Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Thursday 17th May 2007; the day I will never ever forget as long as I live, and I am determined to live a very long and eventful life.
Lee and I were sat in what was now to me the very familiar waiting room of the breast clinic for what seemed like eternity. The waiting room was full to the brim with couples, women who had taken along a companion, women with children running around and all the time the nurses as usual were busying about, dashing from one end of the clinic to the other, shouting patients through, trolleying files around and bit-by-bit the room emptied to just Lee, Myself and another women who had a small baby in a pushchair. Lee had made use of his time by playing cards on his mobile phone; I had picked up a magazine, making out that I was reading it, but thoughts obviously elsewhere. Eventually nearly 2 hours after my appointment time, I heard my name being called. Looking straight at Lee, my stomach immediately started doing cartwheels and my palms became so clammy, I had the need to wipe them down the front of my trousers before taking hold of Lee's hand and following the nurse into one of the very familiar side rooms. 'Breast Nurse' apologized for the delay and said that the doctor would be in as soon as he was done with the previous patient. Holding tightly onto Lee's hand, it dawned on me that my mum would be whittling and asked Lee to quickly go ring her, but to hurry up before the doc came in. He was in and out in 2 mins flash, so can imagine the phone conversation between them; 'Still waiting, clinic times running behind, will ring when we seen doc' and click end of phone call. After another half an hour of waiting 'Breast Nurse' and the doctor finally walked in. 'Why 2 of them, why wasn't it just the doctor, and why had 'Breast Nurse' come into the room too... My heart started to pound as the doc started to go over my details from my medical notes regarding the fibroadenoma and the fluid filled cyst that I'd had previously; I was trying so hard to listen to what he was saying but in the back of my mind the same thing kept taking over 'come on get on with it and tell me' and then he said it! "Unfortunately this lump is nothing like the others. This lump is cancerous!" 'Bang' the bombshell had dropped.
Immediately bursting into tears, I started screaming, "Get it out, Can you get rid of it! Get it out, when can you get it out! Get it out of me". Doc, seemed very calm, Lee's hand was shaking, still holding onto mine and me, well I had turned into a sniveling, raving lunatic that was in sheer and utter panic. Doc explained that it wasn't quite that simple, they couldn't just cut it out, due to the size of the lump and the calcifications. They would have to determine how much cancer there was and make sure that it hadn't spread to any other parts of my body. 'Other Parts!!!' did I hear 'Other Parts' At this point I totally lost it and started shouting "Get her in here now, get that Bitch in here, I want to see her right now, it's all her fault. She shouldn't have spoken to me the way she did. So I'm paranoid am I? She told me I was bloody paranoid". Yes I was referring to 'Dr X'. Holding on to Lee's hand as tight as I could; I buried my face close into his chest, sobbing uncontrollably. I didn't hear anything else; inside I was panicking; "What if" its spread, "What if" it's incurable, "What if I die" and all because some stupid cow of a doctor didn't listen to me and thought she knew my boobs better than me. I wanted to scream and shout, I wanted to slap that 'Dr X' across her face, stuff that, I wanted to punch her. But the only thing that would come out now, was tears.
Lee took over, asking lots of questions and getting a little impatient with the doc as he wouldn't or couldn't answer them. A CT Scan was mentioned to determined how much cancer there was and the next thing I knew Lee's voice shuck the hospital, his voice deep and very very load as he shouted at the Doc "She is not going to wait 3 weeks, this is ridicules, this should have been picked up a year ago" The poor Doc nearly fell off his chair and his face was a resembled the shock and horror of Lee's powerful voice. Well what do you expect, Lee was right. It should have been picked up a year ago. My encounter with 'Dr X' was explained. Fortunately 'Breast Nurse' did feel for us, she then made her excuses saying "I'll be back in a minute" and returned as promised with an appointment made for the CT scan for the following week, apologizing profusely that the appointment was just before the bank holiday weekend which meant I would have to wait nearly another week for the results. Both Lee and I were so grateful and thanked 'Breast Nurse' for going out of her way and getting us the appointment; at least we didn't have to wait the three weeks like we were initially told.
After quite a while of not being able to get any answers from the doctor and just going round in circles, he asked if Lee and I would like some time on our own. He left the room and told us to take as long as we needed. 'Breast Nurse' gave us her card and said that if we needed, or any member of our family needed to talk, to ring at anytime. 'Breast Nurse' is a Macmillan nurse, which at this point didn't really mean much to me as I'd never heard of Macmillan. Still crying I took the card and turned to Lee saying "this isn't fair on you, you've already been down this road with Lauren" (Lauren being Lee's Ex). He told me to stop being stupid and that we would get through this, and get through it together.
