My Lumpectomy

Yesterday February 21st I had my Lumpectomy. I am not sure if it’s normal or not because I still have a long way to go, but I feel on quite a high and have since yesterday when I came out of the anesthetic. How weird is that experience whatever the situation? No idea where I was or why ! I thought at first I was on a school camp in a huge dorm with everyone in white gowns and blue blankets and then my lovely nurse began to chat and listen to my slumbery mutterings and I felt safe and immensely relieved.

So it all began at 8.30 am with a visit to Nuclear Medicine for blue radioactive dye to be injected into my nipple. I had to lie on my hands for that as apparently it can make some lash out as it can be like a sudden bee sting. I found it fine but I do have breast implants that have dulled the sensation around my nipples. After eighteen years with them , I have got used to that. Bit of a silver lining for this procedure though! Turns out it was up to me to massage it around !! Thank god. Chris was in with me and was given the option too 😉 . Then I spent about 30 minutes having my left boob videoed and photographed as the blue dye highlighted my sentinel lymph nodes for removal along with the lump itself.

Actually very comfortable!

From here it was up to Day Surgery and a bit of a wait , an injection in my tummy to prevent clotting and these beauties on my legs . The “Santa Socks” were put on so I didn’t slip over 🙂 . I wanted to keep moving while we were waiting.

So yes a bit of a wait which I always find good in the end so you move from nervous into an impatient, lets do this, frame of mind. Shortly after the next photo with my wonderful supportive hubby documenting away, I went into theater. Unfortunately I have terrible veins but after 15 hrs nil by mouth, and extremely dehydrated , things were looking hopeless. But with the help of a super dooper anesthetist, it took 10 minutes prodding and poking to get my cannula in. It went in my left hand in the end. It was noon exactly the last time I saw the clock. Then I was wheeled awake into theatre, treated like a princess and had a very nice sleep.

Surgery took an hour and then I spent an hour in recovery. The cup of tea and sandwich I had at 2 pm was both terrible and amazing at the same time !! Then I was taken downstairs to a very handsome emotional man standing by the car with these

And then it was home to my daughter and granddaughter here from England and my other two daughters for cuddles and to relieve their nerves. It really is the ones waiting that have it tough.

I did have a couple of surprises that night. I now have a very blue boob for a while and only just stopped weeing bright blue !! I felt like a Smurf 😂😂. We did laugh. It’s only the radioactive dye coming out but no one mentioned that yesterday.

I am fairly pain free surprisingly, a little numb in the area and feel nice and rested. My results are on the 1st March. Until then I am going to enjoy my post op high while it lasts 🙂

Until the next time

H xx

Looming Lumpectomy

This isn’t my usual lengthy post but I just wanted to blog how I still feel about Thursday and everything in general and that is …not very much !

How odd is that ? I would expect to feel edgy, apprehensive, tearful and so many emotions. But no, not really. And I am sleeping like a log ! It’s actually quite a nice state to be in. I wonder if I am in some sort of shock maybe ? Certainly not denial. I wonder if my mind and body has thrown me into this hazy state to cope. Because none of it is going to be much fun.

I wonder if I will still be blogging this state of mind next week ?

I had a wonderful morning with two fab friends from playgroup days yesterday. We talk about everything. The funny. The nitty gritty. The painful. Great girlie stuff. So yesterday was a bit dominated by my breast cancer but not in a negative way. It always feels good to talk about it with the right people.And then it was on to our usual chatter. It was just the tonic I needed. Thank you to those two wonderful friends.

But s I promised myself , I do want to share light-hearted and funny moments of this journey and here is one that you can only really laugh at and we howled yesterday. At 8.30am on Thursday I am heading into Nuclear medicine for a radioactive blue dye to be injected into the areola. This will highlight my lymph nodes. Anyway, and I will leave you with this thought….the leaflet then states..” Someone will then massage your nipple for 5 minutes” 😯🥺!!

I mean how long is that 5 minutes going to seem !!!! And who will it be ???? The mind boggles and what a way to start the journey🤣🤣

xx

My Husband and his “Toolbox”

I thought I would share on my blog,to remember the early days of my journey fighting Breast Cancer, a piece that my husband wrote the morning after my diagnosis, so last Tuesday.

