Other things…

As D-day (surgery) draws nearer I’ve been thinking about my recovery and other things.

R reminded me yesterday that I could write about other things on my blog. (She doesn’t read it, I think she’s afraid to look just yet.)

By other things she means, my swimming, cycling and running endeavours as well as my mission to make my environment as healthy as possible. I’ve become quite interested in health promoting behaviour over the last few months, even before my cancer diagnosis.

A large part of my life has been devoted to exercise. I swam competitively as a child from the age of 6 years until I was nearly 23 years of age and then took up some masters swimming and dabbled in multi-sport for several years. When I finally became a consultant after training as a junior doctor for almost 12 years I started looking at participating in triathlon properly again, namely distance triathlons. Therefore for the best part of the last two years I’ve been fully immersing myself in the triathlon game and have participated in several sprints, olympics, half ironman distances and the ultimate Ironman goal was accomplished in May 2017. Ironman Lanzarote. I’m so glad I bit the bullet and went for it last year.

Ironman Copenhagen was to happen this year in August but I don’t think it’s to be this year. Not until I know what I’m fully dealing with here. Good news though – I can defer until 2019!

One of my big concerns regarding what I’m up against next is my method in returning to fitness.

Swimming

I am currently swimming like a shark, the fastest I think I have ever swum in my adult life. I’m knocking out 1:20/100m in my endurance sets, it feels like ironman pace to me. If I could continue that kind of conditioning then I would be doing the ironman swim in 52 minutes!

It feels slightly frustrating, like rubbing salt in my wounds, but it also means that perhaps being at this level will mean I won’t fall so hard after a few weeks of not being allowed to swim.

Also it makes me think I would like to do open water swimming seriously, really give it a try and see where it takes me. These are things that are fuelling my desire to get back at it and recover well. All positives.

Biking and Running

Just as I was anticipating seeing the end of the endless indoor turbo training for a few months and getting ready to enjoy the great outdoors on the bike – I’ve been cruelly brought back down to earth.

On the positive – my turbo is going to be my saviour after my operation and during radiotherapy.

Although I’ve bought appropriate sports bras for after my operation I doubt that I will be able to run aggressively and put any pressure on the wound for the first few weeks anyway. I plan to get back on that turbo and make the legs go. I don’t have to do anything with my upper body apart from exercises to prevent lymphedema (that is persistent swelling in the arm after the lymphatic chain has been disrupted by removal of lymph nodes in the armpit.) The turbo it is then.

That is until I give myself the clear to start to run and cycle outside.

When I say ‘I give myself the all clear’ I mean it. I’ve researched this –  and there’s nowt on the internet about how to get an athlete back safely to exercise after breast cancer surgery. I’m my n=1 on this one.

So, when I decide to talk about ‘other things’ this is mostly what I will be talking about. My journey back to health and fitness, but not just any type of health and fitness – Ironwoman fitness! 😉

PS I do plan to write about health promotion too but just thought I’d leave it there for today.

 

 

 

Roller coaster…

It has been an incredible Roller coaster over the last three weeks.

To be honest, it’s a roller coaster I would have never chosen to get on but I guess you don’t get that choice when you have cancer. It just happens.

I have surgery scheduled next week for a ‘lumpectomy’ and sentinel node biopsy.

The ‘lump’ and lymph nodes taken from my armpit will be sent to the pathology lab and examined by the pathologists who will determine whether the peripheries/margins of the lump and the lymph nodes are free of cancer. If they are? – well that will give the go ahead for radiotherapy after the wounds have healed.

If they’re not?…

Well that’s back to the drawing board regarding further management, but will probably mean more surgery (likely mastectomy) and possibly chemotherapy as well.

I’m in a position of knowledge because I have a background in medicine. That’s a good thing sometimes and a not so good thing at other times. What I can say is, it’s a real eye-opener being on the other side of the fence. Patient vs Doctor.

I continue to be depressed, defiant, afraid, angry and numbed by it all.

I have read a few other peoples accounts of their own battles via online blogs and they’ve inspired me and scared me in equal amounts.

The conclusion I’ve come to regarding other people’s stories are – they are helpful to a degree but I need to remind myself that we are all different and our cancers are all different. Their story won’t necessarily turn out to be the same as my story despite the similarities.

