Thursday, 26 January 2012

dear mom

How are you?

I had my appt today, but the biopsy I had last week was inconclusive. They found neither cancer cells nor lymph cells in what was meant to be my lymph node. Instead they found breast tissue, which must be odd as the doctor said he'd never had that result. He said it wasn't exactly worrying, but it was unusual enough to warrant further investigation. So I have to go back again on Friday for a larger "core biopsy" sample to be taken from the lymph node area and will get those results next Wednesday. So we do not yet know if it has spread beyond the small tumour yet and my cancer still has not been staged. I do have a date for surgery, which is Feb 10th. He said I should be staying overnight, then able to go home the next day. This could be brought forward to feb 3 or 6 if there is a cancellation in my surgeon's schedule. About 3 weeks after surgery I should start radiotherapy, which will last 6-7 weeks, every day except weekends. The main side effects of that seem to be extreme tiredness (which increases the further along in treatment you are) and skin burns like sunburn. They don't know at this stage whether they will advise chemo. I'm praying not, but I'm also wondering whether I should throw everything they've got at this. Luckily, because mine is hormone receptive, I can take Tamoxifen for 5 years to reduce risk of recurrence. Ladies whose breast cancer is not hormone receptive don't have that option. I will enter the menopause. I can't say that I'm happy about that, but our family is complete so I can accept it, and I doubt I would risk having any more children after this anyway.

I'm pretty upset about this, as obviously it means we're in limbo for another week. And I have to have another unpleasant procedure. But better to be sure, I guess. Rob is taking Friday morning off to go with me.

I want you to know that I am being very well supported here. I have a wonderful circle of friends who have jumped straight into action: making us meals, watching the kids so I can go to appts, letting me cry on their shoulders. I also have come to know several ladies who have been through this - a few from my hospital - so I have people to talk to who understand what I'm going through.

I will obviously keep you updated with every new bit of info I have.

The Valentine's package came today. I've put it away till the day.

I love you, and I thank you for your love and prayers. I am sorry that I am bringing this worry into your life at a time that you should be focused on getting yourself well. The prognosis for my stage is very good, though, and I'm strong and otherwise healthy and have so much support to get through it.


Carrie xo

Sunday, 22 January 2012

the good stuff

Fear and anger aren't really my style.

I don't really 'do' hopeless.

I woke up this morning, and before I had lifted my head from the pillow, before I had opened my eyes, I felt the tears sliding out of them. I must have made a noise, because Rob came and sat on the bed next to me.

It was the moment where you remember it wasn't all a nightmare, a terrible dream to be shuddered at then hopefully forgotten in the thin warmth of filtered sunlight.

I got up. Greeted my babies with a cheerful voice. Brushed my teeth. Padded downstairs. And then a second remembrance knocked the pitiful wind out of my sails.

People with cancer are desperate to find some aspect of the illness they can control. Didn't take me long to learn that. I think that's why we have so much interest in diet.

I've said it for years about feeding children: what children eat and how it comes out are about the only two things they can really control. Why do you think there are so many battles over broccoli?

Well, the same is true for people with cancer. What we eat is one of the only ways we can control what is going on with our bodies.

Anyway, I was on the stairs, wasn't I? I could smell the coffee Rob had brewed. And I remembered I had decided to cut coffee out immediately.

I've done it before. Caffeine is very bad when you're trying to conceive and in early pregnancy. I have many months - years even - of hot water with lemon under my belt.

But what a crappy thing to remember before I had even properly woken up. So hot water with lemon it was.

While I sipped the bitter start to my day, I tried to squeeze a little positivity out of myself. Began to compile a list of the good stuff.

The Good Stuff includes:

:: what love feels like - how many times in our lives are we told we are loved and cherished by virtually everyone we know, simultaneously? My friends' and loved ones' response to this has overwhelmed me, and I suspect has altered forever my own view of myself for the better.

:: a chance to evaluate - I've spent many hours this week looking hard at my own life choices. And I feel pretty satisfied. I've done some stupid, ill-advised things, but I do feel happy with my journey. I have lived! I've loved hard and followed my heart and I've chased dreams and overcome crazy challenges.

:: more empathy - for people who are suffering, who are frightened, who feel powerless, and especially for those who feel alone.

:: my schedule is free - my lump couldn't have timed its appearance better. The end of June to the middle of January is my busy period. One birthday after another. New classes to get to know at school. Halloween. Advent Fayre. Christmas. Another birthday. And what happy, care-free memories we made last year! There's space on my calender for surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy now. Cancer, you've got six whole months to bugger off.

:: a get out of jail free card - I'm one of those women who walk around with a little yoke of guilt mizzling round their necks: I haven't replied to that email, I haven't posted the thank-you cards, I haven't done puzzles with the baby today, I haven't finished painting the front hall.... Now I'm free! No one's going to expect me to do much of anything other than survive for a while. I intend to make the most of that.

:: a strengthening of bonds - so far, my husband and I have cleaved to one another. What an opportunity to see how much we really mean to each other. And how much we really need each other.

:: my beautiful body - I stood naked before a full-length mirror today and decided my body would still be beautiful in its disfigurement. How wonderful my healthy body is! It is strong and lovely and its flaws stand as testament to the challenges it has faced and conquered before.

There will be more good stuff. I'll add it when I think of it.

staying up late


Saturday, 21 January 2012

fearing the worst. or, how you react to the news you may be dying when you are a little OCD

To-do list:
  • get all those digital photos on my hard-drive printed off
  • fill up all the empty entries in the baby books
  • make a quilt for each of the girls out of the outgrown baby clothes
  • make sure there are no emails, texts, facebook messages, or old love letters that might upset anyone
  • find out if my life insurance includes critical illness cover
  • find out if my union offers any death benefits
  • cancel our hot air balloon flights
  • go through the list of unmarried women I know to find a suitable step-mother for my children
  • ask for a refund on my allotment rental
  • print off all the messages I've received this week so one day, the girls know their mother was liked and loved and cared for
  • write letters for each of my children to open on important days: their wedding day, the day they graduate from university, the day their first child is born
  • tell everyone, even the people who will be embarrassed by it and the ones who may not love me, that I love them
  • knit next winter's woolly hats
  • record myself reading books so they don't forget the sound of my voice
  • figure out how to not cry whilst making a video message for the kids
  • choose the poems and songs
  • write a will
  • donate my hair to a wig charity
  • get the kitchen finished
  • organise, at last, the mess of important papers
  • compile one central list of addresses and phone numbers for friends and families
  • get this year's Christmas cards written and addressed
  • decide if I should include my name on them
  • have a party
  • get a really good family photo
  • teach my husband how to do French plaits and how to use the nit comb
  • teach my husband about sanitary towels, tampons and training bras
  • make more lists

finding out you have breast cancer

No. It's just a little lump.
No...never had any problems with them before.
Um, I think it moves around when I press on it.
Yes. It's smooth.
Hmmm. Well, I wouldn't say it hurts. It's a tiny bit uncomfortable when I poke it.
Nope. Never been on the pill.
Never smoked.
Yep. Breastfed all four. Over a year each. The baby till she was two and a half.
Well, I think I'm fairly fit.
Haven't eaten red meat for 20 years.
We do eat organically, locally and seasonally as much as we can. We even started growing a lot of our own fruit and veg last year.
I'm pretty sure there's no family history. I haven't told my family yet. I didn't want to worry them needlessly.