Posts Tagged ‘CT scan’

Shit happens

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for my blog, mainly because every-day life is quite dull & I don’t think anyone is interested in knowing what I’ve had for dinner. Given the choice I’d always take dull, or at least normality over drama, however it would seem that ‘Him up There’ is determined to ensure my life will never be that way.

Around a month ago I found a lump in my armpit, on the same side previously affected by cancer. I was due for my 6-monthly check-up at the start of October so I’d pre-warned my breast care nurse about the lump. Pre-warning the breast-care-team meant, that when I had my check-up a few weeks ago, I was able to have the lump scanned and biopsied on the same day. Two weeks ago I received the devastating news that the cancer is back. Last week I had a CT scan, to determine whether the cancer has spread elsewhere in my body. Since then it’s been an anxious wait for results.

T-shirt

I’ve tried to avoid telling too many people this time, as I couldn’t face the rigmarole of having to break the news to everyone when I don’t have the complete picture myself. I’ve learned from previous experience that telling other people is just as traumatic as finding out yourself. A strange role-reversal occurs, where you end up having to comfort and reassure others that everything is going to be alright – “it’s ok, it’s just a tumour, nothing to worry about” – when you don’t actually know yourself.

Scanxiety

Scanxiety is the worst kind of anxiety, you’re stuck in a no-man’s land, not knowing if you’re going to live or die. There’s the pre-scanxiety leading up to the scan, a brief moment of relief when it’s over, followed by the post-scanxious wait for results. I tried badgering everyone, from the radiographer who did the scan – “sorry I just take the pictures” – to the breast-care nurses who always do their best to reassure, even when they don’t know the answer.

Extreme scanxiety of the heart fluttering variety, which I’ve experienced much of over the past week, is quite terrifying. Every physical ailment becomes a sign that the cancer is spreading. The heart palpitations are caused by a tumour on the heart, the achey back is undoubtedly caused by mets on the spine, and the dizzy spells must mean it’s spread to the brain. It’s only a matter of time before I’m being fed mince & tatties through a plastic tube. On my train journey back to Manchester last week, I felt so rough, I actually wondered if I was dying. This turned out to be a dose of ‘Hand, Foot & Mouth’ caught from one of my mini-relatives.

Conversations and phone messages from health professionals are scrutinised and misinterpreted: they all know you’re going to die, they just want to make you wait 10 days before breaking the news. A message from my consultant which said “ try to enjoy yourself this weekend”, I interpreted as “try to enjoy yourself this weekend because it might be your last!!”. My anxiety levels were so high that the only way was down and I’ve been feeling much calmer these last few days. I’m not resigned to it, but like I’ve said before, shit happens.

That was then, this is now

Although I’ve been psyching myself up for bad-bad news, today I had some good-bad news. The good-bad news is that I’m booked in for surgery next week. My CT scan showed that the cancer is contained and that it hasn’t spread beyond my lymph nodes. Once I’ve recovered from surgery I’ll be having chemotherapy – different drugs this time & I might get to keep my hair – followed by more radiotherapy. It’s not great, but it’s better than the bad-bad news: if it had spread the only option would be palliative chemotherapy.

I’ve only recently started to settle in and enjoy Manchester life again and it’s been good returning to normality, however I’ve decided that my only option is to move back to Scotland for treatment. Although I’ve got an amazing group of friends in Manchester, I know I’ll need the support of my family whilst I go through treatment again. Besides, no-one else can substitute a mum hug when you’re feeling rubbish.

So here I am, back on the cancer merry-go-round. Although the news might come as a bit of a shock to many of you, I’ve had nearly two weeks to come to terms with the fact that the cancer is back. The results from my scan today came as such a huge relief and I feel like I’ve been given a second chance. I’m just ecstatic it’s not metastatic.

David Shrigley

We waited nearly a whole week for a more detailed diagnosis. All I knew was I had cancer: how extensive, aggressive or treatable was all a big unknown. This was probably the longest & worst week of my life. Trawling through breast cancer websites & chat forums I convinced myself I had Stage 4 cancer: terminal and untreatable. The aches and pains in my stomach, back, legs & head were undoubtedly cancer and I only had weeks to live. If this was the case, I thought fuck it, I’m going to go out eating cheese and drinking red wine, because in breast cancer world, dairy and alcohol = the devil. Not the healthiest or sanest solution, but being told you have a potentially life threatening disease does weird things to your brain.

My parents went back up to Scotland and I tried to keep myself as busy as possible until D-day. My mother returned the night before my appointment at the Nightingale Centre and we spent the morning avoiding charity chuggers and stock-piling enough food for a year in an Anderson Shelter:

“can you spare some time/money to give to the RSPCA/Shelter/Oxfam/Guide Dogs for the Blind?”

“no I can’t, so f**k OFF, get a hair cut & go get a proper job!”.

Disappointingly I didn’t get to say that, because for the first time, they gave me a very wide berth.

After a week of sleepless nights, I decided I’d rather be knocked out if it was really bad news, so my sympathetic GP equipped me with a little something to lessen the blow. Mum & I went on our merry way, fully armed with a handbag full of tissues and tranquillisers. The strongest thing I have ever shared with my mother is a packet of Rennies, but on that day she would have gladly taken anything on offer.

It all turned out alright. They told me it was a provisional Stage 2B (invasive ductal carcinoma ER+ PR+): very common, very treatable and very unlikely to have spread. However, they told me the tumour was large, so treatment would be long. First chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, then surgery & finally radiotherapy.

No tears were shed and no benzodiazepines were required. They said the magic words “you will be ok” & this was all we really wanted to hear. The first piece of good news in a really shitty week, so we went home and celebrated with tea and cake.

I wasn’t completely out of the woods as I still had to have a CT scan. This happened the following day, a Friday, so we had another anxious wait until receiving results on Monday evening. The CT scan confirmed that the cancer was unlikely to have spread: more good news. I might have been jumping the gun but it meant that my chances of survival were massively increased. Being told you’re not going to die is quite a big deal.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Marley these past couple of weeks and his words have become my mantra: “Every little thing gonna be alright!”.