One year on, a personal update #breastcancer #cancersucks

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A year ago today I was still reeling from the diagnosis, that my little lump that I’d hoped was a benign cyst was in fact breast cancer. Boris (so-called because it was a nuisance that wouldn’t disappear) had first appeared, or more correctly, was discovered in mid July. I haven’t a clue what date, as at the time I wasn’t unduly worried. I discovered the lump while in the shower and bizarrely couldn’t feel it when laid down. So for all the instructions that say check your breasts when lying down, I also say, check when in the shower. I’d had several previous false alarms, with recalls from mammograms due to cysts and thought this was probably the same. As a result, and also due to the fact that I didn’t want to cancel my long-awaited trip to Harrogate for the Theakston Crime Writing Festival I didn’t see a doctor until my return.

Once I had  seen the doctor (who was highly amused that I’d circled Boris with an eyebrow pencil to make it easier to find) things moved on a pace. She agreed there was a lump, but it was not her call as to what it was so she forwarded my details onto the Breast Care unit and by the same afternoon I had an appointment for the following week. As I’ve already regaled you with the fun (!) that followed, I won’t repeat it all here. For those that missed the little stories of my ‘journey’ then click here to play catch up.

Instead I’m reminding myself of what I’ve been through and more importantly overcome, to be happily sat here writing this today. I would, of course, be happier not to be writing about cancer at all, but then that’s life, no point in complaining about it. So let the fun begin. In the past year I have had, (in no particular order)

1 – mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy

1 – pre-op assessment

1 – radioactive injection prior to SLNB

1 – sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (yes I know you wanted to know what it stood for)

1 – lumpectomy

1 – Holistic Health Assessment

1 – Hickman Line inserted and removed

1 – X-ray (to rule out colon blockage)

1 – bone scan – the Femara can weaken bones so you need to start from a healthy base

1 – MRSA swab

1 – set of stitches removed

1 – radiotherapy assessment and ‘tattoo’ session

1 – unexpected trip to The Christie to clear Hickman line blockage

2 – panic calls to The Christie for advice/medication

3 – requests to Breast Cancer Nurse to help with prescriptions

3 – meetings with my oncologist

3 – meetings/reviews with the radiographer

3 – cycles of epirubicin and cyclophosphamide (EC) chemotherapy – a walk in the park            compared to the next one

3 – cycles of docetaxol (T) chemotherapy – the chemo from hell

3 – hours waiting for 111 to answer emergency call because The Christie can’t prescribe?               (They’re a hospital full of Doctors, they know I’ve got cancer and are fully conversant         with side effects and even told me what I needed to ask for!)

4 – echocardiograms – the Herceptin can damage the heart muscles!

12 – Herceptin injections and counting – still have 6 to go, last one due 17th December

13 – Hickman line flushes

15 – sessions of radiotherapy

42 – Filgrastim (stomach) injections

In addition I’ve lost count of the numerous pills I’ve swallowed; steroids, anti-sickness, painkillers (from paracetamol to Tramadol), anti-histamine, constipation and now Letrozole (for 5 years) and Pregabalin (for the foreseeable). I’ve slapped on creams, balms, salves and lotions to help heal wounds, improve scars and mitigate radiotherapy burns. I’ve drunk virtually every constipation remedy known to man, tried various meds for mouth ulcers and sores and am still shoving vaseline up my nose for nosebleeds and sores.

I lost my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and most other body hair (except on my legs – go figure). I just held on to my fingernails and lost one of my big toenails, the other is still making its mind up. I now walk with a stick, for balance, more than anything as the chemo damaged the nerves in my feet – they feel numb, swollen and pins and needlesy. As with most things it’s more noticeable at night when the knee and lower leg pain also comes into the mix, hence the Pregabalin.

Here’s a  little photo montage of before, during and after (nothing too graphic, mostly balding heads, regrowth and a few dodgy nails).

 

 

 

What has not been possible to quantify is all the love, help and support I’ve received from family and friends. Those friends have often been people I’ve never met, as my progress has been incredibly helped by my blogging buddies, authors and my blog readers, who have encouraged me and made my ramblings worthwhile. So thank you all. My biggest thanks though has to go to my OH who really stepped up (apart from some dubious cleaning, but can’t have everything) and has really been an amazing support and rock.

