D-Day (parts 2 and 3)

The recovery from the mastectomy was slow and painful and I spent the first couple of days lying on the couch under my son's Toy Story duvet watching re-runs of the Golden Girls whilst David kept the household going. The physical pain, to some extent, kept me from thinking too much of the test outcome to find out whether or not I had cancer. Nevertheless I resumed my google search on micromets but became frustrated by how little was known about it so i convinced myself that it was merely a misplaced DCIS cell that had come loose during surgery (this is one of the theories about micromets and, quite frankly, the one I liked best)

After a week carrying my drains around and becoming increasingly fed up with how much they restricted my movements my sister came to the rescue with a "drain bag". To be fair the doctor had told me to get a bumbag to put them in but I couldn't even entertain the idea on the basis that a) this isn't the 1980's and b) i'm not MC Hammer. Enter the bed in a bag bag (too many bags?!).  Words cannot do justice to this marvellous bit of creative thinking from my older sister (not relevant that she's older but I like to let her know from time to time) so here is a pic of me modelling said bit of kit. If I were picky I would have liked a stylish black bed in a bag bag but my sister and style are not bedfellows. I suppose I could have bought a matching trackie in blue and green to blend in but I think those went out of fashion when C and A closed (ooh who remembers Clockhouse?). 

The day of my test results finally came around and my parents came up from Manchester so they could be at the hospital in case the news wasn't good.  They stayed in the cafe on the ground floor of the Linda Mccartney centre whilst David and I made our way to the 3rd floor. I might be 36 years old but it was reassuring having my parents so close. My mind and stomach were competing for the who can churn fastest award when we were called in to a side room and I was again asked to change into a gown. It is very hard to do even the most basic of tasks when every fibre of your being is twisted in uncertainty and fear. I wanted to scream at them to just give me the results, that I could wait not a second more to find out which direction this tortuous journey was about to take. Instead I put on the gown and made small talk with the nurse as she changed the dressings on my drains. It was then that my surgeon walked in with another lady (I can't remeber her name but I took an instant dislike to her for no good reason). My heart clutched in my chest and I scanned his face for signs of whether what he was about to tell me would be good or bad. I looked at David and he offered me a reassuring smile that I could not return such was the extent of my fear. After what seemd like an eternity the surgeon spoke "I'm sorry the results won't be in until next week...." He continued to speak but I stopped listening. I did that a lot when they told me things I didn't want to hear. I knew I could because I knew David would take it all in and he would replay it all back to me.  Another week?! Nooooo!! I absolutely, 100% could not wait another week to know if i had cancer or not. I wanted to grab his lapel and make him understand that I simply could not leave this room without knowing. I could not go home and live with the fear for another week. I had been the main player in this nightmare for 2 months and, yet again, I had to face another wait. At that moment I hated everyone and everything. The NHS, the surgeon, this stupid country for making people wait for life changing results and, ultimately, life-saving teatment. I was beyond angry. The only thing I remember my surgeon saying was that his gut feeling was that everything would be ok and, by God, I clung to that. He was the expert. He would know. When they all left the room and I was told I could get dressed and go I collapsed into David and wailed about how unfair it all was. He, once again, kept me up and kept me going and we were in the lift going to tell my parents, who must be fighting their own private battles with this, that it was going to be another week before we knew. I felt numb as we retraced our steps back to the main entrance. As we turned past the St Pauls opthalmic unit into the main foyer I spotted a familiar figure on one of the chairs. The sight of my sister and my 2 year old nephew produced 2 emotions. Joy and floods of tears. Unknown to me they had driven from Manchester to be here for me if I needed them. It was an amazing gesture and I felt like a fraud when I had to tell her we were no further on. Still it was lovely to be surrounded by family and we all went back to our house for tea and toast (there is nothing better than butter laden toast when you feel shoddy)

