On the 9th of February I told anybody that was listening that I had received the all clear at my first annual check up. That I was recovered. Breast cancer was gone. That was a great day.
I don’t regret many things, but I am truly sorry that that statement proved two weeks later to be completely and utterly erroneous.
A blood test suggested there was an issue with my liver function and I was to go back to the hospital for a liver ultrasound. A year and three days after my first liver ultrasound, to be precise. On my way to work that morning, I sauntered in for the appointment having been told I would be called some time later with the results. In fact, within 30 minutes I was told that I had metastatic lesions on my liver. If, like me, you are wondering what the hell that means, it means the breast cancer had spread to my liver, in multiple places.
As my world shifted that morning I was told all sorts of weird things like, “it’s not curable”, “we don’t need to do a biopsy”, “breast cancer doesn’t normally spread to multiple sites until many years after the initial diagnosis” and ” we need to do more tests”.
What ensued over the next 4 weeks can only be described as my worst nightmare. The diagnostic and testing phase felt like it was never ending and around me everything and everyone was falling apart whilst we tried to deal with the news that nobody was expecting. I don’t think I stopped crying for 3 weeks.
The details of the 2 (failed and extremely painful) liver biopsies, full body bone scan, full body MRI, abdominal CT, multiple bloods etc etc are not altogether that interesting, but I have never known such fear. I was terrified. The results showed that the cancer has also spread to my bones. Initially I was told spine and sternum. Following more tests and consultations it now seems that it’s far more wide spread. At one point I was told there was a large tumour at the top of my femur and that I might have to have my hip pinned in case I tripped and broke it. Fortunately that didn’t happen, although the xrays showed my arthritic hip is ancient and “you really need a total hip replacement”. That’s for another day.
Whilst all this was going on I met my oncologist and agreed a treatment plan. 4 weekly injections of bone strengtheners, an implant to kill off my ovaries, a tablet to reduce my oestrogen levels and a tablet of targeted therapy to go after the tumours. You can read about that here
This is a suck it and see approach (as I like to call it). I started 2 weeks ago and we wait and see if it does it’s job. If not, we go to plan B. I don’t know what that is.
I also met my clinical oncologist to discuss a course of radiotherapy (you may remember how much I enjoyed that last year). At this point I was advised they were targeting my neck as the top 7 vertebrae had multiple tumours and they were worried that the weight of my skull could cause injury to my spine. There definitely came a point during that week that I thought they could just tell me anything and I couldn’t have cared less. I couldn’t hear anything else, I had tried to roll with the punches but by this stage, I was literally punch drunk.
Yesterday, I completed my 15 sessions in 5 days of radiotherapy. They targeted neck (yes, face mask strapped to the bench), sternum, and femur. In addition to last year’s 3 tattoos I now have another 3. The day I got vajazzled in a CT scanner, I actually laughed, because really, what else is there to do? So far my neck has swollen so I looked like a hamster, and my salivary glands have stopped working. Time will tell what other delightful side effects will come to pass.
I am doing OK. I don’t feel as positive as I did with last year’s diagnosis, but that’s because I have to be realistic. The whirlwind of the last few weeks has left me exhausted and mentally drained, but things should settle down now. I don’t yet know what the full impact of the diagnosis or treatment will be. I do know that I have incredible support and am once again blown away by the love and kindness shown to me by my friends. I also have the best family a girl could ask for.
I will update here as things progress, please fire any questions you have my way. I really want to be open and honest and hopefully promote some discussion and really encourage you to be proactive about your wellbeing. For God’s sake feel yourself, test yourself, look after yourself.
For now, I also ask you to look after each other.
Big love, AG x