Sylvie's Breast Cancer Story Part 3
Tuesday late July, I switched from feeing tense to mellow to tense as Guy and I set off to the Prince of Wales Breast Centre to get the biopsy results.
The waiting room was empty and only one other lady was there. I thought she must be there for the same reason, as they didn’t seem to be doing screenings, there was a quiet, stillness in the room. How strange this all seemed. I couldn’t help thinking, what if I hadn’t booked in for that screen and how weird it just popped up on my FB page, I get goose bumps thinking about it all.
That time before you actually hear the words ‘it’s cancer’ is a very strange one, I felt disconnected from reality (perhaps a coping mechanism). A nice senior Doctor was there to speak to us, and he didn’t waste time, I guess taking the ‘rip off the bandage approach’. He told me it was Breast Cancer, lobular to be exact and that I would need a mastectomy, most likely radiation and then a drug. He started talking about procedures, recovery, reconstruction blah blah blah!!!
I don’t remember much more as I couldn’t process it all at the time and my mind started checking out. Thank goodness Guy was there with a note pad, this is his way to cope. Taking detailed notes, sometimes stopping the Doctor mid-sentence to get the correct spelling of a word or term. Finally, the appointment was coming to an end, Doctor gave me his card and said to call his rooms to book in for surgery. What!!!
Once home and trying to process all the information we had just been given.
I would like to make clear that I have the greatest respect for the medical profession in Australia. I believe we are very fortunate to have well trained doctors and nurses. I had never had a second opinion, medical opinion before.
I am a social person and like a lot of people, get a lot out of sharing and talking things through. I called a girlfriend Diane, who through her work in charity was in the know with surgeons and, to be specific, breast surgeons. I don’t know exactly why but I just felt that I wanted more options, and perhaps to get a second opinion. This isn’t something I have felt before. Anyway, Diane was an absolute angel and within half an hour I was booked in to see another surgeon for a second opinion the next day. Not in a week or a month but the next day. Wow, I felt someone was looking after me.
As Guy and I talked that evening, as I lay awake that night and when I woke up with a cat on my chest at 5.00am, many thoughts crossed my mind. Firstly, I felt very fortunate to be able to see more than one surgeon as I know for a fact many people cannot for financial reasons or because they simply do not have the opportunity. I was also acutely aware of how many other women experience cancers and grateful for my support network. Even overnight as friends became aware of my situation, I received positive firsthand feedback about the doctor I was about to see and the hospital he worked at.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to go through such an experience alone. I faced the next step feeling lucky albeit in a tricky situation.
Prof S was the one, Guy and I instantly felt really positive talking to him and by the time we left his office I was booked in for surgery two days later.
Prof S was going to try to save the breast but if he couldn’t get ‘clear margins’, he warned me I would have to have a second surgery. To be specific, I was booked in to have a malignant tumor removed and mammoplasty
In the car on the way home, I had calls from two friends both recommending this surgeon as the one to go to. Again, I felt I was being looked after and that I was on the right path, for me.
The next day, I rushed around buying post-surgery bras and readying myself for what was ahead. The day of the surgery I was having surgery later in the day so I had to be at the Hospital around 9am. My youngest son was sitting one of his HSC exams so we dropped him off on our way. Wished him luck and said "see you in a few days", crazy!!! I had to present to the Nuclear Medicine Department at the Mater Hospital where a team were preparing for the surgery and scans to locate the sentinel node for another biopsy. I did not know what a precise process the preparation for breast cancer surgery involved.
At one point I was in the room with the Nuclear Medicine Doctor who was injecting 6 needles into the breast. We spoke about how I came to have the breast screen and she just stopped what she was doing, looked at me and said, “I’ve got goosebumps, someone is definitely looking after you”. I lay there thinking about my Dad who had passed away 8 years ago and my friend Ros who had also passed away 8 years ago from breast cancer and feeling teary whispered a little thank you to them both.
Finally, all the screenings and injections were completed, I was led to the hospital foyer and checked in for surgery later that day. I was going to be the last on the list and so thankful to Prof S to be on that list. Guy gave me a kiss goodbye as due to Covid rules the next steps I had to be on my own. He promised to be there when I woke up from surgery, that’s all I needed to hear as I knew he would be. In the meantime, he was going home to reassure our boys and try and answer the 100 questions they would have, thanks to google and enquiring minds.
I should really mention now that the Breast care nurses from both the Mater Hospital and Breast Cancer Australia are AMAZING and a beautiful nurse was there to see me before the surgery and a little care pack with a special pillow and bra waiting for me in my hospital room when I returned from surgery (They continue to call me to see how I am going 6 months after the surgery and treatment).
The surgery went well, Guy was there waiting in the room for me when they wheeled me in at 9.00pm. The recovery drugs had kicked in (boy they were great) and I felt good. Prof S had taken out an 8.5cm section and thought he had clear margins, but we wouldn’t know for sure until the results came back in about a week.
So, for now, it was just a matter of healing the wound, being with my family and then in a week I was scheduled to see Prof S for a follow up.
A week recovering, talking to friends and spending time with my boys (our two Burmese cats went into ‘care and empathy mode’ and sat gently next to me on the couch every day). They did this too when I went through my treatment for NHL 10 years ago. Nurse Foxy Cleopatra and Nurse Minxy Linxy to my rescue.
I felt sore but relieved. That familiar feeling that it could have been worse and there are many others worse off. Another week of waiting.