He has this theory that in a crisis men get their toolbox out and try and fix things the best they can rather than get emotional. He definitely does this and this is a perfect example of how. He isn’t a writer and boy did we have a few proof reads 🤣🤣, but he got researching and put together the following for friends and family if I got too tired explaining over and over what we are going through. At the time I told him he didn’t need to do it but it has proved invaluable. Also at work to stop the Chinese whispers ( or I’ll be losing both boobs by next week and be terminal 🙄!!)and keep management in the loop.

So here’s a read ..and it’s out there and I can blog about all the other stuff…

Dear All,

Some of you are aware and some are not, so this is the current health situation with my wife Helen.

I`ve done my own research plus asked the surgeon many questions.

I`ve decided to give you all a detailed run down and explain as much as I can in simple terms so everyone knows all the details. Google is great for understanding medical terminology. This will hopefully save a lot of repeat questions, from well meaning friends and family.

A couple of weeks ago Helen felt an unusual lump in her breast. She went to the doctors to for a check up.

The doctor was concerned and sent her for an ultrasound at IRG, Wollongong.

The result from the ultrasound was the finding of a 1.5cm x 1cm “Suspicious Nodule”

She was then referred for a biopsy, both fine needle and core needle.

They put a needle into the centre of the tumour and extract a sample from the cells nucleus. This allows them to see if it`s benign (dead) or cancerous (alive)

It also identifies the exact strain and type of cancer cells, as there are 5 or 6 common ones and also rarer types.

The results came back from biopsy and read as follows:

1.”The core biopsy of breast tissue contains “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma” Grade 2.

2.”Oestrogen receptor +ve (100% of cells show moderate to strong nuclear staining)

3.”Progesterone receptor +ve (100% of cell show strong nuclear staining)

We were then referred to a specialist surgeon in Wollongong the next day, Dr.Allan Mekisic, who explained what it all meant, and what the treatment plan will be.

Helen has been officially diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. Strangely, good news a there are 4 stages.

It`s an Invasive Ductile Carcinoma (IDC) which is one of most common types, good news.

Its Oestrogen and Progesterone receptor positive, which means it can be controlled by hormone medication, Nolvadex or Arimidex. Again good news.

There is no sign at “present” that it has spread to the lymph nodes, also good news.

So, we have caught it early, it`s a common type, easy to remove, treatable, with no signs it has spread, the best we could hope for.

Just FYI, the lymph nodes are part of the immune system, they are small structures that work as “filters” for foreign particles, bacteria and cancer cells.

A large supply of lymph nodes are located in the armpit, very close to breast tissue and the tumour, so can easily spread through the whole lymph / immune system.

The tumour will be removed by Dr. Mekisic on Thursday 21st February via a “Lumpectomy”, which is the removal of a cancerous tumour and a small amount of surrounding tissue. He will also take the two closest lymph nodes.

The removed tumour & surrounding tissue plus two lymph nodes will then be sent away for further tests. (including lymph node biopsy.)

We want to see no cancer cells in the tissue surrounding the tumour and lymph nodes. This will mean it has not spread and no further surgery or chemo will be needed.

Following recovery from surgery she will then have “Radiation Therapy”. A beam of rays on the tumour area only, not the whole body, which is also good news.

This will be 5 days a week (Mon – Fri) for 5 weeks. She “must” complete all 25 sessions. This is to kill any possible remaining cancer cells around the tumour site.

This does have some side effects, most common is fatigue, sunburn effect on skin, pink / redness, sensitive to warm water, swelling / soreness & itching.

This part will be the hardest of the whole process as Helen runs around all day like Wonder Woman doing a million jobs looking after us all, cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping, school, homework, Millie`s Acrobatics, walking the dog, paying the bills and doing her current job as a Support Worker.

She is going to have very low energy levels and get frustrated that she cant do what she wants or used to do. And after listing all that I have realised that I will have to up my game massively!

The last part of the treatment is hormonal, this is an oestrogen blocking medication.

In short oestrogen and progesterone are fuel for the cancer cells, like throwing petrol on a fire.

Nolvadex (Tamoxifen) attaches to the hormone receptor in cancer cells and blocks the oestrogen molecule, starving cancer cells of the fuel they need to grow.

She will have to take this everyday for at least 10 years or maybe life.

Tamoxifen also has some side effects such as fatigue, nausea, headaches, depression, mood swings etc.

After all this is complete she will also have regular visits, check ups, scans and blood test with the Oncologist. (Cancer Specialist).

