Breast Cancer and
Subsequent Related Developments
In June 2006 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. This is a diary of my subsequent treatment and recovery which I hope will help others to realize that there will be an end to it and life can get back to normal.
I can never be the person I was however I'm not sure I would want to be. Cancer has made me realize what is important in life and to appreciate what I have a lot more.
|3rd June 2006
|Steve found a lump in my right breast. To me it seemed attached to the rest of the tissue but you could definitely place two fingers either side and move it from side to side. Of course it was a Friday so I waited till Monday to ring. I wasn't worried at this time and thought nothing of it.
|6th June 2006
|Rang the doctor and made an appointment
|7th June 2006
|Saw the doctor who said he would refer me for a scan immediately
|12th June 2006
|Went for the tests at a "one stop clinic" in Clayton Hospital in Wakefield. I still wasn't worried so went along on my own. My appointment was 2.30pm and I came out at 5.30pm. I had a doctor's appointment, then a mammogram, then an ultra scan then a biopsy. Then I saw the doctor again who said it was a 3 in 5 chance it was cancer. I drove home in shock.
|16th June 2006
|Results day. Steve came with me.
We were told that it is cancer and were given the options for treatment. It
required surgery to remove it and I could either have a partial mastectomy
and radiotherapy or a full mastectomy and less chance of having to have
radiotherapy. Then I could have immediate reconstruction or wait until a few
months before having reconstruction if I wanted it. They wouldn't know about
radiotherapy or chemotherapy until the operation was done.
After a short talk with the Breast Care nurse I decided on a full mastectomy and immediate reconstruction. I have always thought that I would choose a full mastectomy in this scenario and also liked the sound of immediate reconstruction as it would be progress towards an end of sorts.
|17th June 2006
|Steve's birthday. His daughter Rosie had arranged to come over and we were going for a run. Steve and I had a long talk about who to tell, why to tell etc and we decided to tell everybody. It is one of the hardest things to do as you haven't come to terms with it yourself yet. Rosie was great, very comforting and we went for a run on the moors anyway.
|18th June 2006
|It was all arranged that there was to be a surprise 70th party for my aunt in Devon. My brother was arriving back from holiday and driving straight down to Devon. It was hard to know what to do. I said I couldn't ruin her birthday but also couldn't be normal in front of my brother. We rang him and got him to meet us on route without telling him why. This makes me cry even now - telling him was just so upsetting. We went on to the party and it went very well.
|19th June 2006
|We stayed the night with my cousin Carolyn and on Monday morning told her which was fine. This is one thing I found out; some people take it very well, others need some time for it to sink in before they can talk, some can't talk to you at all. It was upsetting at first when people wouldn't talk about it until I realized that it didn't mean they didn't care just that it was their way of dealing with it.
|20th June 2006
|Had an appointment with the Plastic Surgeon. He said I couldn't have a silicone implant straight away but he could put in an expander and they would insert saline solution into it every 3/4 weeks until my skin had stretched enough and then the expander would be replaced with a silicone implant.
|21st June 2006
|Had a home visit from the Breast Care nurse. Also in between appointments etc we were very busy on the farm which took my mind off the it. I wasn't worried about the operation but about any spread of cancer that there might be.
|23rd/24th June 2006
|Charlie and Carol came up for the weekend. I was due to be supporting on the Bob Graham in the Lakes and after much consideration decided to go. I wasn't sick as such and didn't want to let people down either. I found the other runners and supporters marvellous and it was a very good decision to go up.
|I decided that after 5 years of dying my own hair and never having it cut to have a proper colour and cut. This took all afternoon and I came out with lovely curly, blondish neck length hair.
|Steve and I ran up to a special place on the moors called Rocking Stones and had a picnic. We made a decision to go back on Christmas Day.
|Was admitted into Pinderfields about 3pm. I had a very sleepless night as the other 2 patients on the ward fell asleep with the tv on very loud then snored a lot. I doubt I would have slept much anyway.
|Monday 4th July 2006
|I had lots of pre-tests but was
told that I was now first on the list and so would be going down at 9.30am
which was good. I kept wanting to cry and was glad when it was time to go.
