The Thursday after leaving hospital I went back for a meeting with my surgeon and Macmillan nurse. Dan couldn’t be there, so Tilly went to our neighbours and mum came with me.
My surgeon removed the dressings and was very pleased with the healing so far. I had a look at the ‘scar’ properly for the first time which was strange but surprisingly I felt ok about it. And now the dressings are off I’m getting more used to it each day.
He went through the details of my surgery and histology, and the facts and figures were plentiful! So many that I can’t remember them all and am awaiting a letter from him detailing them. Still, the overview is…
Surgery went well. He removed all affected tissue he could see.
Chemo worked wonders. My largest tumour measured 65mm (quite big huh?!) at the point of the initial scans. By the end of chemo it had shrunk to 25mm – a great result.
Histology showed there was a 200mm, yes twenty centimetre, area of cells that were at the beginning of forming tumours. That was a bit shocking to hear.
He removed a string of 13 lymph nodes. Five of these were cancerous, which was another shock as I thought there was only one affected. The next 8 lymphs were clear of cancer.
There were clear margins around all cancerous tissue removed.
These results confirm that chemo followed by a full mastectomy and lymph node removal was the correct course of action.
Radiotherapy is a definite necessity and will be more intense and over a greater area than previously planned. Originally the plan was just to target the chest wall. As the cancer had spread to more lymphs than thought, the collar bone area needs to be treated as well. Once a cancer has travelled down the arm through the lymph system the collar bone lymphs are the next port of call for the cancer to travel to. I’ll start radio in 4 weeks, but will begin meeting the radiotherapy oncology team for preparation appointments in a couple of weeks.
As you can appreciate, all this information was a lot to take in. The cancer was so fast growing and relatively widespread, more so than we knew. Clearly when they said time was of the essence to maintain a positive prognosis they were right. If I’d gone to the doctor a couple of months later things may be very different.
I sincerely thanked him – he has played a huge role in saving my life. And gone above and beyond the call of duty throughout I think – calling me with test results when he received them earlier than expected, being so patient with all our questions, visiting me each morning at the start of his day for the 5 days I was in hospital. And the surgery he’s performed has been successful and the surgery wound is incredibly neat. I thanked my nurse for being so so wonderful throughout and helping me so much when I was in hospital. Of course they said no no, we’re just doing our jobs. But they’re doing their jobs with such sensitivity and focus, ensuring they know my case inside out so they never need to refer to any notes during our conversations and remembering the specifics of our situation. They always ask after Tilly by name. They are the ones who ever so gently broke that devastating bombshell back in April. They have been the constant through these unnerving months. We felt completely safe with them ‘holding our hands’ through this. I doubt they’ll ever quite understand the positive impact they’ve had on us, and presumably all their patients.
And this is in part why this week has been so hard.
This transition stage is really emotional. It was the same when we left their care for a few months while we popped over to oncology for chemo. Leaving the safety of the department and staff that we knew to go to an unknown department and unknown treatment is scary. And the same is about to happen again as we move to radiology. The earliest we’ll see my surgeon again is in about 15 months which is the earliest point at which I can consider a reconstruction. By then life will be very different to the day to day we have today.
And the histology results hammer home what we’re facing here. This isn’t an optional course of action. This is the only route to survival.
Radiotherapy … here we go.