Today, I really cried.

Don’t get me wrong there have been many tears over the past few weeks but today I really cried for myself.

R was there, she was beautiful and supportive and strong as she always is. She held me and my heart. I worry for her, because our lives have become all about this thing, this uncontrollable thing that we are trying to control.

I cried today for the me I used to be. It feels like that person is going, going and will be gone soon – forever. (I don’t mean death – that’s way too final to be talking about that yet.)

What I mean is – the me who raced triathlons, the me who loved the way exercise made her feel, the me who enjoyed some of the finer things in life – indulgent food and wine! The care-free, smiley, looney-tune who was so happy with how her life was going.

I don’t feel she’s going to be the same after all of this and I’m sad about that.

But…crying is ok, writing it down is good and change is not always necessarily bad.

One quote I have lived my life by, and it is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea but I’m making no apologies for that…

“Everything happens for a reason….”

I can’t fathom the reason at the minute but I will keep on moving forward. That’s the only choice I have.

Onwards and upwards.

 

 

Perspective…

Perspective is such an interesting phenomenon.

Collins English Dictionary define it as

“…a particular way of thinking about something, especially one that is influenced by your beliefs or experiences.”

My most recent ‘experience’ has shown me that there are a lot of things in life that don’t matter and a lot more that really, really do matter.

I’ve honestly used the word perspective about a million times since my diagnosis. (Yes I like to exaggerate to put things in perspective – lol.)

I have a date for surgery now, which is good. I will likely undergo radiotherapy after my wounds from surgery have healed. Chemotherapy is looking less likely, unless findings at surgery suggest I should get it later on.

I’m one of the lucky ones so far – the tumour still looks to be ‘early and treatable.’

It’s in there, by itself, in my breast tissue and doesn’t appear to have any friends lurking elsewhere. It’s hormone sensitive (that is – it’s sensitive to oestrogen blocking drugs) and negative for the HER2 receptor that I was talking about in one of my earlier posts. That’s a really good thing supposedly.

“I’m one of the lucky ones…”

How’s that for perspective?

Every day thousands of women are being diagnosed with breast cancer all over the world.

Every day tens of thousands of men and women are being diagnosed with some form of cancer – all over the world.

Their news might not be as hopeful as my news. Their story may be not as positive as my story. That’s the real perspective.

So…to all of you folks out there, to all of your loved ones, to all of those somehow touched by this effing fecker, Cancer (oh and trust me I’ve said a lot worse than that word)…

Take your dominant hand (or whatever hand you want), raise it up, knuckles facing forwards, make a strong fist and then take your middle finger of that hand and stick it up to Cancer. Hell, if you feel like raising both hands up and making the same symbolic gesture – go for it. Let’s call it our personal salute to the Big C.

Now get on with it – love, hug, laugh and cry and look at perspective positively.

That’s what I’m going to do. That’s what we have go to do.

 

 

Positivity

It’s been a few days since my last post.

I’ve been given a bit more information about what is going to happen.

On a positive slant, the news I received back at the breast clinic is probably the best type. They still feel the lump is “early and treatable”.

It has a name now – ductal invasive carcinoma. It’s so far oestrogen sensitive and they were still awaiting it’s sensitivity to HER2 (human epidermal growth factor 2.) This is a positive thing – it means it will be sensitive to drugs that block oestrogen.

The FNA from the lymph node was clear – which gives me an 80% chance that it hasn’t spread (they will take some nodes away at surgery to hopefully confirm that.)

I have another more detailed mammogram to go through this week to make sure there’s nothing underlying “lumpy”. However, I’ve been consented for a wide local excision (WLE) with lymph node biopsy and hopefully will be scheduled before the end of April.

Radiotherapy will happen. That is standard after a WLE.

Chemotherapy is not yet confirmed, it depends on what they find at operation and whether I’ve a lump that is HER2 sensitive. I will find out the latter detail hopefully on Friday when the specialist nurse rings me after discussion at a multi-disciplinary meeting that happens amongst the surgical, medical and radio oncology teams.

So, there’s more clarity and a direction in which to travel.

Bit by bit I have told ‘my people’. Through this I realise how many important people I have in my life and how much I value them. The overwhelming response to the news has been

“Please if there is anything I/we can do, please ask.”

I’m overwhelmed by the out-pouring of love and support and for that I will be forever thankful.

The anxiety and fear is still there. I am numbed and shocked every day but I’m finding it easier to deal with.

I’ve decided that I am likely to defer my entry to Ironman Copenhagen this year and hopefully be fit to do it next year. If I’m not, it’s no drama but at least deferral gives me a chance to use my entry.

I am still going to train. I’m training for a different battle now. I need to get to the start line of my treatment plan in the best possible shape.

The Kale shakes have continued, the daily 1500mg Turmeric tablets, eating leafy greens at every possible meal and sugar? Sugar of any type can do one.

I’m also off other toxins like alcohol and feeling much better for it. These are the things we can control. Sometimes in a situation where you have no control it makes you feel better to control something. This is what me an R have latched on to. (I/we do have insight.)

The mantra’s I’m using are;

“You got this!”

“Positive mental attitude”

“Go Jenny, Go Jenny, Go, Go, Go!” – that’s what Mum and Dad used to shout when I was competing at swimming competitions.

There will be more, and I will share them. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Story…

You’re probably wondering how it all started?

It’s not that revelatory actually…New Year, New You so we started to eat more healthy. Avoided any ultra-processed food or any processed food at all. No bread, a healthy low-carbohydrate and high fat diet essentially.

Naturally with that I lost weight, possibly 5-6lbs within the first two weeks and then my boobs started getting a little smaller. I mean they aren’t massive to begin with but they definitely were getting smaller. Then…I noticed a lump. I’m not absolutely sure when I first thought I had a lump that was different but it probably was middle to end of January.

So being a health professional I thought…I will give it one cycle and then see if it changes in any way with hormonal fluctuation. It didn’t really…so that’s when I made the appointment with the GP.

The GP felt it as well and referred me on to the triple assessment clinic at our local hospital. 10 days later and there I am in a waiting room full of other extremely anxious ladies of all ages and all shapes. Sitting in our makeshift NHS open front scrub tops with a delightful NHS dressing gown over the top.

I had high hopes initially when they started with an Ultrasound (I’m under 40 so mammography isn’t great at detecting stuff.) The radiologist asked me again where this lump was, as he couldn’t see much with the ultrasound. (“That’s a good sign I thought.”)

I pointed to him the lump and he then took some FNA (fine needle aspirations) from the alleged lump. (Only a tiny needle and just a little bit stingy.)

“I’m not sure this is going to show anything too exciting,” he reassuringly said.

Boy oh boy did my hopes rise so high in that one simple statement. Texting R, who was annoyingly separated from me in another waiting room, I told her “he thinks it might not show anything exciting.” It’s amazing how you hang on to small comments, or the way a professional’s face looks. They’re burned into the back of my mind at the minute.

I was told to wait until the pathologist had looked at my slides before I could get dressed and return to the outpatient waiting room. A 15 minute wait turned into a 25 min wait, which turned into a 40 minute wait at which point my name was called. I was directed into a mammography room. Heart sink…

I wasn’t meant to have a mammography, but the radiographer told me “it’s ok – you’re here today to get this investigated and sometimes we just do all the tests to get a clear picture.” Ok, ok…I’ll go with that. So, a mammography and a digital tomography later I am back out in waiting room…waiting…

15 minutes later another call in to the same ultrasound room I had been in before. The expression on the faces of the radiologist and the auxiliary helping him couldn’t have been any more different this time.

“They aren’t happy with those cells…”

Then some small talk and an explanation of what a core biopsy is. (I know what it is but I listen with courtesy.) A core biopsy is literally a biopsy through the core of the tumour. It doesn’t hurt – they numb the skin up with local anaesthetic. It just gives the pathologist a lot more information about what kind of tumour they’re looking at. An FNA only aspirates cells from a lump and they sort of scrape it on to a slide that they can look at under a microscope, so it’s harder to be sure exactly the tissue type except to say that cells are abnormal. I won’t get the core biopsy results until another two days time. (They take at least a week to come back.) He also did a FNA of a small lymph node which he told me wasn’t enlarged (I really hope it’s not) just to gain some knowledge about whether this thing had spread yet.

Out to the waiting room again and a 15 minute wait to make sure they got what they needed. They had what they needed, I could get dressed and wait with R in the outpatient waiting room to get called in by the surgeon who had initially booked the ultrasound examination for me.

The waiting was really tough, for both of us. We watched as multiple patients went in and out of the small waiting rooms, the majority of them coming out with smiles of palpable relief on their faces.

I was absolutely busting to use the toilet (hadn’t been since 6:30am and it was now coming 11:45am.)

Of course as soon as I bit the bullet to use the loo I got called in. Typical.

Anyway, we were led down a long corridor and into a bigger room with the lovely female surgeon S, a specialist nurse C and a little student nurse who I barely acknowledged (sorry).

I knew it then, as I knew it when I walked into the mammography room nearly an hour earlier that the news wasn’t good.

I could see the look of horror on R’s face as she came in with me – she knew too.

The ‘breaking bad news’ part was done so well, so eloquently, just as how I would have wanted to do it if I had been the physician breaking the bad news. From Ms S and S/N C’s perspective I probably took the news very well, better than most I’d say.

Naturally I was gutted, but – I needed to know what was the next step, what would I do with work and what the expected the core biopsy to show.

So, the next step is results (two days time hopefully) and a surgical plan, +/- radio/chemo/hormonal therapy. This will really all depend on the tissue type.

How have the last five days gone?

My goodness if only I could describe in words how I, how we have felt. I will try…

I have never felt anxiety like it in my life. Ever. The fear rises from the pit of my stomach, working its way up into the back of my throat and then seems to make my head feel light. I of course then try to ascertain are these symptoms of the lump? Why do I feel like this? I didn’t feel sick before I knew it was a sinister wee bugger. In fact, one week ago I was training for an Ironman. I had just bagged two weeks of training of over ten hours. I’m swimming faster than I have ever in my adult life. I am not sick. I am health. Health with a lump.

There’s been a lot of positive things too. That’s so important. I’ve told everyone I love all about it. And everyone I love has been amazingly supportive and perfect and just behind me and R all the way. The lovely nurse C asked me before I left did I have a support network – oh my goodness C – I have a support network like you would not believe.

Support is important. Don’t hold this in. Share the pain. Share the anxiety because it gets you through.

Waiting is terrible. I just want to know what I’m dealing with and what I need to do now to move forward… but… that news (and maybe not the whole news) will come in two days time. Meanwhile, I’m just getting through the days by doing normal stuff and trying to pass the time. The tears come often, but less now than at the start. I will get through this and that attitude has to stay. Crying is ok.

I think I’ve got what I want to say down for today. No doubt I will have a lot more to say in the upcoming days and months. If you are reading…thank-you. Sharing this helps me.

If no one is reading that’s ok too, because the act of writing down my thoughts are helping me. Cathartic – I love that word.

They only reason I’m blogging is in case someone in a similar situation to myself comes across the blog one day and maybe finds some ease or relief to know that another went through what they’re going through.

This is my story…

PMA and Keep on Keeping on.

PMA – Stands for positive mental attitude, just in case you didn’t know.

Keep on Keeping on makes sense as well. I hope…

That’s what we are doing.

Also, we have now modified the already healthy diet to eating extra Kale and other green leafed vegetables, daily Vitamin B complex, Cod Liver Oil tablets and a box of turmeric/black pepper tablets are on the way.

No alcohol, not until at least we know what we are dealing with.

That’s what you do when you become a statistic. A 1 in 4 or a 1 in 3 depending on what you read.

But you never really think it’s going to be you.

As you can tell my form is a bit like a rollercoaster. I do feel I need to write this stuff down, it’s cathartic.

Also, telling the people I love, and sharing what I’m going through is helping too.

I have good people.

Will write more when it comes.

Curveball.

The month we got thrown a massive curveball…

Just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
Right boob.
Awaiting full results of core biopsy but have been told in all likelihood it’s treatable.
Anxiety +++
From both of us.

Just had to write something down.
Likely I will write more, need to write more later.

Life is full of curveballs.