When I came round and looked at the clock and it was 12.15 and I said "its all done" and the nice nurse said "yes dear its all done" and I felt so much happier.
Steve had rung so knew I was out early and it was lovely to see him as I wasn't expecting him until 5pm. He brought food too !!! I wanted to get up and the nurses said I could walk around the hospital with Steve.
One really nice thing was that while I was being operated on my room mates had changed. Now I had Eline and Vera. Neither liked tv or snored. They were real characters and Vera was quite ill but still managed to smile.
I spent the evening rearranging my flowers and changing into my night clothes out of my gown. Everything was such an effort but I didn't want to just lie down.
|5th /6th July
|I was recovering very well but the drain I had in was still draining a lot. It was so hot in hospital though and when the nurse said I could go home with the drain I wanted to.
|7th - 12th July
|I did have a lot of visitors when I got home which gave me a lot of support. I went to have the drain checked nearly every day and it was always draining too much to come out. In the end they said to come back in 3 days which gave me and Steve the opportunity to go away to Wales for a couple of days. It was very nice to get away. We went for a couple of walks but didn't do very much really. I hadn't had the results of the tests done on the lymph nodes yet either which was a constant worry.
|I had to ban myself from breast cancer forums and allowed myself to play games on the computer instead when I was feeling depressed. I had massages and did exercises. I got tired of crying and being fed up and unmotivated.
|Friday 14th July 2006
|Test results day. When the doctor told me I couldn't believe what I was hearing and had to look at the nurse for confirmation. Grade 2 cancer, no lymph nodes affected and so probably no chemo. They had to check with the oncologist but it was still good. I would have to be on Tamoxifen for 5 years and have yearly mammograms on the other side.
|That was the catalyst for me getting better. I started to drive, booked myself another massage and on Sunday walked up to Holme Moss and supported a fell race there with Steve.
|Drain out !
|Went for a little run - I had scoured the internet and bought a Grade 4 sports bra where nothing moved at all. Felt odd but didn't hurt.
|Went for expansion but unbeknown to me I was supposed to have been given a magnet when I left hospital in order for them to locate the port on my expander - without it I couldn't be expanded.
|Ran the Trunce - a 4 mile fell race. Set off ok but found it very hard. My legs felt like they each weighed 5 stone. I was glad I had done it though when I finished.
|Went for expansion but still no
magnet and so no expansion. This time I was really upset. All the swelling
had gone down and I was very lopsided. I got home and couldn't stop crying.
It was awful. My dad had come down from Scotland to see me and Charlie and
Carol were up from London and I was so miserable. I decided on Sunday to
write a letter as I couldn't wait another 4 weeks for another appointment
thinking that no-one was actually doing anything to find a magnet. I wrote
it and posted it and felt better.
I did try to buy one myself but they come in the pack with the expander - I even tried ebay !!!
|Went up to Galloway and did the Heart of Granite with Amanda. This is a 20 mile race but over very rough terrain. I really enjoyed being back in some proper hills.
|During the week Mr Fourie's secretary had rung me to apologize as he had been on holiday and had just seen my letter. An appointment was made for me on Friday 1st. I had 100ml and it felt odd watching it but didn't hurt and I was so pleased with it afterwards. I went playing netball that evening and happily showed them off to people.
|Me, Steve and his daughter Rosie ran the Yorkshireman Off Road Marathon to raise money for Challenge Cancer Through Adventure and Cancer Research. It was a very hot day but we were all very pleased with our times.
|Breast care check up at Dewsbury. Was a very long wait as women were being seen after having their 1st tests done so I didn't mind as they need more time. Just checked that I was ok on Tamoxifen which I am.
|Expansion 100ml - was painful that night but then ok.
