I haven’t posted anything this year due to my world coming crashing down last Christmas – or at least that’s what it felt like. I have kept a hand written diary which has helped to clarify my thoughts and feelings but not published anything until now.
I found a lump in my left breast last December and since then I have been on the cancer treadmill. I spent the first morning of the Christmas holidays having all the tests done and then had to wait until the week after Christmas to find out the results although I was fairly sure that it would not be good news. Christmas was a difficult time as I didn’t want to say anything to anyone until I knew for certain. Telling people has been one of the most difficult parts of the whole thing. Cancer is such an emotive word.
The diagnosis was confirmed before New Year and so then onto scans. I had an MRI scan and a CT which both confirmed that the cancer hadn’t spread. It was a hormone fed tumour so I was also immediately treated with an oestrogen blocking drug. It seemed to be quite good news. I would take the drug for a few months to reduce the tumour and then have a lumpectomy which would be followed by a course of radiotherapy. I felt that I had got away quite lightly considering what I know some other people had gone through.
I spent the first few months of 2017 trying to get on with my life as normal while having regular check ups and ultra sounds to see how the tumour was responding to the tablets. I told my immediate family and SLT at school but very few other people as I didn’t want it to become a focus for who I was. As soon as people know that you have cancer, it immediately becomes more of an issue. People say ‘How are you?’ in a very meaningful way. It’s lovely that they are concerned but I didn’t want to have to keep talking about it so I kept it as quiet as possible.
My operation took place at the end of May, just before Summer Half Term. It seemed to go well and the breast wasn’t all that much smaller. Then we had to wait three weeks for the test results.
When they came back, the news wasn’t good. There were signs of pre-cancer changes in the tissue they analysed so my surgeon told me that I needed a mastectomy. That was a shock and it took a while for it to sink in. I had been all prepared for the in December but things seemed to have been going so well after that and I thought that the lumpectomy would be all I needed. The next operation date was already fixed and I had to decide very quickly whether I wanted reconstruction or not. I really felt as though as I was being rushed into making the decision. I decided to go with the reconstruction as it would be more difficult to get a good result if I changed my mind later on. I wasn’t totally sure if that was I wanted though. I found the idea of having something foreign implanted into my body quite unpleasant.
The second operation took place 4 weeks after the first and then there was more waiting for results. I have only managed to teach my class for 8 days during the final half term as I seemed to be continually recovering from operations. The mastectomy was a more difficult recovery due to having two drains inserted which meant that for two weeks, I had to carry two bottles and their connecting tubes around. I had an extremely unfashionable shoulder bag which went everywhere with me! I was so pleased when they were finally removed even though the removal was extremely painful.
After three weeks, I had some results which still weren’t totally clear so a sample was sent away for oncotype DX testing which gives a prediction of how likely someone is to have a recurrence of cancer with and without chemo-therapy. I was praying for a good result. The idea of chemo quite frankly scares me.
We had the results back this week and again, they weren’t clear as to what I should do now. My score was 19 which is just into the intermediate range so it is not clear whether I should undergo chemo therapy or if the negative side effects will out weigh positive protection from a recurrence. So the decision is up to me. I have found this to be almost the worst part of the whole thing so far as there are no right answers and no-one can make the decision for me.
At the moment, the jury is still out.