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!

Ready to Commence Battle

BowelCancerUK

I have purposely tried not to let my cancer updates take over my blog which is mainly about gardening, gardens and my love of photography.  However, I am also using my blog as an outlet for my thoughts on the battle I have ahead of me.  Yes, to an extent this is self-indulgent but that is what a personal blog is all about really, isn’t it?  There may be those who don’t want to read about my battle against cancer but I hope there are readers who will find this of some help in one way or another, even it is just to bring awareness of bowel cancer.

In a post on 13 April, I added at the bottom an update about the CT guided biopsy on 3 April.   I was so hoping that the Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) were going to meet on the 11th with an appointment to see the colorectal surgeon on the 18th.  By the beginning of last week I had not heard anything so I called the colorectal nurse who said that the MDT meeting had not discussed my case because the histology report was not through in time.   Rather than bore you with the many phone calls between her, me and the consultants secretary, I was called on the 17th to say that the report was through and I had an appointment at 11:15 on the 18th.

Any one who knows me will know that I never do things by half or that life is ever simple for me – I am just one of those people!  I was told that the report had taken such a long time because there were a lot of various tests to be done on the biopsy.  They found that I have what is a called a GIST – a gastro intestinal stromal tumour, which is not connected to the bowel cancer, which is an adenocarcinoma (a glandular tissue cancer).  The cells are very slow growing and not ringing any alarm bells at the moment but it does need to be removed.  GISTs are quite rare and when malignant are sarcomas (soft tissue cancers).  I am just really, really unlucky to have two types of tumours.

They need to know what it is attached to, as it moves slightly it is probably on a stem, but surrounding good tissue has to be removed at the same time so it is important to locate what organ it is attached to.  Whilst initially it was thought that both operations could be done together, the Gastro Intestinal Surgeon has said to go ahead with the bowel resection and he will come into the operating theatre and take a look.  There is no plan at the moment to remove it at the same time now.  This will have to be done under a separate operation which, if chemo follows (and I don’t believe this is an option), it will have to be done within 6 weeks of the first operation.

I have an operation date of 7 May and am now signed off work.  My GP feels I need to rest and get some sleep, which is evading me at the moment, so that I am fit to face what is ahead of me.   Knowing that I won’t be back at work for many months is strange and it was a sad day to say good bye to my colleagues.   I intend to enjoy the good weather, get the garden straight and catch up with friends.  At least we are going into the Summer months which should help, it could be worse and have the dark, cold Winter months looming.

So there we are, the battle date is in sight and it will only be when I come around I will know what was taken out, and if I have an ileostomy or colonostomy, whether it’s temporary or permanent, or have been lucky enough to have neither.  I will then have to wait another 7 to 10 days to find out what stage my cancer is at and any chemo treatment they have planned for me.  If all goes well, and they managed it as a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery), I should be out within 3/4 days and I will be going to stay with my youngest daughter in Southsea for a week to recuperate and then back home.

Meanwhile, I have two weeks ahead to publish cheerful garden posts.

Oh, one more thing – I found this little ditty which whilst it will make you smile has a very serious message behind it.  Bowel cancer doesn’t just affect those over 60, as I have discovered there are many younger people who are affected.  So, as the song says “Test your Poo”.