By some miracle time didn't actually stop and the following Friday me, david and my parents set off to the hospital once more. We followed the same routine. Mum and Dad waited in the cafe and David and I went to the 3rd floor. We were called though almost immediately and took a seat in a side room. David took my hand as my surgeon and the woman I don't like (let's call her Marjorie) came into the room. Marjorie settled herself onto the examing bed and the surgeon took the seat opposite me. Oh God, I thought, I don't want to hear this. I can't hear this. I've waited so long, I've been through so much, I've talked myself in and out of cancer so many times and, yet, I'm not ready. I'm still not ready. He started drawing a picture of my breast with the offending area of DCIS. This was larger than we thought, he is saying, at 8cm and, inside it at the very centre is a 3cm section of cancerous cells. 

The world, for me at least, shifted. I could trawl through a thesaurus, ask the world's greatest writers to pen something and nothing would come close to describing that feeling. There are no words to convey the fear, the abject horror, the disbelief. I'm sure it is different for everyone and that some people hold it together but, on the inside at least, I fell apart. I didn't cry at that stage. I knew that I had to listen to what my surgeon was telling me but there was so much medical jargon to take in. He explained the various stages of cancer and told me that mine was stage 2, ER positive and borderline for HER2 negative or positive. This would involve another wait whilst something called a FISH test was performed on the tissue they already had. He told me to imagine this journey as being in a tunnel and that I was at the start of it but that I would get through it and there would be light at the other end. He also told me to get through the treatment and then book a big holiday. I couldn't really respond. This was the man who also told me his gut instinct was that everything would be ok. This wasn't ok. I thanked him for his time. He left the room and Marjorie remained on the bed. There was a few seconds of silence then they were here. The tears. I'm not a fan of crying in front of strangers and David knows that so he buried my head in his chest and turned me away from her. Through my muffled sobs I could still hear her say "Why are you so upset? a lot of that was positive news". Instantly I stopped crying. I felt a rising anger creeping up my spine and my body stiffened. On another day I would have challenged her. On another day I would have absolutely and utterly wiped the floor with her but, on that day and at that moment, I had to get out of there. When Marjorie left the room I stood up and felt my legs buckle as the words of my surgeon whirled round my head and at that moment the full impact of it all hit me. I had cancer. Cancer cancer cancer. David kept me from sinking to the floor and helped me into my coat and, within a few minutes, I was back in the lift to the cafe.My mum and dad were sat on a couch direcly opposite the lift doors and my sister and her partner and 2 year old were on an adjoining couch. I looked at my mum and shook my head slightly. I could see her crumple a little inside but she held it together for me. I gestured to go outside as the cafe was quite busy and through the window I could see tears in my sister's eyes. Tears i'd never seen before. I motioned for her to come out and hugged her. They said all the right things about how I would fight this and that the cancer had been taken away but inside I couldn't process any of it. We all went to our house and I sat on the couch for a few minutes unable to do much other than just be and then I went a bit manic looking for documents relating to life insurance and critical illness. I think i had to do something constructive. 

My surgeon had explained that chemotherapy isn't always offered if the benefits from having it are low. I work for a bookmakers. I understand odds but one look at my boys and even if chemo gives me a 1% better chance of long term survival then i'm having chemotherapy. He may be a cancer specialist but i'm a mother and that's top trumps.

The next part of the process was i would meet the doctor who would be in charge of my cancer treatment and my appointment was in a weeks time. 

Latest comments

20.12 | 20:45

Hi Dave,
Thanks for the kind words.
I did indeed work in North Cyprus back in the day - Turkbet?

18.12 | 11:06

Hi Donna, remarkable, uplifting and inspiring read.
Did you ever work in North Cyprus around 10 years ago?

15.10 | 17:15

Hi Donna, you are so inspiring. I have just had my 2nd mastectomy 8 days ago out of choice, first one was 5 months earlier as small cancer found.well done you

30.09 | 15:12

well done for finishing EPI!

I can't send a longer response on here but would like to share my experience of CMF at dvfox76@aol.com or the forum on macmillan.