A week ago I attended a reunion dinner—not for authors, but for women, young and old, from all walks of life. And as I looked around at the sixty or so women in the room, I felt inspired, and I had an upsurge of hope and gratitude, for we were all breast cancer survivors… and all still ALIVE.
We were part of the Encore group, run by the YWCA for those who have breast cancer, where I had participated in their wonderful hydrotherapy program.
I was a ‘newbie’ among the group, only in my first year of survival. The lovely lady alongside me told me she had been diagnosed fifteen years ago and had been back each year for her check, with no recurrence of the disease.
And as I felt the lifting of the dread that affects all of us who are diagnosed with that scourge of womanhood, I thought that if I can give hope to only one woman, then it is worth writing about my experience.
When my GP told me she thought the thickening in my breast was cancer, I found it hard to accept. It couldn’t be! Not me! But a mammogram confirmed the deadly suspicion.
At my first consultation with the specialist he spelt it all out. There was no doubt about the diagnosis, and he explained all the possibilities, and I was left in no doubt that I must have a mastectomy.
Yes, I was going to lose a breast. That takes a bit of coming to terms with.
I went through a range of tests – MRI scan, PET scan, blood tests etc. …you name it, I probably had it.
I was grateful for the loving support of my husband, who was with me every step of the way.
Then back to the next consultation. The cancer had not spread…yet…but I must have surgery as soon as possible, and we were given the next available date; in two weeks time.
Then a consultation with a breast nurse. These dedicated nurses are there to answer all the questions you have about the process. We discussed breast reconstruction, and prostheses, or breast forms as they are called, and she had examples there for us to see. Amazingly these are so realistic now they even feel like the real thing, and absorb the body temperature when you wear them.
The day of surgery arrived, and I admit I was scared. When I woke up in recovery I remember my first words were, ‘I’m still alive’. I had little pain, then or at any time while in hospital, and, while recovering at home, simple panadol was enough to ease any discomfort.
The next morning my specialist called in early to tell me the surgery had been successful, and the cancer had been all removed. A little later in the morning the whole breast cancer team visited, and we discussed all relevant issues.
After a short stay in hospital, it was home, and then a few months of visits to the hospital for treatment. I was fortunate in not needing Chemo or radiotherapy, and after I returned for my first annual mammogram and visit to the specialist, I was able to dispense with the drug I had been taking, and I was told my prognosis was good.
To celebrate, my husband and I went on a cruise, and returned just in time for Christmas, which we spent with family, including our two young grand-daughters.
So now, after a year and more since diagnosis, I am looking forward to a long and healthy future. Along with all my fellow-survivors at the Encore reunion dinner.
So don’t lose hope—remember…
BREAST CANCER IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE.