Friday, 10 August 2012
I feel a party coming on
Nobody can rain on my parade today - and I can't wipe the silly grin off my face either. It was follow-up day, getting the results of all the bits of me they cut off 10 days ago, and it all seems like very good news indeed.
The lymph nodes on the left hand side - all three of them they scooped out to peer at down the microscope - are completely clear of cancer! I wanted to sing and dance with Mr Lovely himself when he broke that brilliant piece of news. He was very good at it too - I was already in a room, stripped from the waist up, preserving any last vestige of modesty with their very unfetching blue gowns, and sitting barefoot on his examination table when he walks in. Instead of pausing to close the door, or even say hello, he calls out from the doorway "Your lymph nodes are completely clear!". Then he shut the door, said hello properly and also said "I know how worried you were about that so I wanted to tell you as soon as I could." I don't think I could imagine a more brilliant way to start a hospital appointment.
He took all the dressings off - so many that the Egyptian mummies must have turned in their sarcophaguses with jealousy - and had a really good look at where my right breast used to be. He is very happy with the wound healing, and is delighted that it finally seems to be infection-free, and checked that I still have a few days left on the antibiotics, which will mean I've been on them for 3 weeks altogether. He didn't want to take the stitiches out quite yet, but he has left them with no dressings on to let the air get to them. As long as I am really careful I'm now allowed to shower again, which will be brilliant news for my nearest and dearest because I must have been beginning to stink to high heaven. (I've learnt the hard way that as long as you keep your hair clean and combed and tidy, nobody seems to notice that you're filthy everywhere else).
Then he talked about the breast they removed. Originally they had estimated the tumour size to be around 2.2 centimetres, but lab results have showed that it was actually a whopping 14.4 centimetres - that's virtually 6 inches in old money, six times larger that they had bargained for. The best news is that they have managed to get a clear one centimetre margin in all directions. Not quite as great as the 2 centimetres they hope to clear, but the operative word in all of this is "clear", and that is so reassuring.
I asked him if this all meant I am now offically "cancer-free". Yes, he said, I am "theoretically" cancer-free, they have cut away all the nastiness, and they are now going to treat me for the "what ifs". What if there are any stray cells that have escaped, and wanting to set up shop elsewhere inside me? That's why I need 6 months of chemo, followed by several weeks of radiotherapy, to put the icing on the cake, with total belt and braces, to make as sure as they possibly can that any stray little horrors are blasted into oblivion or burnt to a cinder.
I also asked if mine was a particularly aggressive type of tumour because it has the HER-2 protein helping to power its growth, which from what I have read seems to be a sort of turbo-powered accelerant. He said yes it is, but that is a good thing, because these HER-2 receptive cancers are treated very effectively by the new generation of drug therapy. Both my tumours were also powered by both oestrogen and progesterone which can also be countered by a whole load of drugs (when all three, including HER-2 are found together it's called "triple positive"). So there is a whole cocktail of chemicals I can swallow for years.
Any stray cells that might be trying to build themselves a new power-base elsewhere will be descendents of the first two tumours, so will also be triple-positive. With all the stuff they intend to throw my way over the next several months and years, they really will have a struggle on their hands.
For the first time since this whole cancer episode started 3 months ago, today is the first time that I can actually see an end to this whole thing, and that it might actually be a happy ending after all. I know that there are likely to be twists and turns and hurdles and frights ahead, but lets not even worry about them today.
The only slight fly in the ointment is that there is a lot of swelling on my back at the far end of the 10 inch scar, which is a bit uncomfortable, but I was mighty relieved that he decided he didn't need to drain it today. Back to good news - they didn't stick any needles in me at all today, so even my needle-phobia had a great day out.
I'm going back on Tuesday next week to have the stitches out, they used old-fashioned, spidery stitiches because of the infection, and then I'm scheduled for surgery next Friday to fit the Portacath.
Afterwards I had a few minutes with the specialist nurse, who gave me a really good little tip about my detachable falsie. I don't need to stuff it inside a bra which, even though I'm only wearing baggy old rags of bras, is still very uncomfortable, particularly with this swollen back I've got. Instead, I've found a tiny safety pin, and pinned it to the inside of my top - much more comfortable, although getting the pin at exactly the right spot is a bit of a challenge - it's drooping a tiny bit lower than the other one right now, but really, do I care? No, I don't.
The most astonishing thing is how, in the space of a few short hours, my feelings towards my mastectomy have altered. I know that this angry, livid, ugly 10 inch scar wouldn't win any conventional beauty contests, but I'm so proud of it. Not in an "look at me, I've had cancer, and this proves it" kind of way, but in a gentle, accepting knowledge that it has a hidden beauty all of its own, because it is right now, today, completely cancer-free, and will heal and settle as healthy, vibrant tissue.
So decisions to make. I missed the Tennis Olympics at Wimbledon. Will I be well enough to travel all the way to Wembly on public transport, and wait in line for hours to pass through security, so I can take my place to watch Brazil and Mexico battle it out at the Olympic Football Final on Saturday. No I am definitely not well enough, and I loathe and destest football, but what the hell, I might still go.