Blog: The Big J vs The Big C

Making the breast of a bad situation ...
On 4 October 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This blog will chart my progress through treatment, and continued enjoyment of life, love and friendship.
​Expect humour, irreverance, occasional sadness, and staunch defence of the National Health Service.
​Btw, that picture is not me. :-)

Scanning Bones

Yesterday, I had a bone density scan, to ascertain how dense I am. Or how dense my bones are, anyway.

This is because my new anti-cancer pill, Letrozole, has an annoying tendency (known as a 'side effect', I believe) ot thinning your bones. So they are checking to see whether it is doing that to me.

Telling Time

My body is a timeline
with every thick and fine line
marking a milestone
time-grown
Each tract and fracture
captured
and preserved
a chapter
in each roll and curve

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

It is most excellent weather for menopausal women. While others moan and bring phrases like 'brass monkeys' and 'stone jug' out of hibernation, I am enjoying blessed relief from the hot flushes and night sweats. I walked down the Euston Road the other day, surrounded by people in woolly hats, scarves, mittens and puffer jackets, wearing lightweight trousers and a T-shirt and yet strangely tempted to take even these off. I am beginning to envy my friend Satu, who had her menopause when it was minus-twenty degrees in her home country of Finland.

My faimly is playing dial tennis with the central heating thermostat. They turn it up, I turn it down. They say, 'But Mum, it's freezing!'. I say, 'Put a jumper on! Wear gloves! Drink some hot chocolate!' I reckon that heating and aircon systems could usefully be calibrated with settings of boiling, hot, warm, cool, cold, freezing, ice age, and menopausal woman.

Eyes on the Prize

The Pfizer guys are haggling with the NICE
And while they talk, the cancer spreads again
You’ll get your pills when they’ve agreed a price

You’ll get your answer when they’ve rolled their dice
And dealt your hand out in their counting den
The Pfizer guys are haggling with the NICE

Year On, Cancer Gone - But For How Long?

Wednesday was the anniversary of my breast cancer surgery, and to celebrate, I had an appointment with the surgeon. Or, as it turned out, with the surgeon’s fellow surgeon, a little less senior. Shame: I would have liked to have seen Ms Parvanta to thank her for saving my life and sewing me up so beautifully.

So here is the great news. The mammogram carried out two weeks ago shows that everything is fine. The cancer has gone, departed, taken its leave, got a single ticket on the long train to nowhere. Hurrah.

I will have a yearly mammogram to check that it has not returned. It seems that cancer can come back even after several years. A close friend of mine has just had hers reappear seven years after it was removed, so now has to go through the whole caboodle again.

New Breast Cancer Meds Approved

I have just come back from hospital having had my mammaries grammed. Yes, it is nearly a year since my surgery, and to comammarate this anniversary, my boobs must be squeezed and scanned again. A trip down mammary lane. Enough of the mammary puns now, please.

This will be an annual check to see whether the cancer has come back. Had I not already had breast cancer, I would be having this mammogram once every three years, so I feel rather safer than if I hadn't.

The procedure itself remains the same boob-squishingly hilarious process that it was last year. I note to myself how matter-of-fact I am about these things now. It's part of life, specifically of life continuing.

Maps of My Baps - a Year On

I have just come back from hospital having had my mammaries grammed. Yes, it is nearly a year since my surgery, and to comammarate this anniversary, my boobs must be squeezed and scanned again. A trip down mammary lane. Enough of the mammary puns now, please.

This will be an annual check to see whether the cancer has come back. Had I not already had breast cancer, I would be having this mammogram once every three years, so I feel rather safer than if I hadn't.

The procedure itself remains the same boob-squishingly hilarious process that it was last year. I note to myself how matter-of-fact I am about these things now. It's part of life, specifically of life continuing.

The Fading of Pain

Yesterday was my first day without painkillers since my hysterectomy twelve days before. Whoop. Not my first day without pain, note, but my first day without pain that had to be killed.

Moreover, the previous day saw my wound dressings removed, with no replacement needed, and permission given by the practice nurse to have a bath! I have celebrated by having several baths every day since. (That might be an exaggeration.)

The flatulence has now returned to its, ahem, normal level. Rather like Ophelia, it has been recategorised from hurricane to mere storm. My partner - who had been bearing the brunt of the adverse weather conditions - sussed out that I may have been taking too much of the laxative syrup the hospital gave me (well, it did taste of honey), and lo and behold, when I stopped taking it, my guts stopped bubbling like a witches' cauldron.

Lesions and Adhesions

This morning, I ventured out of the house for the first time since my hysterectomy last Thursday. It wasn't the most exciting outing, but it feels like something of an achievement.

I left hospital on Friday with instructions to go to my GP surgery on Monday to have my dressings changed. There are three of these, each a little square of bandage over a small laparoscopy wound. These are the three slots where the keyhole surgery kit was inserted. One is on my belly button and has two stitches; and one on either side of my tummy with a stitch each. Each also has a rather attractive mottled blue, red and purple bruise, the navel bruise being the most striking and aesthetic. Dressings removed, wounds wiped, new dressings applied, job done.

Waiting to see the nurse, I read my hospital discharge notes and Googled the various terms thereon. It revealed a picture of my insides reminiscent of a horror movie.

Hysterectomy, with a little Hysteria

The alarm sounded at five o'clock, I drank the two bottles of pre-op somethng-or-other the hospital had given me, reset the alarm for six fifteen and went back to sleep. I'd only been in bed since midnight, after a delayed train journey back from a couple of days working in Glasgow, so when I got up again and went to the hospital for my hysterectomy, I felt like I could have gone to sleep for the operation without any assistance from the anaesthetists.

The nurse gave me the usual gown to change into, a pair of tights with grips on the soles, and also a pair of hospital knickers. What an absurd item of underwear these are. I refuse to believe that anyone is actually that shape.

The good news was that I was number one on the surgical schedule, so I was soon wheeled off to the room where they send you away with the fairies. I've been through this routine six (or is it seven?) times before, so I am well used to it. Other than the prick in the left hand as they set up the cannula, it is quite a pleasant experience, drifting off to controlled unconsciousness looking forward to waking up with it all over, maybe a little uncomfortable but sufficiently drugged up to feel relieved, relaxed and happy.

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