So at this stage you know exactly what we do, I`ve learned a lot by writing this. I feel the more you know about it and all the big technical words, it makes you feel more positive about the whole process. I`ve also learned that Australia is the world leader in Breast Cancer research and treatment, we are miles ahead of the rest of the world apparently which is also good news.

She hasn`t got a rare strain of cancer which is the best you can hope for in this situation, the treatment is standard and been proven successful in lots of women around Australia.

So overall we are positive, she is in good hands, we have a very good surgeon and are close to Wollongong Hospital for any treatment, scans and check ups.

For those who have been in touch, thank you for your support and positive thoughts.

Thanks Chris.

Thank you Chris. I ♥️U

PS. Happy Valentines

Until the next time

PP

My Breast Cancer diagnosis and wow what a long ponder that was !

Well hello again! I have been terrible at blogging since starting work in August last year. I haven’t` worked in 12 years and it has just left me so time poor that I completely fell off the blogosphere. I never thought I would and on reflection, I should have just written. Anything. Rather than let my writing fall by the wayside. It didn`t have to be the perfect time and piece of material. What is the saying? Something about “just write!”

Brief update on work. I have spoken about not being able to work in previous blogs and being “Invisible” but went out on a limb and applied for a job in disability as a support worker and got it!! And big bonus, it is on a casual basis, so I can manage my workload! In typical Helen style, I didn`t manage it very well and over worked myself. But now is the time to sit back and well, get myself back to good health. My last shift for a while ended at 7am this morning. I just love that job and shall miss the staff and clients.

The title of this blog post and the change in my title page may be a huge clue as to a big change in my life and a rather big shock! I toyed with fancy, snappy titles like I did with PP, but just ended up thinking I may as well own it from the get-go and write, Breast Cancer. You can`t really sugar coat it. There I wrote it!

I have been advised to journal while I fight this *#%@+ so thought I might do so here on my blog, whilst still talking all things Perimenopause. Until that is, I get thrown into the Menopause very soon, but more on that later. I am a real heart on my sleeve girl. Never quite sure if that is a good or bad thing, but I am. I have had friends who have gone public in their fight on FB or Insta and I always thought that would be me. You know how you find yourself wondering what you would do in a certain circumstance? Well apparently, not. That may change but for me, it`s all about close family and friends knowing and supporting me, or should I say us, and my close little community here in the world of blogging. I hope to write about my journey, as ever warts and all and hopefully keep my humour along the way. I have so far. Bit hard not to, when your left boob is the star of the show!!

Last Monday, the 4th February will be forever engrained in my mind as the day I was told I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Grade 2. My surgeon described it as not a Chihuahua, not a Rottweiler but somewhere in between. Bit different way of explaining it I suppose. 😉 I had found a lump two weeks earlier and had had an ultrasound and a core biopsy. I will talk more about that in the next few posts but now am just putting it in writing for the first time. Baby steps and all that.

My world did not fall apart, I did not cry or wail. “am I going to die?” or anything else one thinks one might do when being given the news that you have the dreaded C word. I didn`t really do anything, except nod and smile at the treatment program and ask a few questions. And I have remained like that ever since. As has my husband. Maybe it hasn`t sunk in yet? Maybe it`s our mind and bodies way of coping, to go into a sort of haze where it doesn`t seem to be happening? Until this feeling passes, I am embracing it as I am not engulfed in tears or any sort of panic. That would be horrendous and may still come.

Next Thursday, 21st February I shall have a lumpectomy, 2 lymph nodes removed and a biopsy. If all goes according to plan, I will have 5 weeks of radiotherapy and avoid chemo but there are a few hurdles on the day of the op to go through.

I never thought this would happen to me, I don`t suppose any of us do, unless it runs in the family and I have no family history to go on. But it has. It`s surreal but we must begin the fight, there is no alternative. I am just hoping it won`t be too long or too gruelling. Writing this today has been good. So much more to say on how this affects us all, most of all our children and parents and partners,

Until tomorrow

PP

My Midlife Crutch or Two..Wine and Tea!