We didn't stay in that room for long, we both just wanted to get out of there, to get some fresh air, and get as far away from the place as we could. We were both in a bit of a daze, the not knowing how much cancer there was and not knowing if they could cut it out, was the now worrying part onto of the fact that I had breast cancer. Lee being his usual positive self, started to reassure me that everything was going to be ok. . Even though Lee is several years younger than me he comes off, as being very wise for his years, so the way that he talks to you, makes you feel that every word he says is true. This is very warming in such situations. So for this very reason I believed, we both believed, that we could get through this. . . Together
We drove for a while in complete silence; how Lee was able to drive I do not know as I was just in a daze, watching the cars in front of us but at the same time not seeing them. Everything seemed to have slowed down and gone very quiet. I felt like I was in a bad dream and that if I woke up, everything would ok again. I was so sad, and so scared. This was something that I could not just run away from; I knew that I had to face it head on. You see I am the sort of person that does not like confrontation of any kind. I am a very placid person and any sign of trouble any sort of trouble, I run from it or ignore it hoping that it will go away. And usually it does. But I knew I couldn't run or ignore this, I had to face it head on, I had to be strong, I had to be strong for me, and for my family.
Then my phone rang! My heart immediately stopped. "Oh my God what do I tell her, I can't tell her"! I started babbling turning to Lee. It was my mum ringing. "The Truth" Lee replied. I didn't want to upset or worry her but he was right, and it was at this point that we decided that as we received information we would pass the information on and not leave anything out. Telling my mum was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do, I have tears in my eyes as I am reminiscing the moment that I told her that I had cancer. Her baby daughter that she has loved, nurtured and cared for so deeply for all these years has now got the dreaded "C". Obviously she was upset, I tried to be strong as I told her without getting too emotional what the doctor had said, that I was having a scan the following week but until then we wouldn't know much. Her voice was shaking "I knew" she said "when you told me about your nipple going inwards, that isn't a good sign you know, so deep down, I knew.
If we are being completely honest here, deep down I knew too. I knew because of the change to my nipple, and because of the white micro-calcification dots on the ultra sound. But like anything bad in life you just don't want to accept it, your brain won't accept it not until the words have been spoken and it has been officially been confirmed. Then there is the protection factor, you don't want to worry your family and friends. It is for this reason that I tried so very hard and more or less succeeded in putting on the brave face and kept the bad thoughts to myself.
"WHY? Why have you got it, Why couldn't it have been me, I've had my life. You're still young" my mum said, sounding like she was getting angry with herself for me having been diagnosed rather than her. "Maybe that's why" I somehow said very calmly "Maybe it’s because I'm younger and can fight it better". I could tell that she was holding back the tears the same as me and then suddenly! "I have to go" she said very quickly. Knowing why she wanted to get off the phone so quickly I told her that I would ring her back later. I know she needed time, I know this because we have all needed time to get our heads round this. As I hung up I turned to Lee with tears streaming down my cheeks and sniffled "that's the hardest thing that I've ever had to do, tell me she's alright, tell me she's going to ok, please Lee, tell me" Lee's reassurance started to work again. I felt helpless though. My mum lives over 60 miles away and I so much wanted to put my arms around her and tell her that everything would be all right, but I couldn't do that. Not yet, how could I? I didn't know anything.
Feeling quite calm I picked up my phone back up and rang work. I started to explain everything to Elsa the admin manager but as soon as I spoke the words 'breast cancer' I broke down. I asked if it would be ok if I didn't go into work until after the weekend. Elsa was great; she gave me encouragement and told me to try not to worry and said she would see me Monday.
It then dawned on us that Lee's mum knew we was going to the hospital for the results and decided to call round on our way home as we were passing that way anyway. It's amazing isn't it of how strong you can become when you need to be. We pulled the car up outside her house, Lee and I looked at each other, smiled and got out. Not a tear was in sight. We walked slowly round to the back door and as we approached we could see that Maureen, Lee's mum was in the kitchen. She heard us approach and looked round, after taking one look at our faces she said through a choked up voice "it's not good is it" we shook our heads. I had to look away from her immediately as I could see the tears in her eyes forming rapidly. I didn't want to cry, not again. You see Maureen is a very emotional person at the best of times, you only have to play a soppy love song and there you go! She's filling up again and choking back the tears. She cries when she's happy, she cries when she's sad and sometimes I think she just cries for the sake of it. Don't they say that a good cry makes you feel better? Well Maureen should feel on top of the world. She was born with a great big soppy tap on her head. Lee and I have always laughed and tormented her about her water works, but not today. We briefly explained what the doctor had told us. Maureen came up to us and hugged us both hard. Lee looked round at me and said "will you be ok with my mum for a bit? I need to pop out." "Of course" I replied "are you ok"? "No! He's not ok, look at him" Maureen sobbed and instinctively flung her arms around him. And all three of us just stood there in the doorway hugging and holding on to each other. It was at this point that Lee very quickly spun round towards the door saying "I can't do this I've got to get out of here" his eyes were very red and glazed and I can remember thinking. "Don't Lee, Don't you dare cry! You never cry; and then he was gone. The thought of him crying to me would be him saying that everything wouldn't be ok, and that I wouldn't get through this. I know that was selfish of me but I felt that I needed for him to be strong for me to be able to be strong.