 

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The 21st Aug was the anniversary of the day I got my diagnosis re that pesky 24mm, grade 3, invasive ductal carcinoma (oestrogen and HER 2 positive), so we took the day off and visited Chirk Castle. It was a lovely day, far removed from this day last year and fingers crossed, going forward my side effects will disappear. I’m hoping I won’t have any adverse effects from my existing medication and despite being an aggressive, possible returner, Boris really will do the decent thing and sling his hook permanently.

(So far the signs on that front are positive, I had my first follow up mammogram 2 weeks ago and it came back clear).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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62 thoughts on “One year on, a personal update #breastcancer #cancersucks

  1. I feel as though I have been with you every step of that year, which in some respects has gone incredibly quickly considering your recovery. What a fabulous account of all the procedures, wish I had thought to write it all down, it’s only looking back you can see how remarkable you have been coping with it all. And what a gorgeous set of photos, very brave to show them but oh so important for anyone else just starting the journey. You look amazing lovely lady and as always you are in my thoughts. I know I’m crap at keeping in touch but you know how time consuming all this can be. Lots of love, Ali xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • It has gone very quickly, and if someone hadn’t seen me from one year to the next you’d hardly guess, apart from the curls and the stick. But the in between hasn’t been easy, – for either of us. I don’t know whether documenting it will help others, but I hope so. I’ve tried to be honest, without being too grim, the grimness will be real enough for anyone unfortunate enough to have to go through it. I’ve really appreciated your support and the in the braveness stakes, I can’t hold a candle to you. Stay as strong as you can, with much love, Jill x

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  2. Jill thank you so much for taking the time to write this incredibly personal post. It’s a stark reminder to all of us out there the importance of checking our breasts on a regular basis and not being afraid to go and get anything unusual checked out.

    I wish you all the best in your recovery and hope to see many more reviews from you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Laura, it seems in the past year I’ve shared things I never imagined – but all in a good cause. I failed to mention that one of the side effects was the inability to concentrate so my reading has really suffered. That is picking up though so hopefully those reviews will become a bit less sporadic.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds hell Jill and I haven’t seen many of your updates so I am grateful for this reflection as I was so happy to see your all clear this week, many more of those to come I truly hope! I have a history of cysts and breast adenoma and had a couple of biopsies last year which confirmed all benign but your experiences have taught me I still need to be vigilant and report anything that changes, because sometimes I feel I’m wasting people’s time when they are proven to be nothing to worry about but I suppose it’s important to not take that for granted xx

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  4. Oh Jill, you took me right back to the days when I had to flush out my husband’s Hickman line. He had leukaemia and a bonemarrow transplant, starting in 1990. 28 years later he is still with me – proof there is life after cancer treatment. You have done so well this year – keep up the good work! With Love and a hug. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read this ‘lurving’ you more with each written word. I know you shrug it off with your own indomitable spirit and brand of humour, but you truly are an inspiration. Not only were you fighting your own battle with Boris, you helped me see the positives that could be with Sidney Spine-less. I feel more than just a little blessed to have met you…. and I’m even more made up to see our mutual pencilled-in eyebrows made the photo collage (still think yours beat mine hands down!) 😉
    As the song goes ‘You’ve got a Friend in Me’ … in spades, buckets, wheelie bins and more.
    Gina x

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  6. I’m pleased you’re doing well. I’ve done very well on Letrozole. I’m 8 years in and fit and well. I still get checked annually because I joined the research programme which means I get checked for 10 years rather than 5 and so far I’ve come back clear each time. I think a positive mind frame makes all the difference. Hang in there.
    Chris Longmuir

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  7. Wow a year ago already… Though it probably felt longer for you. Thank you for all you posts updates, I have learnt things from them that I didn’t know. Wishing you all the best in health and your future 😘😘

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    • Muchas gracias Annie. Sadly the other thing that suffered was my Spanish. Haven’t been to class for a year and concentration/memory makes me feel like I’d need to start from scratch. Or maybe I just need several months in Spain to remedy that 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderfully inspiring post, Jill.So glad you are on this side of everything. You will bring hope to all who are going through now what you have been through. I found myself nodding and saying”yes” to so much. I’ve celebrated twenty-two years since my “Boris” (sure your clever and …hmm.. subtle? aside there… raised many chuckles) All the best from now on.

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  9. I’m so sorry you had to experience all those terrible things. I really admire the stoical way you soldiered on. It took a year from your life but you’ve come back – cause for celebration! Love xxx

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