I have just got back from a fabulous weekend with six girlfriends that was full of laughter, gossip, giggles and well, wine. Lots of wine. It was one of the best times I have had in ages and I needed it. But on the Sunday the chat turned to what we use to get through the day. Life has thrown us all a few curve balls in the fourteen years we have known each other, and we were all a little tired and questioning our wine consumption!! All a big contrast to the yah- hooing and dancing of the night before (in someone’s living room, I might add, not in public! Can you imagine seven of us busting our moves to ” I Will Survive” and ” I Wanna Dance with Somebody” OMG!). Not all of us but some of us definitely began to say that certain things got us through the day more than we had ever needed before. Or even thought of doing before. We ranged in age from forty -eight to sixty-two years old and some work out of home, some stay at home, some have young kids, teens, elderly parents, relationship breakdowns or difficulties, the perimenopause or post menopause, or a mix of them all in various combinations. We laughed it off in the end with the usual “wine o’clock” jokes etc but on my long train journey home it got me thinking. Do I really have a crutch that helps me get through the day? Does it bother me? Yes, and Yes were my conclusions by the time I got home.

You see my two are tea and wine. But am I being too hard on myself? Could the wine get out of hand? I found myself googling at least two well-known bloggers that have given up alcohol and blogged about it and the comments they received. So many. And it is a growing trend with no sign of slowing down. Women embracing wine o’clock, out comes the bottle, on-line shopping goes through the roof and all is well in the world!! I keep hearing that middle aged women are becoming the biggest growing drinking group. Is it because of our youth as a way to unwind ? I know my Miss 24 doesn’t really go out drinking. It’s a totally different socialising experience to our own. We only met others by going out of the house to bars, restaurants and pubs. The youth of today (God I sound like my Nana!) are often on a health kick or have the fear of being posted on social media in a compromising position and it is just too horrifying I am told as once it’s out there, it`s out there. So they avoid it. (Visions of me and my friends partying in the 80s on social media is indeed horrifying! Thank god I was an 80`s teen !!).

But then is everything in moderation ok? So many statistics on what we should and shouldn`t have wine wise or sugar wise. I know them all! I can wholeheartedly admit that as I type this I have had a hell of a day, the usual food prep, cleaning, washing, a wonderful two hours organic farming…all after waiting an hour for roadside assist to tell me I had a completely flat battery at 9am in my car that cost $200 that I haven`t got this week. And it all seemed less stressful with a few cups of tea (need to cut the 2 sugars out of that!) and a couple of merlots before dinner on the horizon. Is there a slippery slope I could be on I stress to myself? Have I been reading too many blogs that hit the slippery slope? Hopefully not because honestly if I can put my feet up or hop in a bath when all are fed, watered and quiet, cradling a nice glass of red, then I can do anything with a smile on my face. Offer me a cup of herbal tea and I might beg to differ on my response!

Do you have a crutch that gets you through the day? Maybe it`s something else like yoga or the gym? Chocolate? Netflix ?

Hopefully this relates with some of you and I am not alone in having a crutch or two.

PP xx

Goodbye 2am Insomnia !

Well 9 times out of 10 shall we say! I have been meaning to share this breathing technique that is absolutely fab!! I have been so busy telling everyone about it that I forgot to blog about it to follow on from my post “Hello 2am!” https://mybestbreastforward.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/hello-2-am/ which seems to have been resolved! I am no longer woken up by drill like snoring from my lovely husband due to my lovely spare room which can be read about here https://mybestbreastforward.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/my-spare-room-haven/ because despite a few occasions of wondering about it over 18 years, I haven`t actually left him, just the room 😉! But I am still woken up by the need to wee or pee or whatever you like to call it. Usually at 2am ish, like clockwork. So, what is it I hear you ask?? Stop waffling and spill the beans woman!

Well it is something I caught by accident on an Instagram clip on insomnia and this British doctor (Dr Hilary Jones..still a handsome devil in his 60s) mentions the 4-7-8 Yoga Breathing Technique and my ears prick up. In for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and out for 8 he says and repeat 3x !! I will put a youtube link below of a yoga guru demonstrating it as I was doing it wrong at first, although it still seemed to work but not as well. So basically there I am at 2am, get the wee bit done in as little light as possible, back in bed and immediately start the technique, roll over after, get comfy and 9 times out of 10 it works. I am absolutely bloody flabbergasted and so grateful I caught the clip because it isn`t that well known from what I can gather. I don’t even second guess it now and do it as soon as I get back in bed. I have actually been using it during the day too as it really deals with any stressful times that occur. But obviously I don`t fall asleep, it`s just gets the breathing all relaxed. Gosh I sound all zen like 😉! It’s sort of become a nice part of my life. I must admit that at first it felt a bit weird, I don’t know why. It works I think because you are actually only taking 3 deep breathes in a minute and I guess that would feel a bit strange at first. If it doesn`t work for me, I wait 10 mins and do it again. But sometimes I am even nodding off halfway through the technique, so thank you Dr Hilary, you handsome devil.

