I Am Still Here! 

It has been 63 days since my last post, and a few of my blog followers have been lovely enough to email me to ask if all is well.   Many who also follow me on Twitter (@hurtledto60) will know that the nasty blighter called cancer has visited me again.  Fortunately, and I say that to remain positive, it is another Primary cancer and not related to the bowel cancer I had in 2013.  It certainly has thrown me as you can imagine!

I had a full CT in June 2015 in respect of the annual check up following bowel cancer and it was, thankfully, all clear!  When I had my three yearly mammogram appointment for the end of August, I very nearly didn’t go.  This was because I was naive enough to think if there was anything it would have been picked up on the scan.  It was only when I spoke to the Macmillan nurse and she pointed out that it was a different type of scan and it was still necessary for a mammogram I trotted off for the Breast Screening.

When I received a recall letter the following week, my heart sank and my brain went into overload.

We are lucky in Worthing to have a dedicated Breast Care Centre.  At the appointment I had a further mammogram, biopsy and saw the doctor, who confirmed even before the biopsy results, that there was a small tumour and, in her experience, it was cancerous.  The wonderful Macmillan nurses were on hand, armed with tissues, and went through everything with me, what to expect etc. and gave me an armful of information leaflets.

I returned 2 weeks later and the consultant confirmed it was a tiny 11mm Grade 1 invasive ductal cancer, it sounds very much worse than it is.  There was no lump, even the consultant couldn’t feel a lump so it was at a very early stage.  Had there been a palpable lump it would have been far more advanced – phew! This would be removed along with a sentinel lobe biopsy, with no chemo required this time unless of course it had spread into the lymph nodes but because it was so small that was unlikely  – again, phew! – I would need a course radiotherapy and as I was ER+ (oestrogen receptor positive) and HER2 negative I would be put on hormone treatment for the next 5, possibly 10 years.

In October I had what is known as wide local excision to remove the cancer and 3 lymph nodes removed from my armpit.  It was day surgery which was wonderful as I could return to my own bed.  Although, in the end I discharged myself.  I didn’t go down to the theatre until 3pm and came round in the recovery room about 7pm.  When I returned to the ward, there was no doctor on duty to write a discharge note, but I was so adamant that I wanted to go home, they let me leave about 9pm.  In hindsight I probably should have stayed a night, I was very wobbly on my pins when collected,  a dear friend stayed overnight with me, although she did remark she had never seen anyone look so pale.  It was wonderful to be in my own bed though and get a good nights sleep.

I recovered well from the operation and dutifully did my arm and shoulder exercises, the importance of these  were drilled into me by the Macmillan nurses.  The cancer was removed and there was no spread into the lymph nodes.  In November I started Letrozole, an  Aromatase inhibitor given to post-menopausal women, as opposed to the better known drug Tamoxifen which is usually given to younger women.   There seems to be no side effects at the moment, although I am feeling very low and anxious.  Today I spoke  to a wonderful lady on the Breast Cancer Care  support line, she said this is one of the side effects, but as I have a post Christmas viral bug that could be partly to blame.   Her suggestion was that I try to do something positive every day, deal with it bite sized, and not give into the  need to sleep every afternoon, although it was important to rest and look after myself.   Also she suggested that I give myself a treat to look forward to after the treatment, so I am going to check out short holiday breaks.  I had wanted to go back to work this week, it helps normality in my life, but as radiotherapy starts in Brighton on 19th January I must throw this bug off beforehand.

So there you are, the moral of this story is that is really is very important to attend regular mammograms.  They are uncomfortable but a few moments of having your breasts squeezed between two metal plates is far better than the consequences of having a tumour which is left to grow undetected.  I was told that if my tiny soft tumour had grown large enough to be felt there was a possibility that it would have been far more advanced and more difficult to deal with.

People are saying to me “oh how unlucky to have had bowel cancer and now breast cancer” but I am seeing it as being lucky it was caught in time and dealt with, albeit there is a five year regime ahead of medication, constant tests and check ups.  At least I am still here as sadly too many people die every year from cancer.  A work colleague who was diagnosed 6months after me with bowel cancer died just before Christmas, which really makes you take stock.

Always go to your GP if you think there is something amiss and insist it is checked out, don’t let them fob you off!

20 thoughts on “I Am Still Here! 

  1. Hope all your medical woes are behind you! I had a recall on my last mammogram, and fortunately they were able to bet me back in for an ultrasound just a few days later. Only a cyst, but a good reminder of what a mammogram can find that touch can’t!

  2. So glad to hear from you! A few of us were worried. Let’s hope this year improves greatly for you.

  3. I am very glad you are still here! What a time you have had and how strong and optimistic you are, surely the best way to get on with life. Sending you all good wishes for 2016.

  4. Thank you lovely people! Your comments are heartwarming and given me the impetus to dust off my camera, and the creative writing part of my brain, to start writing my blog again. Happy new year to you all. Xxx

  5. Hi Ronnie, I’m sorry to read you’ve had to go through another stressful illness, I hope the next stage of your treatment is trouble free. I have a mammogram appointment for two weeks time which I will certainly attend. Thinking of you. X

  6. One of the worst days in your life is when you get that call-back from the doctor for more tests to see how serious it is. You just have to hit bottom before you can stand-up again and tell your self you will refuse to quite. It’s a slightly different journey for all of us, so good luck, and keep fighting…Keep saying things out loud, keep sharing, you’d be surprised how many you touch and help by doing that.

  7. Hi Ronnie – I tell people that ‘Patients need Patience’!! Often my brain would say I need to do this/that pull those weeds out but my body only allowed me to do 10 minutes. BUT gardening even in small doses, is healing! I realize winter where you live but there are the clouds, trees etc to admire! Every day is a day closer to recovery! I had pancreatic cancer 12 1/2 years ago and to make it more complicated my stomach was up under my right ribs. A very rare cancer but I beat the statistics!! 7 weeks in hospital in isolation with MRSA also! And many many months of rehab. Didn’t even get a tummy tuck with my huge scars!! Yes I do have black humour – helps! Listen to your body and rest and watch for those first bulbs to pop up and say ‘Hi Ronnie’!! Love Yvonne ( summer ha ha – very windy and cool – Whangapararoa, Auckland, New Zealand)

  8. Aw Ronnie xx What a lovely blog. Such positivity. Keep it going and hope you shake this cold ready for your treatment on 19th January. Such an ambassador for fighting the good fight. Kick the beast for good this time 😉 Best wishes xxx

  9. Thinking positive thoughts for you from California. We are finally having rain and the earth is recovering. Long may it last and my best wishes for you too.

  10. Such a heartwarming and positive account! Knowing how much you love your garden, it will be so good to look forward to Spring with both winter and the worst of your treatment over. Wishing you a Happy New Gardening Year.

  11. Well done, Ronnie, you have managed to stay positive in a situation that’s hard to handle both physically and mentally. That was good advice to give yourself a treat to look forward to, especially in the dark days of winter. And OF COURSE there’s spring/summer/autumn gardening to look forward to as well!

  12. You do sound very positive, Ronnie and I am so pleased that the cancer was caught early. you must be pleased that you don’t have to have any more chemo. I like the suggestion of doing something positive every day and giving yourself something to look forward to. That is something which could be applied to many other situations. Much love Margaret xx

  13. So glad to hear from you and sounding so positive I hope your over the worst and I’m sure you are looking forward to spring and being able to get out in the garden

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