillation issues aside. This is your life you are dealing with, and the future of your family.
I have lived for over 50 years not being able to remember my mother. Wishing that she had gone to the doctors in time. Wishing she had been brave enough to do everything in her power to hang around for me and the rest of her family.
If my mammograms ever show up anything, my decision is already made. They will be off like a shot.
Have courage. There will be many praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Stay stronger and keep positive.

Lins' lleisio said...

Thank you all for your comments, they mean so much. xxx

Wendé said...

Dearest Lins: This was an amazingly honest and courageous blog. Whether or not you decide to publish is entirely up to you, of course it is, but I have to say that it is so like wonderful you to be thinking about how the blog may help others in the same position. Most people would not be thinking of that if they were facing the same challenge.

The fact that you have DCIS, don’t have secondary’s, and that the pre-cancer is contained is the good news. However, the devastating fact that the recommended treatment is that you have to lose one of your breasts, is a BIG thing. It is only natural that you have experienced all of the reactions you detailed, except fraudulent which you certainly should not be feeling. You have cancer cells in one of your breasts which, if left, will turn into full-blown cancer if your affected breast is not removed. You have as much right to feel the whole range of emotions without feeling fraudulent as well.

Of course you were weeping and not sleeping properly at night, grieving for the loss of such a major part of your feminine ‘you–ness’; one that has served well both your, and Jon’s, bedroom fun times, and the mother you - nourishing baby Grace: I don’t think you should apologise to anybody for the former, if they don’t know about the activity that resulted in Grace’s birth …. WELL!

That breast has certainly served you well over the years but you are unlikely to have more children and Jon would much rather have you minus one breast than not have you at all. For him, that you will lose a single breast pales into insignificance in comparison.

You will know more about what you can expect during and after the operation and I hope with all my heart that upbeat moments outnumber the others as you wait for the challenges ahead of you.

Everyone who reads this heartfelt and honest blog will be wishing for the best outcome. With all my love, I certainly am…. xxx

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