Here is the youtube clip (not handsome Dr Hilary Jones by the way! )

Enjoy!

I hope it works for you too!

Until Next Time

PP

Life With Elderly Parents.

I was listening to some podcasts recently about the perimenopause and menopause. It was so interesting and relatable but one woman`s comment really hit the nail on the head. She referred to the menopausal years as the “Frantic Forties and Fifties”, where life just goes insane on so many levels whilst we face the onslaught of hormones going bonkers all at once causing a myriad of symptoms!

What she was referring to is a time in our lives when some of us really don`t feel that great (some do I know, and sail through to the final menopause stage) and are wanting time to deal with and process all these new, sometimes scary symptoms yet we may have so much else going on that we can`t or maternally put others first. It may be teens or marriage problems but one that really resonated with me, especially in the last month with my own experiences and listening to friends of a similar age, is that of the worry of elderly parents. It really is a double whammy.

And here`s why it resonated…..

My parents live in the UK and I, as you know, am here in Australia. When we emigrated back in 2004, they seemed so young in their mid-sixties. We didn`t even give the future a thought. Them coming to visit every year was always going to happen, and it did, every Christmas for fourteen years. Last Christmas was the last however as the journey has just got too hard and they are now 80 and my Dad has a multitude of health issues. This has brought a huge amount of feelings to the surface. I find myself thinking about them constantly. What will happen to them? Will they get a terminal illness? Will it be sudden? When will it happen? Who will be there? Well certainly not me!

Guilt is beginning to set in. Were we selfish to emigrate? My brother is dealing with everything and has even moved back to the village they live in. Hospital appointments, operation after care, the frustration it brings my parents and dropping in on them every day to check they are ok. I do know if I were to up sticks and go home for these final years, it would probably really upset them. It has crossed my mind but then I don`t want them to be upset or feel a burden. Which of course they are not. But it doesn`t stop the guilt I have and the toll it is taking on my brother. I sometimes hear it in his voice. I talk about it openly to him and he says not to think like that, but I do. I wonder if others feel the same and ask themselves if they made the right choice back in the days when life was simple and their parents were healthy as they boarded that plane to a new life. I think they probably do.

Two friends called me this month with news on their elderly parents. One call left me in a panic that I to could face a similar call to the one she received and the other left me feeling that guilt again. Both friends were in their own kind of grief.

The first call was from a friend who did the opposite to me and emigrated from Australia to the UK. It was a Saturday morning and she received a call to say that her Mum had suddenly passed away. Completely out of the blue, no warning signs. By the Monday she was here with her family to farewell her Mum. I dread this call. I may not receive it, an illness may take me home prior, but I could and maybe twice. This really bought it home to me. My passport and that of my daughters is always up to date. It`s not as if we can get in the car and drive to where we need to be. It`s a 24-hour flight !! Why did we go so far again? Selfishly it was so good to see my friend but so bitter sweet.

The second was from my crazy, gorgeous friend here who I can say absolutely anything to and she me. We laugh, we cry, we listen, we tell each other to shut up (or worse !) , we share hot flush stories and she calls me her “comfortable pair of old slippers” I love that. We are both from the UK but live here. She was full of anger, frustration and sadness that day. A year ago, she was loving life to the max, kids had left home, and they had bought a smaller house near the city. Think cafes, bars, restaurants, theatre. She had dreamed of this time. But then her Mum began to deteriorate and was eventually taken into a home and her dad is lost without her. She goes from work, to the home, makes sure her Dad has company, food, shopping etc. “I feel like I`ve got two toddlers” she wailed. It had been a bad week. I listened, I soothed but I knew she was feeling what many do, including my own brother. Yet I am too far away to share the appointments, the checking and the sadness of watching them age. I am a once a week Skype chat now, no more visits from them, no idea when I shall next get home to the UK and the elephant is always in the (Skype) room of when we shall see each other again. Because we dont know.

So, I am left pondering what to do. Perhaps there is nothing I can do but keep up the contact as much as possible from the other side of the world…..it`s a difficult one ☹

Promise to be cheerier next time

PP xx