I had cancer, now I’m me again

I wrote this blog as a guest on http://support4women.net/ during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I have corrected it a little for this version. I’m only publishing it now, under my name, because I just reached my 10 year anniversary on 21 November 2010 and on 29 November 2010 I shall be receiving my reconstruction.

I’m a cancer survivor, if that is your expression of choice. This year I reach my 10 year milestone. I don’t know if the milestone relates to the date I found the lump, the date I received my diagnosis, or the date I had surgery. Nonetheless this September/November I am 10 years away from that nightmare of a time. Some Millennium Bug!
A lot passes beyond the veil of memory, but I can still remember the mind-freezing denial of what was happening to me. I was so convinced that I would not be receiving bad news that I went to the appointment on my own. It was a cottage hospital and the person giving me the bad news was not a specialist and not really the best person in the world to give such bad news. He did not cope well with my stunned reaction and inability to take in the news. The nurse was so much better, made me a cup of tea and led me to a private room, so that I could telephone my husband at work.
I can remember that I handled that badly too. Instead of giving him chance to prepare I simply blurted out “I’ve got cancer” and then worried about him driving all the way back home to me! It was the time of the 2000 floods in our town and although I had walked back home from the hospital, I wasn’t ready to stay indoors, so we walked through the town to watch the firemen pumping the streets dry.
I found the lump in mid-September, I wasn’t looking, I never self-checked. I just massaged cream into my skin after every shower, so I knew my body. I didn’t do anything until the following Monday at work (50 miles from home). It was concerning me, so I chatted with a colleague about how bothered I was. She insisted I go see the Doctor and even offered to come with me, though I declined. My boss (such a good man) kindly drove me to the train station without even knowing what was wrong. The doctor was a locum and (in my opinion, on this occasion) not a very good locum. She wanted me to wait a couple of weeks and come back before she referred me! I had a bit of break down into tears and she relented (how glad am I that I wasn’t stoic on that occasion).
The actual process of getting my diagnosis was a long one, due to living in a market town with only a cottage hospital. There were one or two mix-ups which caused delays, so it was November before I got my news, which was very quickly followed by surgery.
I count myself lucky in that I had a lumpectomy and wide excision of my lymph nodes in my armpit. I had to endure chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Tamoxifen (for 7 years), but I am able to look back on it and realise that I am a stronger person as a result. Now, I am finally on a waiting list to have reconstruction of my incomplete breast.
It’s a long time between surgery and reconstruction, I know. But I am glad that I wasn’t offered it at the time of my initial operation and that 5 years ago I was refused reconstruction by a plastic surgeon in Cambridgeshire, as he didn’t think that I had enough differentiation. The reason I am glad? I am able to benefit from a new procedure that uses cells from the fat from my stomach to implant into my breast. Something that was not available until recently and something which I would elect to have over all the other options. I’ve been on the waiting list a few months now, so hopefully my time will come and I will soon be the complete woman that I deserve to be.