Maureen and I sat in the living room, she had poured us a both a vodka and coke. I'm not one for drinking alcohol during the day, well apart from special occasions and Christmas and sometimes if I can think of a good enough excuse. I am not saying that alcohol makes things better, because it doesn't. But hey I think this was a good enough of an excuse don't you? And it did taste good, it went down a treat. I started to feel quite calm and it seemed that I was consoling Maureen and telling her all the right things to make her feel better, things like; it'll be ok, breast cancer is one of the most curable cancer there is; I won't let it beat me, you know the sort of thing, lots of positives. I’m not sure where the words came from, after all I didn't know the first thing about breast cancer, but it sounded good, I like the sound of it and hung on to my own words. The main thing is that by talking like this; I was starting to come to terms with it myself. I pictured in my mind that I had little squatters gathered together forming a group laughing at me about squatting there un-invited. I just had to work out how to get these squatters evicted.
The time was ticking away and there was still no sign of Lee. Where was he? Why was he taking so long? Maureen went to top our drinks up and as she did I went up to the bathroom. At this point I panicked. 'What if', Lee doesn't come back? 'What if' he can't cope with this and can't face me now. "Lee" I whimpered as I sat there on the loo, "I need you, I can't do this alone". The tears started again. Sobbing, feeling very sorry for myself and abandoned I tried to pull myself together. What was I thinking; Lee wouldn't do that, he's hurting and just needs a bit of time to himself. I eventually pulled myself together and went back downstairs to Maureen.
Lee had been gone quite a while, exactly how long, I have no idea. But it had done him good has he had calmed down quite a lot. We sat and drank coffee while Lee told us where he'd been. "People must have thought I was a total nutter" he said "There I was shouting and bawling at everyone through the window, when I realized what I must have looked like. A 6 foot 5, grown up man snivelling like a child and to top it all off, I had snot running down my bloody nose" We all burst out laughing, you know the type, them really good belly laughs that bring tears to your eyes. But this time the tears were uplifting happy ones. We then went on to talk and laugh about different things, which was nice because it was about normal everyday things and not about the Cancer.
After arriving back home I received a phone call from my sister-in-law Kerry. She had rung my mum to ask her to baby-sit and obviously my mum had broken down in tears and told her. "My God, I can't believe how calm you are" she said "If it were me I don't think I could be as calm about it as you, I'd be climbing the walls". Kerry was amazed how I was talking about it. I was confident and very positive. At this point that was exactly how I was feeling, like I said earlier, this is a roller coaster ride and it’s amazing how one minute you can feel on top of the world and then a split second later everything comes crumbling down on you and your feeling down in the dumps.
After hanging up the phone from Kerry I rang my mum back to see how she was. "You're my daughter" she sniffled "How else do you expect me to be, of course I'm upset" My relationship with my mum has always been strong, we have been mother and daughter, but most of all we have been the best of friends. We have done everything together, gone shopping, nights out drinking and dancing. Well! I did the drinking, as my mum's maximum before she is drunk is a lime and soda. We went on holidays together and have been very open with each other; we have talked to each other about each other's problems, fun times, even the sex. I can remember years ago when I found out that I couldn't have children naturally; she offered to be a surrogate, just so that I didn't have to go through all the turmoil that comes along with IVF treatment. I had to remind her that it wasn't my womb that was the problem, and that it was my fallopian tubes. She laughed; we both did as it dawned on her that she had been sterilized the old fashioned way, which left both of us with the same things functioning and not functioning. My mum would do anything for me and it was the same right now. "If I could have it instead of you I would" she said. "I know mum, but it's probably better this way as I'm younger and stronger. I know I can beat it,” We told each other how much we loved each other and to ring at anytime, we then hung up. At this moment in time she was being very negative and thought the worse, but that soon would change.
Now there is Luke! Do we tell him or not? Luke is Lee's son and at the age of 8 he's a very sensitive child. A good child and I must say that if I had have been blessed to have children I would have liked to have a son just like him. I have been there for him since he was 4 yrs old and would protect him from anything. "What will we tell Luke?”I asked. Lee took a moment to think about this. He had to think very carefully. "Nothing yet" he replied. "I don't think that he needs to know anything yet, Not until we know what is going to happen" He was right, why tell him anything yet when we didn't even know what was going to happen ourselves, and so we decided to wait until after the CT Scan. Luke has heard about cancer, but he thinks that everyone dies of it, so at this point I don't think there is any reason to tell him. I don't want to worry him, but at the same time I don't want to lie to him.
Everyone else in the family are told either by Lee, my mum or Lee's mum. Today they have left us in piece, given us space and time to come to terms with the news that we have been given, which I am so grateful for. . .
At no point did I think that Lee would ever leave me or do a runner on me (except for the panic attack in the loo). but obviously some people thought he would or could, as the same question always kept cropping up; 'is Lee sticking by her'. All I can say is that they didn't know him. But I can tell you this! It hurt knowing that people were asking that question and that they thought so lowly of him. But as I said! They didn't know him. I knew that we loved each other and that love would get us through this together as a team.