My Cancer Journey - The beginning

CyndieM Member Posts: 21
edited October 2010 in General discussion


My Journey with Breast Cancer


7 Dec 2006, it all started with a pain in the right breast – strange that…..

 I thought that I’d better get it checked out… so straight to the GP, who of course orders an ultrasound & a mammogram – seeing as I’m getting close to the 40 mark.

 So off to have an ultrasound early the next morning, and lo and behold – the right is looking good – so nothing to worry about. However, the sonographer looked on the left as well – as they do. And what do we find – a shadow on the left, an irregular shadow.

 Had to have a mammogram as well – and it wasn’t as bad as most people say – maybe it’s because I had quite a lot to squish into that lovely machine…. (F Cup)

 Well, the report comes back from the Doctor – they advise of an irregular hypoechoic area on the left breast…. That needs further investigation and recommends a biopsy.

 I check back with my GP that day – and she refers me to have a Fine Needle Biopsy. They are unable to do so until the following week. So the wait begins until the 13th Dec.

 Work is great – “it’s nothing – could be a benign lump – most of these things are benign. It’s nothing to worry or stress about til you get the results…..”  Even these words are not really balm to my ears….

 Wednesday the 13th December rolls around, and a good friend, (another cancer survivor) kindly agrees to come with me as I undergo the biopsy. I go for another Mammogram for the back of the breast that they want to take a look at….

 The doctor arrives and checks out the ultrasound, with the same sonographer who did the first one….

 “Be straight with me” I advise – “What do you think it is? “It looks very much like breast cancer, I suggest we do a fine needle on the smaller one & a core biopsy sample on the larger one.”

 Okay – I agree – with this, and we go ahead with this lovely painful process – even with the local anaesthetic, it doesn’t tickle. Then we go ahead with the core biopsy – wow – a few choice words were said that day…..

 The doctor advises that she also does a lot of Breast Screen work, so she sees a lot of referrals from them for follow up tests.

  We do an urgent pathology on the samples, and then head back to the office, where we all wait with baited breath on the results.

 I finish work for the day and head off to lunch with my girlfriend to take in all this new information….. The things that us girls do in a crisis - red wine with lunch and off to have our nails done…..

 Then home to talk to Tony and the family and try and come to terms with what may come on the morrow.

 Thursday 14th December 2006 rolls along, and we continue with the waiting game. I call the doctor at lunch time and am told by her receptionist – we have the results – come straight in!

 I see my GP that afternoon and the whole bottom drops out of my world. It’s Cancer – she advises. Invasive Lobular Carcinoma is the verdict –grade 2, staging still to be done.

 She jumps on the phone – she has already got about 3 names and numbers of breast surgeons – we are now officially on the treatment rollercoaster ride….

 She calls one surgeon – he’s on leave. She tries another – Yes – come this afternoon, 3pm.

 I head back to the office – my mind absolutely going at 100 miles an hour.

 “Are you okay?” says Tracey (my boss). No – not at all – the relief I feel as I let it out is palpable. It hits everyone in my team hard. Tracey drives me to the hospital and I wait for Tony to arrive and we see the surgeon together.

 My surgeon checks out the lump & the nodes in both arms, and we formulate a plan of action. Unfortunately we can’t get an MRI done, they are fully booked til January.

 So we opt for a lumpectomy (or wide local excision of the tumour), with a Sentinel Node Biopsy – a reasonably new procedure – to check if the cancer has spread anywhere….

 My surgeon makes a couple of calls, and advises that she can operate on the 20th December – wow – 6 days away…..

 We head home and start preparing, I call Mum & Dad & let them know the outcome. I then call my dear friend and let her know what is going on….

 This really does suck – but hey – not much can be done except move forward.

 I go to work on the Friday – our HR Manager comes to coffee with the team, to break the news – “Don’t worry about a thing, we’ll take care of you financially”. This is a huge relief, and we head out for dinner on the Friday night for our team Christmas dinner.

 A great night is had by all – including me…..

 Wednesday 20th December rolls on – we arrive at the hospital early for Nuclear Medicine to map the sentinel nodes for surgery, and then we head up to the ward to prepare for surgery.

 I am taken down to surgery at about 1.30 – my surgeon is running a little late – so the anaesthetist gives me a little pre-med to relax me….

