I’d always wondered how I would feel if breast cancer came back.
Now I know. It’s like a hammer blow to the heart.
In my previous posting, I'd written about the anniversary of my first diagnosis, and how I usually celebrate that day marking another year of being cancer free. Of course I was unaware that I had another breast cancer then.
As usual, I went in for my annual mammogram. It was clear, but my breast physician picked up a very small irregularity on the ultrasound scan which she always performs. “I think I’d like to biopsy this,” she said.
She wanted five core biopsies but I so hate the procedure, I said she could do four. It was a deal. We weren’t too worried.
When I went in for the results a day or two later, I don’t know who was more surprised, me or my specialist.
On this anniversary, I celebrated her diligence and care, let me tell you.
Things move pretty fast when you receive a cancer diagnosis. I saw the surgeon three days later and was in the hospital by the end of the week.
The speed with which things happen can leave you muddled, trying desperately to keep up, all the while struggling with the effects of shock, organising for a stay in hospital, having blood tests, getting your work in order, letting people know, then of course the surgery itself knocks the stuffing out of every moving part and all of your brain cells.
Now, into Week Two post surgery, I am beginning to have little glimpses into the reality of what has happened.
It takes time to process. That’s the part people don’t always realise, looking in, and it’s the part that you rail against because you want to get back into life, back to work, back to doing – but your body, and mind, needs rest.
You need to prepare for the emotional and spiritual impact that will come – the grief, the fear, the loss, the exhaustion – and it will come, eventually, so getting as healthy as you can does help.
Suffice to say, the second diagnosis of a new primary was a horrible shock and I am so grateful it was found early, on this anniversary. I celebrate that.
I have never completely turned my back on cancer. I don’t think those of us diagnosed with it ever really do. It hangs about like a ghost at a far-off window, and comes closer at check up time. Sometimes it leaps out and says ‘Boo!’, as ghosts do. The thing is that you know it might do that, at any time, you know it could happen, but it’s still a complete surprise.
I was better prepared this time though. I know so much more. I understand the words the doctors use, the terminology, the implications, the reasons behind things. That took so much of the fear away because I knew my adversary very well.
We all took up our arms, put on the armour, and moved forward to face it.