|Did OMM with Steve in Galloway. By now I was back walling and farming as normal again. I had had a lot of massages mainly on the underarm area where the nerves and muscles had all been damaged. It was good to see the strength returning and walling was good training.
|Expansion 40ml and put on waiting list for operation to replace the expander with a silicone implant. I also agreed to having a smaller implant in the other side in order to equal the two up.
|Steve and I ran though the rain and fog to Rocking Stones and had a small bottle of champagne to celebrate being !!!
|4th January 2007
|Operation went very well. I was worried when I first saw them as they seemed huge but a lot of that was swelling which went down over a couple of weeks.
|1st March 07
|Nipple reconstruction. I wasn't that bothered at first about a nipple but as time went on it became more important. Mr Fourie made a very impressive job and I am very pleased with it.
|15th May 07
|Breast care check up. Examined breasts and said all ok. Asked about medication and were very impressed with my reconstruction.
|Successfully completed the Paddy Buckley.
|I hadn't received any results through so rang the X-ray department and my Breast Care nurse. The nurse replied by email to say the results were clear and then I received a letter that week too.
|After getting a lot of pain in the lower abdomen last Nov/Dec I went to have it checked out and have been for 2 ultra scans which have shown that I have a haemorrhaged cyst there and today a MRI scan. The Macmillan nurse rang the day after to say that the cyst isn't cancerous. I didn't think anyone thought it was as I wasn't getting the warning signs but it was still a relief to find out for definite.
|Went to see gynaecologist to discuss the results. The cyst is in my fallopian tube and is 9cm and has to come out. Because I'm having one ovary and tube out the surgeon suggested that I have both out to reduce the risk of the breast cancer returning and to alleviate the risk of ovarian cancer. This decision has caused me distress in that I never really considered the cancer returning and it will be immediate menopause.
|The operation is going to be the 25th September at Pontefract.
|Still not happy about having both ovaries removed and contacted my Breast care nurse who has got me an appointment for Tuesday 11th. I hope to get a clear idea of the pros and cons and be able to make a decision I am believe is right for me.
|I went on Tues to Breast care
doctor who said that although there would be a benefit it would be quite
small and they consider that I am covered with the Tamoxifen. The nurse took
me aside afterwards and said did I know I was having a hysterectomy. That's
the first we'd heard. So she made me appointment with the gynaecologist
surgeon today to sort it out. Think that was the final catalyst in me
deciding that I only want out what needs to come out ie. cyst
I told him today that I don't want the other ovary or my womb removed and made sure on my pre assessment form that it is only right ovary removal that I'm down for.
|25th Sept 07
|Had the operation. Was very worried but it went well and I was home the day after. I spent 2 weeks "resting" although did do a lot of walking. Then was back running. I am very glad I went through with it. Its so nice to run without the pain coming on.
|15th Nov 07
|Went for a checkup with Dr Hunter. Everything has gone well and I am now officially discharged - brill !
|Autumn / Winter 2011
|On Tamoxifen I was advised that my periods would stop after two years. For 4 years they continued as regular as clockwork but quite light which was rather pleasant. However in July and August 2011 I had the most horrific periods ever. Then when I felt so tired on the Pyrenees race I thought I should get it checked out. Initially the ultra scan showed that I had a thicker than normal womb lining and a fibrode. Another scan showed the same 6 weeks later.
|Following my holiday in January I had a hysteroscopy to look at the fibroid and to take a sample of the womb lining. It was inconclusive as they couldn't get a good enough sample.
|So the next stage is a hysteroscopy / biopsy under anaesthetic. The results showed that the cells weren't cancer but there was a chance that they could turn into cancer in the future. Tamoxifen has probably caused this and I was advised to have a hysterectomy. If I didn't I would have to have 6 monthly biopsies - not something I want to live with as I have realised that the stress of not knowing about your health is worse than just getting on with it and then working on the recovery.
|Monday 20th February
|The doctor also wanted me to have a MRI scan. It was then then I started to get worried. They were really investigating the possibility that I might have some sort of cancer. Tuesday and Wednesday were "awful days" when I was picturing myself being told that I did have cancer again.
|Thurs 23rd February
|Appointment at 10.40. Waited in a crowded waiting room with lots of people who seem to enjoy being ill. My doctor is very nice and told me the very good news that they had not found any cancer. But I should still have a full hysterectomy to get rid of the abnormal cells and also so that they can fully test all the bits when they get them out. After a discussion about whether I could wait a month or two - he said he would advise within a month so I agreed and was packed off to Pre Op. There I had a nice nurse who rang and asked when the Op might be. 9th March at Pinderfields. Thursday night I was coming to terms with this news. I was devastated. I hate recovery. I feel so strong both running and working at the moment. I have so many plans and we have 50 cows to calve. I don't want to recover and make yet another comeback. I was very upset and nothing would console me.
|Friday 24th and weekend
|I made a big mistake in the
morning: I went on the internet. I read some horror stories about women
still struggling months afterwards and when one woman did say she had
recovered in a week she was slated for it and called a bighead. She was the
only one I want to listen to. The advice for pre - operation was to make
sure you have all the remote controls to hand on the sofa - "oh my god!"
I went running on Bleaklow with the dogs, on my own, in the rain, wind and clag, to clear my mind; this is what life is all about I thought. I passed some "retired walkers" all grey and wrinkly and thought "I want to get old" The hills will still be here next month and next year and I want to be here to see them. I have to get over the short term impact on my life and look to the future.
Sunday - Steve (who has been wonderful) and I went and competed in the New Chew. It was brilliant to get out together and we just enjoyed the day and so were very pleased to do reasonably well.
I feel ok. Its hard telling people but I'm getting there and its no secret. The support I had from family and friends when I had breast cancer made all the difference and I hope it will do so this time. I recovered quickly last time and aim to do so again.
|Wed 29th Feb
|I've read more NHS advice and it says that normal women should be back to normal after 6/8 weeks and so I'm planning on accelerating that as much as possible (as I have in the past) and be back within 4/6. I'm a little up and down but on the whole am looking forward to the Watershed this Friday and then I am glad the op is sooner rather than later. Once it is done I can assess the impact and go from there.
| Its the Watershed tonight.
The team is all ready and so am I. We had two calves born to "first timers"
last night - 1.30am and 3am so I didn't get as much sleep as I would like
but have had a couple of hours this afternoon which has made up for it.
I have had a couple of good days; not got upset or cried once which is a plus. I am approaching the Op more like a challenge now. I've packed my hospital bag, made a list of "questions to ask doctors / nurses" and also "stuff to do when resting". I've set a few goals for the weeks following the Op too.
I have had my hair coloured and cut while chatting to Jo the hairdresser who is lovely. I have also had a couple of very encouraging emails and texts - thanks guys. And lots of huge hugs from Steve. Now going to the end of Winter Mondays and to bed early. This is all part of the "getting used to it" process. Now I want to focus and prepare as best as I can.
|After a couple of reasonable
nights sleep I feel a lot more positive and ready for the operation. I just
want it to happen so I can start the recovery process.
One thing I would ask is that people don't question my recovery plan. How come the advice of "you must rest" is as well known as "coffee is bad for you" or "bananas are good for you"? I didn't get to the standard I am today by resting and avoiding coffee while living on a diet of bananas. There has to be a balance and that balance is different for everyone.
Lecture over. Thanks for support. I'll keep updating my progress here and see you soon out on the hills.
PS Today we have been able to dispatch DimWit and Sparky out into the main shed (with their mothers) as both are doing well now.
|7.45am Today is the day. I've had
my "light breakfast" - well its all relative isn't it? I've spoken to Kia
and Rosie (Steve's daughters in Auz) already and I know my brother Charlie
and Carol (and Charlotte) are coming up to visit me tonight. I had homemade
lasagne for tea and have made my favourite cheesecakes for afterwards. Its
going to happen and I'll have to make the best of it.
I might be able to update Facebook when in hospital. But otherwise will be back here in a few days.
|March 9th- 12th
|I don't know how much to write
really. When I looked back at my notes for the cyst operation they weren't
very helpful as not detailed enough but whether everyone wants to know my
daily progress is debateable!
The operation went well. I was teary before but the nurses were very nice. The ward just seemed chaotic when I was admitted which hadn't helped. Friday night and Saturday morning I was hooked upto a morphine drip which I controlled but soon learnt that although it took the pain away it also made me dizzy and feel sick so I tried not to use it. Lying there on Sat morning I wondered about the sense of this as was in a lot of pain. I also wasn't allowed to eat until the doctor had authorised it. As they were busy I didn't see a doctor until 2pm and he said I could eat and come off the drip when I liked!! With visiting at 2.30pm I rang for help straight away as I was desperate to be off the drip and onto oral painkillers before visiting time. Steve, Charlie, Carol and Charlotte all came to visiting which was lovely. I was now able to get up a bit with only one appendage (the catheter) to haul about with me and so went for a little walk with Steve in the evening visit. I think all three other patients in my ward were in similar conditions as we all improved massively over the weekend. The catheter came out Sat night which was even better.
On Sunday the ward and hospital seemed lovely and quiet. It was all very leisurely and relaxing. I was told that if I wanted I could go home but everyone thought it better that I stayed which I did. Amanda and Andrew came to visit on Sunday evening and I could easily walk to the cafe by then. Sunday night I slept well and on Monday was discharged. It was good to get home and be in my own bed.
|I have been up and about quite a
bit. My head felt a bit zonked this morning so I laid down for a rest but it
felt worse when I got up. So now I think I will have short periods of jobs
(paperwork type), interspersed with sitting and reading. My brain isn't very
clever and I keep forgetting what I'm doing. I feel like Scally the old dog
poddling about in the way. I think if I tried accounts or something
complicated we could end up with a tax inspection !
The scar is very good - I saw it yesterday when the nurse took the dressing off. I asked a lot about recovery and was generally told that "if you don't think you should be doing it you probably shouldn't". I'm happy that I am improving everyday and have to remember that when I get frustrated. Thanks for cards and messages of support on Facebook. It really helps.
|I have been home 4 days now. It
is a week since the operation. I have worked out what my tummy doesn't like
- being in one position for more than 30 minutes, internal gut movements,
coughing and sneezing. But on the plus side everything is getting easier
daily. I'm only taking painkillers (paracetamol) on a night now and have
mastered turning over in bed slowly so allowing the organs to realign
themselves without a wallop which tugs on the scar.
During the day I don't feel tired or light headed and so am motivated to get some paperwork jobs done. And I'm enjoying my daily walks round the farm.
Its nice to get visitors, cards, flowers and telephone calls. I'm working my way happily through all the books I've been lent too.
I spent too long sitting at the computer which tugged at the scar ends on Friday and didn't sleep well. So I rested on Saturday and stayed off the computer. We had cows calving as well which tied us to the farm all day. We got out for a little walk down Hoppits in the afternoon and then Simon Rippon and Jude visited which was very nice. I then had a very good nights sleep
Today has been a good day. Lovely weather so Steve and I walked up Blacks and found the aircraft wreck that I want to use as a CP in a Summer Series race. Afterwards we called in at the Huntsman for a pint and to see Andy Plummer.
|Two weeks after my operation.
I'm getting back to normal. I have been out and about round the farm and am back to doing little jobs like bedding up and even a bit of walling.I went for a massage on Thursday and he said the scar is healing well and I could start stretching. I also slept through on Thursday night till 4am (so I can now turn over without having to wake up) and felt very refreshed on Friday.