I am woken by my surgeon – who smiles and puts me at ease, and we head into the operating theatre,  I awake to find that we have removed most of the larger tumour, and then we wait for the pathology results to come back.

 We get the results after I return home from hospital – a week later, and we discuss the outcomes with the Surgeon's Fellow.

 11 tumours were the result – the biggest being 9cm in diameter, with quite deep margins and 3 other tumours – all bigger than 2cm.

 The margins weren’t really clear, so we arrange for an MRI to be done on the 18th Jan, which my surgeon already had in motion. She also has me go and see the plastic surgeon, to discuss reconstruction options.

 The MRI reveals another shadow further back, so my surgeon pulls some strings and we are off for a PET Scan at RPA on the Friday – wow!!! Talk about fast.

 PET Scan comes back okay – no lymph nodes in chest affected, so I go back on the 23rd Jan to see Katrina Moore and we make the hard decision to have a bi-lateral mastectomy 6 days later.

 Great amounts of prayer are undertaken prior to both rounds of surgery with good friends and support (The Prayer Chapel at CCC was the centre of peace for me), even to the point of feeling a fifth hand on my shoulder whilst my two prayer partners were praying – and there were only 3 of us in the room.

 Simon and Helen Mac (Senior Pastors at CCC), also prayed before my first surgery, specifically that the cancer would be completely contained in the breast and not spread anywhere else.

 Lo & behold after the bilat mastectomy, my surgeon actually had the pathology run twice as she could not believe that the cancer had not spread into the lymph nodes, due to the size and number of tumours that I had in the left breast.

 I’m so glad that I didn’t research bi-lat mastectomies, I think I would have been a lot more apprehensive going into surgery, I bounced back pretty quickly from the lunpectomy, so I was quietly confident that I would breeze through this one, although that was not the case, as we soon found out.

 On Demand pain relief was the order of the day!!! And surgery took a bit longer than expected – 3-4 hours – Tony was pretty frantic by the time I got back to the ward from recovery. Not something that I would willingly go through again in a hurry….

 I stayed in hospital for 5 days, then home to be greeted by my best friend Bev, who arrived to look after me for 2-3 weeks after my surgery – What a great ya-ya sis to have.

 The exhaustion factor was pretty harrowing, me, who is so used to being full of energy, had a big recovery ahead of me (along with the 3 drains that I came home with!)

 Pathology results after surgery revealed another 8 tumours in the left breast and a benign one in the right, so the bilat mast was definitely warranted….

 Next up was the visit to see the oncologist 3 weeks later, chemo commenced on 21st Feb – only 6 cycles of chemo! Great – I think I can cope with that! 3 x cycles of FEC (for those of you who are not familiar – 5FU or fluororacil, Epirubicin, and Cyclophosphamide (the one that has been around for a few years).

 The Epirubicin was the worst one of the lot – highly cytotoxic, masks, gloves, glasses and gowns were the attire of the day – for the nurses giving me this stuff – and this was going into my body!!!!

 Had a bit of a revelation in regards to the chemotherapy – was reading a book by Petrea King called “Spirited Women”, one of the hints was picturing the chemo as “liquid gold” – targeting the cancer cells, and by not seeing it as it really was, as poison to the body.

 “One of the keys was : if you expect the treatment as a toxic poisonous substance going into your body, it’s very likely to cause side effects.” We DO have the power to choose what we hold in our minds.

 The same can be said about radiotherapy – Healing rays of light!!!!!

 My best friend – was my chemo driver and hand holder from day 1 (taking me for coffee and decent food in the hospital cafeteria on day 3 after my surgery of my hospital stay (wheelchair-bound)….

 I can’t say that the effects were all that great, made me extremely sick, until they got the anti-nausea drugs right….

 Then 2 weeks, almost to the day, the hair started to fall out – we had prepared for this and given my head a number 2, so it wasn’t too bad. Went back to my hairdresser and we finally bit the bullet and took the whole lot off.

 In the meantime – we had a Weekend retreat in the Blue Mountains with friends putting on a weekend to beat all weekends – fantastic food, scenery and company!!

 The next few treatments rolled on – I ended up in hospital after my second round of chemo with neutropenia – was feeling a bit off – so like a good little vegemite, I took myself off to Hornsby hospital – straight into an isolation room, bloods – yech!! And promptly told that I wasn’t leaving…. even though I had the car at the hospital – thank heaven for great neighbours, they came bearing pajamas, magazines and toiletries and took the car home for Tony.

 What a way to spend your birthday – in hospital.

 After that little episode – the onc’s got wise and gave me Neulasta each and every chemo session. Can’t say that I really enjoyed the side effects of stimulating bone marrow to produce white cells – Yow!!! Panadol became my best friend at these times.

 The nurses in 12A Ward at RNSH were great – we eventually managed to find veins each time in the one arm that we were able to use, even if we had to try 2-3 times…. (in Hindsight a “port” would have come in handy).

 The 6th June couldn’t have come fast enough for me – 7 months off work – and we were finally finished phase 2 of treatment. Onto radiotherapy – I had a month off in between chemo and radio, so managed to recover some of my strength, which was great.

 Radiotherapy wasn’t as bad as I imagined – came out with a great tan on my left hand side – pity about the right – you’d think they would even things out!!!

 I met some lovely people whilst going through treatment, and hoping in some way that my attitude has helped in some way. As I say “there’s no point in wallowing in self-pity – it doesn’t achieve anything”.

 When the rubber hits the road, you really find out where your support is going to come from. Our Connect Group, Play Group and several friends from church and community were a great support through this time, coordinating meals, helping with house work, I honestly could not have functioned without them ….

 When they say that a diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing event – they’re not wrong! It’s what you do with it that makes all the difference.

 I now take time to smell the roses, and have slowed my lifestyle down somewhat. Work has definitely become second-fiddle at this stage, and I am still working out who this “new person” is, I’m certainly not the same person I was 12 months ago.

 Some people pack up and go on holidays – me, I went back to work full time – and I am starting to see the wisdom and advice from good friends and my medical team, who all said that it was too soon, I am now coming to that realization. I managed to squeeze in a few weekends away – some with family, and some with good friends and support.

 My photographic eye has been sharpened – and it is capturing that moment in time that has become important. These will leave a legacy for children and grandchildren.

 The painting has also taken off – I put down my charcoal and paint brushes in high school and pretty much didn’t pick them up again until this year – and it has been a liberating experience and one that I quite enjoy – a chance to escape to “My Space” and to switch off from the world for a little while.

 So where does this leave me from here?

 I suppose re-discovering who I am identity-wise – the edges are a little blurred – people think that things go back to “normal”, but really, they don’t.

 Family – we’re rediscovering this and how important each day is – certainly Katy was enjoying the pick-ups from school on bell time, so we’ll have to figure this out in the new school….

 Erin – she’s still the same boisterous 3 (almost 4) year old, but she has certainly grown up heaps in the last 6-12 months.

 Friends – well – I’ve lost touch with a few of them this year, maybe due to the fact that some people just don’t know what to say, and some I have purposely not contacted as “I don’t really need the negative attitude” that can sometimes be attached to a cancer diagnosis, even when the prognosis is good.

 My spirituality has certainly been challenged this year, but knowing that He has been holding me up through this whole process – even in my lowest, darkest hour, has been life-changing. To the point of visions whilst in the midst of all that has transpired this year. When I came home from hospital (and no – it wasn’t from the general anaesthetic), I distinctly had a vision of Tony with 2 angels with broad swords by his side – saying that none shall pass – at the front door of our home.

 I don’t think that there is much more to add than this. Each day is new, fresh, and full of adventure, wonder and surprise, and everyone telling me that I am doing too much (as usual).

 Along with fund-raising for the Breast Cancer Care unit at the hospital, have joined the Breast Cancer Action Group NSW, and also Cancer Voices NSW, so who knows what the future will bring?

 I’ve come to realize that when it all comes down to it, it’s how we live each moment that is important!



  • moira1
    moira1 Member Posts: 449
    edited March 2015

    thank you for writing your story on here, i am sure it will help lots of others, although all our journeys are different, and we all react differently to situations which are beyond our control, we all have breast cancer in common, we have women on here who have just been diagnosed, through to women who are long term survivors, and i keep saying by comming on here and helping ourselves, we can also help others through their journey, so once again thank you, and look forward to chatting on here, please feel free to add me to your contacts. Regards Moira