After my breast cancer diagnosis and waiting for the surgery it was an awful, awful time… A restless, sleepless time. We tried to continue on as normal with our 2 children. We would stay up & I would drink to help me sleep which would ultimately not help and I would end up with a headache in the morning. Friends would ring and text me and I would go through the same things with them. I was in utter shock, complete disbelief yet all the results said what I was told. I had no one in my family who’d had breast cancer. I was so unaware thinking that it was more of a hereditary issue and so how did I get it? I was so wrong. Apparently as per Breast Cancer Care quote “less than 10% of breast cancers are caused by a faulty gene. Most people having a relative with breast cancer does not increase their risk of developing the disease.” So it has to start with someone? I was that someone…
After diagnosis and before surgery we were having our little girl christened. I’ll never forget the Vicar, she was just like the Vicar of Dibley… a lovely warm person, she came to see us at our home the week before the Christening and I asked her if she wanted a cup of tea or coffee, she refused. Then I asked if she wanted a beer and she smiled and said “oh yes, that would be lovely” in this Irish accent. She talked about the Christening and also what we were going through as I had told her about my breast cancer diagnosis. I am not a practicing Christian but do try to live in a ‘christian way’ and I felt touched at the end when she said to me that she would like to say a little prayer and the 3 of us bowed our head and she talked about Faron and Regan and our family and me and my struggle with breast cancer. It was very overwhelming and I also felt very thankful that she did it… I needed all the help I could get from her and from God.
It was a strange day at the Christening, we smiled and took photos and entered her into gods safe hands lighting the candles and having the God parents there to take on a role of guiding and looking out for our daughter in a spiritual/moral sense. It was very bittersweet. Four weeks later I would be having a 10 hour surgery to remove my breast cancer and to find out what the extent of the breast cancer was. We smiled like all parents smile but I knew the look in my husbands eyes he was petrified (and so was I…). Our families came together (unfortunately one of the last time Jeff’s family would be together with us to support us…) for our daughters special day. Come 5pm and I was in the loos being sick. I had a bug and started feeling ill. We went home early and then Regan was sick, we spent a terrible night being ill and then Faron decided to join in… It wasn’t the greatest of end to the day and perhaps we were being shown how hard this journey was going to be. But our daughter was beautiful in the christening gown that her Daddy, was christened in 40 years previous.
As the day of my surgery drew nearer I got more and more anxious. I went into hospital the night before my surgery. Jeff took me down, without our children of course, and I was booked in for surgery the next morning which was Friday 20th March… It was so upsetting to see him leave, we were both so scared at the enormity of what was happening.
My 3 best friends came down that night to take my mind off what due to happen the next day… It was so lovely to see Belinda, Jill and Melanie, oh and Jills sister Janet also came. It was great support, they bought me some little keep sakes which I have to this day. It helped not to have close family there. It would have been too distressing. Jeff was looking after the children – I had never been away from my children over night and Jeff would have to cope for 10 days on his own with both of them. We talked about any old rubbish & they brought a few bits to cheer me up. Visiting time was over and I felt dread, it was so surreal. That how it all felt, like some nightmare that I would eventually wake up from. There were many tears and we said our see you soons. I had noticed a lady nearby across from me with the same pjs on. I had a trip to the loo and thought, oh I’ll go and have a chat. So I went over and said “snap”! Yep we were matching and I decided to ask her what she was in for. She’d been in 2 weeks and was ready to go home as her surgery had gone wrong… Which surgeon did your surgery? I felt a wave of sickness and panic come over me. That was my surgeon who was doing my LD Flap tomorrow… She briefly told me that she had the same surgery 2 weeks prior but ended up with an infection and the flap didn’t work so ended up having to have other surgery and ended up with just a mastectomy… This was my own worst nightmare. I would cope with all the other treatment if I could have a similar reconstructed breast. I doubly didn’t sleep that night.
7am came and my lovely breast care nurse came to see me just before I went down to surgery and the first words were “so you’ve met the lady across” yes, I felt sick. Look, she said, think of it like this, her surgery has very unfortunately gone wrong – it’s more likely for yours to work now. I know she was trying to appease me. Well there was no going back now. My surgeon came in and asked me to take my gown off so that he could mark me up ready for surgery. He used a felt pen to do this so I ended up looking like a map with arrows and lines. He reassured me that the surgery would go to plan, not to worry and off he went to scrub up.
I hated needles, I can still feel my panic when the anaesthetist got hold of my hand and started to look at my veins on my hand ready to put the cannula in. Sharp scratch, oh good god, I started sweating, it was in finally after 2 attempts. How the hell am I going to cope with chemo and the needles? Try not to think ahead… It’s weird lying there whilst all these professionals do their thing, checking this, sorting that. Then it was time, they put the oxygen mask over me and said that I need to start counting back from 10… 10, 9, 8….. I was gone, that was all I remember until they woke me in the recover room 10 hours later. I was sore and unable to move. They waited for me to come round a little more and I was taken up onto the ward. I was specifically located in front of the nurses station as they needed to keep an eye on my stats. Also I was unable to get up or move for 48 hrs. I was basically on my back with a warm heated blanket mainly over my chest area which was to help the blood flow of the new breast reconstruction. Keeping on my back also helped my back scar flat and less chance of getting swelling or fluid on the back, I was told. It was a gruelling 48 hrs, hot, couldn’t move, only drink through a straw & didn’t really eat or sleep. I had a morphine driver which I virtually wore out and was checked night & day every 1/2 hour, making sure that there weren’t any adverse affects with my breast reconstruction. Before I went in hospital I was told to buy a front fastening bra so that they could check my breast easily after surgery. The surgeons put the bra on you when you are in surgery and you have to keep this on. Thankfully everything was going OK even thought I had sleep deprivation, complete inability to do anything for myself and the pain.. the pain was nothing like I had endured. I had a catheter in and 4 drains down my side. Blood and fluid drained from these. I hated the sight of blood. On the Sunday the nurse said that she was getting me up out of bed. She and another nurse bathed and dressed me in my pjs and sat me in a chair. I nearly fainted with the pain… I can’t tell you how ill and knackered I felt. I think I lasted 1/2 hour and said I wanted to go back to bed. The pain was excruciating. I was helped back in bed like some old person and sat there crying, weeping, sobbing. The nurse who had washed and helped me out of bed came to see me. I will NEVER forget what she said as to me it was so bizarre, she said in a nasty cold voice “what are you crying for?” I looked at her bemused and unable to even answer her. In fact if I could have moved and got out of bed I think I would have slapped her. What am I crying for? I’m crying for me, my lost breast, my children, my family, through fear and looking into the future… Did I have a future? I had breast cancer for gods sake!