On Friday evening I dropped Steve at Langsett then drove to Strines and went to see the gamekeeper about my Monday night races. I then walked up to Back Tor to meet Steve. We then had a couple of pints of Cockerhoop in the Strines pub.
|Exactly three weeks since the
Last Sunday I took times at the finish of the Edale Skyline race. It was good to see everyone and I didn't even miss running as it looked far too hot and dusty for me. This week we have finished one half of the wall (pics on Facebook) and started to think about turning some cattle out although I have heard rumours of snow coming now. I have been for a couple of runs - going up easy, going down sometimes bumpy. I got the bike out and have been for a cycle round - that's all very agreeable.
Generally sleeping better now just taking Ibrofen at bedtime but still getting pain when turning over in bed.
On Sunday I went to the Dales with Steve and Andrew Heading. We had a good run / walk with a couple of lunch stops and covered about 20 miles.
|Four weeks post operation.
Last Monday I did the Summer Monday race setting off early. It was good and I feel more confident running downhill now. On Wednesday we had a lot of snow and I slipped and jarred my stomach. It was painful and I couldn't sleep. I was worried I had damaged something but by Friday it was fine again. The healing process has moved to my scar area now. I'm not getting the shooting pains down my leg / groin anymore.
On Sunday I went to the Lakes to recce Leg 1 of the BG. I was careful on heathery descents but felt good all the way round.
|Thursday - My appointment with
the gynaecologist for the results of the histology that they did on the
womb, cervix, uterus and ovaries etc that were removed. I was hoping that
because they hadn't rung me in a hurry (when you have a chance of cancer you
are put on "green stamp" which means you get seen to quickly) that the test
results were good but there is always that niggling doubt. Anyhow at 4.20pm
I had an appointment - the waiting room was quiet and I didn't think that
was a good sign but the nurse was smiling when she called my name. Sitting
down I crossed my fingers. Mr Sharma looked up smiled and said "well the
test results were good. We didn't find anything else other than the
pre-cancerous cells that we knew were there". Brilliant !!!!!!
He asked about the menopause and I said I was having hot flushes but that I had learnt to wear lots of layers and strip off quickly if I felt one coming on. They only last about 5 minutes and I think that's fine. He said I could go on HRT but no thankyou. He was happy and so were we so he discharged me.
Skipping off down the stairs I was telling Steve that I had steeled myself for more tests/ radiotherapy / chemo as I knew that if they had found one intzy wintzy tiny cancer cell that is what he would recommend.
|Saturday 14th April
|Five weeks post operation.
I had entered Coledale Horseshoe back in Jan; a 9 mile race in the Lake District and now thought that I would run it as I felt ok and had been for a few runs. I knew the most important thing for me was not to fall or injure myself in any way that meant I would put my progress back. I ran as hard uphill as I could (my legs were very heavy) then on the downhills I ran cautiously and then as it didn't hurt tried to stretch out and relax.
Overall I was very pleased and there have been no after effects.
|Sunday 22nd April
|Six weeks post operation
There has been a big improvement this week. I can now cough, sneeze and turn over in bed without any pulling or sharp pains. A couple of stitches poked out the scar and then disintegrated in my fingers after I had pulled them out. The scar is nearly white now with a few red spots where the stitches came out.
We did some fencing on Thursday which made my tummy sore but it only lasted a day. I ran a race on Saturday and my legs felt much better than last week. I was also more confident running downhill although still cautious in heather or climbing down rocks. I am a bit sore today (Sunday) but having a relaxing day as its my 45th birthday.
|Saturday 29th April
|Seven weeks post operation
I had entered the Fellsman (a 60 mile hike across the Dales) back in January and this became my main goal post operation. I completed the race in very windy conditions and although I found it hard I was First woman in a time of 13hours and 35 minutes. My account is here - Fellsman_2012
I hope that what I have written above will help. I took photos of the various stages and if you would like to see them for reference then please contact me. I know how hard it can be to picture what the doctors are talking about. I would recommend having reconstruction as the finished effect is worth the extra effort and time.
I have worries about the cancer coming back but that's something everyone who has or had cancer has to live with.