Guest blog: I’ve just realised what I’ve been through
This is a powerful piece from Anne about where she is now, following breast cancer.
October 2019 and a dark cloud has started to just hover occasionally…I’m weepy on a daily basis, not sleeping and can’t be bothered to eat.
One more thing to contend with, I think to myself. I’m fed up of one more thing to deal with.
I finished active treatment December 21st 2018 for a non-invasive intermediate stage DCIS. It was a sneaky cancer – no lump. Just in there hidden amongst a radial scar.
I had an elective hysterectomy in September 2017, complicated by fibroids.
Left my ovaries in thankfully.
More gynae surgery the following May 2018. I’ve never had so much time off sick.
I’m a senior sister in a busy London hospital and I’ve gone from having no time off work to two episodes of long-term sickness within a year and an informal warning.
July 2nd 2018, routine mammogram (I was still off sick thankfully). I was 48.
July 9th 2018, recall letter for another mammogram, ultrasound and possible biopsy. I knew the score, I’m not stupid.
July 23rd 2018, two more mammograms, an ultrasound and six biopsies.
1st August 2018, “I’m very sorry but we’ve found cancer in your right breast. It’s 3mm”.
And there started the rollercoaster.
My mum who was with me through all the appointments, wanted it to be her not me.
My dad was in tears.
My son at 20 was gutted.
My 17-year-old daughter went quiet and clingy.
The day after diagnosis I went to work for my first day back after my gynae surgery. I had no choice…. any more time off sick and I’d start to hit half pay. Single mum with a mortgage….
September 11th 2018, funny, same date as my hysterectomy and I was having a lumpectomy.
I took a photo of my boobs as they were.
September 19th 2019, results day… “we got it all”.
I cried…. gave the surgeon a hug.
“We’ll refer you to oncology for a discussion on radiotherapy.”
October 3rd 2018, met oncologist at the Royal Marsden. It’s a cancer hospital. I chose to have my surgery at the other hospital where I was diagnosed. I didn’t want to be at a cancer hospital.
Radiotherapy: 15 sessions. ER 8/8, but I’m not recommended to take Tamoxifen.
October 5th 2018, planning CT. “You’re still bruised.”
Radiotherapy planned for end of October.
Slight issue before that. I got an infected haematoma and the scar opened up.
19th October 2018, back in for evacuation and washout of infected haematoma.
That’s four operations in thirteen months.
My daughter was off to Barbados that day for a school trip to play netball. She was fretting. My son was anxious. I felt shit.
Dressing changes three times a week for four weeks. More antibiotics. It was my third course in less than three weeks.
I got used to the clinic, the nurses, the coffee that my mum used to buy me on every visit.
Radiotherapy was delayed for six weeks. It started finally on 3rd December 2018.
I went back to work on 18th December 2018 on my phased return. I had no choice but to work as my half pay had commenced.
Day 10 of radiotherapy and a red raised area appeared. Looked like cellulitis. More antibiotics.
It got lumpier and more squashy.
Eventually after two weeks of backwards and forwards between the cancer hospital, my other hospital and my work hospital, the abscess was dealt with locally by giving it a good squeeze.
I was shattered. The radiotherapy effects kicked in during the zapping. I was not only tired but incredibly nauseated. It hit me hard two weeks after, then it carried on.
The fatigue hit me really hard again after three -four months.
People just don’t get it. It’s like walking through treacle.
I still get intermittent bouts of extreme fatigue…. which annoys me, but I try to manage it by exercising and going to the gym.
I still get an irritating cough and strangely get a bit breathless. My boob is still sore when I do too much.
No-one gets the emotional trauma and no-one sees the hidden changes. The changes to relationships whether it be stronger or weaker.
No-one gets the trauma of having your first mammogram post diagnosis and the wait for results.
I can’t be bothered with a lot of friends because of what they said.
My kids have both gone to university and dropped out because of the effect it’s had on them.
My twenty-one year-old son suffers from anxiety.
My daughter probably the same because she thinks she’s going to get it too.
I get ongoing pain in my lower abdomen and around my right ovary. I had endometriosis in the past. It’s probably still there, but I went to my GP just in case. I had an ultrasound. It was ok, but I fretted.
My friends said “Is something else wrong with you now?”
A friend who I did my nurse training with couldn’t handle my diagnosis. I don’t see her much now. I can’t be bothered with her anxiety.
I’m avoiding people.
I’ve lost my confidence at work. I’ve been a nurse for thirty-one years and now I can’t do it. I find it difficult to see past a medical history with “Breast Cancer” written in notes.
I’ve got both kids at home and it’s hit me now about what I’ve been through and I cry most days. Perhaps it is a touch of PTSD.
My divorce (yaaay) finally came through in March this year…. that added to the hysterectomy, the other gynae operation and the cancer.
I’m shit scared about recurrence.
I hate checking my boobs as there was no lump in the first place.
I hate feeling rubbish and tired.
I hate looking at my boob. It’s still there, but more scarred from the radiotherapy abscess than the original operation. But it’s wonky with a dent in it.
I was in a marriage for twenty-three years with a very controlling man who was verging on alcoholism. Now I’m being controlled by my boobs.
I have met someone… I’ve known him for twenty-five years. He’s lovely and tells me I’m beautiful. We talk lots. He’s used to me being an emotional old bird.
I’m 50 on Valentine’s Day. My kids want to throw me a party. But I can’t seem to plan that far ahead.