The diagnosis / My diagnosis
I attended a routine mammogram, just I had done since I was 35 and just like thousands of other Australian women have done for the last 30 odd years.
But they wanted me back for a biopsy this time and they’d never done that before...
So back I went. They used an enormous needle (I seem to remember) to take some cellular material from my right breast tissue, which bruised that breast considerably. Then I had to wait for those results. Funnily enough, I went back to receive them alone, which in hindsight was not such a great idea...
Those results were the ones that nobody wants to hear...“I’m afraid it’s cancer.”
Now, I’m not the weepy type, but I found that I had started crying rather unknowingly. So they took me away to a little tiny room to let me weep quietly to myself. After a short time, an older breast nurse appeared (well she was older than me and I was 45 then) who told me that her mother-in- law had lost one of her breasts more than 35 years before she died of simple old age.
Simple old age, boy I loved the sound of that!
I have no idea who she was (and I’ve never seen her since) but I thank her for that info and think it kinda saved my life that day. After I collected myself somewhat, I drove home with Dolly, my darling dog who was waiting patiently for me in the car like she always did. She stuck to me like a barnacle for the next 18 months and was fantastic.
The Freefall . . .
What I realise now, is that I had gone into 'emotional freefall' which is a place nearly every human ends up when they are given a diagnosis of cancer.
At the mammogram place, they gave me a huge stack of pamphlets to take home and read. When I got home I rang my beloved sister (who is also my best friend) to give her my awful news. She had bought a new house and was throwing a house warming party the next night, which happened to be a Saturday. That party never happened, and she sped down to where I lived (a couple of hours away) to stay with me for the weekend. One of the first things I asked her to do was ditch that huge pile of pamphlets!
I had started to read them and did not like them one little bit. So I asked her to get rid of them, which she did. I understand that everyone of us is different but a whole pile of brochures was NOT the way to go for me!
Consequently, I ditched all information about the Breast Cancer Network of Australia (the Australian peak body for breast cancer) and only found out about them ages later. But there you are and that’s what happened.
I received the results of my mammogram on July 19 and had the mastectomy July 30 and in between those dates was the emotional freefall bit.
The Treatment Once the mastectomy had occurred, then one is on the conveyor belt of medical appointments, medical treatments and everything medical (for as long as it takes). In my case, that was about 18 months.
I had 4 hits of chemotherapy every 3 weeks. Then 6 weeks of radiation 5 days a week and (as it turned out) 9 years of daily drugs.
All this occurred 19 years ago almost exactly to the day now (1/8/2021) but I’m still here!
Therapies have changed a lot since then because there is a huge and noisy throng of females who make for a very loud lobby group. Which is why there has been so much funding directed into breast cancer research. And bloody good on us for doing that!
Good on us for walking all those all those breast cancer walks, for dressing up in pink to get on telly as often as we can and everything else we do for breast cancer. Because it’s all worth it!
Survival rates according to Dr Google (which are probably reasonably accurate in this case) are:
93% survival for 5 years
84% survival for 10 years
80% survival for 15 years
and Dr Google says that if you make it to 20 years, you’re cured!
And may I suggest you take a good friend with you to receive your breast cancer news following any biopsy.