Rosie; Will The Fun Never End?

It's been a bit of a driecht and dreary winter with Spring struggling to make itself felt with temperatures cooling off again today. So lets cheer ourselves up as we head into the weekend with some Happy Friday news and it comes from friend Rosie with her latest update in her fight against the unforgiving bastard that is Breast Cancer. If perhaps you feel you've had a bit of an ordinary week or month then look to Rosie for inspiration for she has endured an absolute sod of a time these past eight months. The quiet courage with which she has taken on the enemy with her fantastic wit and self deprecating humour has certainly lifted my spirit. In fact, I've found it quite humbling. While there are no absolutes in these matters, it does appear that a more favourable wind is blowing and the outlook is now one of shall we say, cautious optimism. Breast Cancer awareness groups do emphasis the importance of touching and feeling breasts to aid early detection. I'm going to step forward here and state quite clearly that I am enthusiastically committed to this strategy and would encourage other husbands to adopt the self same approach. It is very important to empathise without shame or fear of embarrassment. In this regard, I shall lead from the front. You may incidentally, read Rosie's other posts here, here here here here and here.

Over to Rosie,

Previously on ALF..... 

Diagnosed with Grade 3, Stage 2 Triple Negative breast cancer... Adhering to the recommended 'poison-slash-burn' policy, our heroine has completed 8 cycles of chemotherapy... and - as of 3 weeks ago - breast surgery.  She returns to this blog after an unprecedented 2 month absence.....

Last missive I was anxiously awaiting a date with the MRI and hoping for no signs of life from ALF....sadly not quite to be.... and following what the medical profession euphemistically referred to as my "modest" response to chemo, it was decided to upgrade my surgery to therapeutic lateral mammoplasty and axillary node clearance instead of a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy.  Both are as terrifying as each other but essentially, as with most things in life, you get more bang for your buck with an upgrade.... 

I was also rather disappointed to discover that my bionic accessory, the Portacath, had to be removed before surgery. Here was I thinking "marvellous - no cannula for me, they can deliver general anaesthetic like a lightening bolt straight to the chest", but apparently not.  So it was back to see the lovely Dr. Lopez again - all snake-hips, skinny black jeans and pointy shoes for some more Rohypnol and another afternoon away with the fairies. 

Thus prepped and primed, I arrived at the hospital for surgery, but just when you think things can't get any worse... I was presented with the non-fastenable hospital gown, some quite extraordinary paper knickers and a fetching pair of white embolism socks.... not forgetting, of course, that those of us who have been through chemo will already be sporting some kind of natty headgear - in my case, a pale blue beanie.  As fashions go, it's definitely an acquired taste.....  Mark failed miserably to contain his mirth and so in revenge, I dispatched him to M&S to buy some front-fastening sports bras for my post-operative needs. 

Meanwhile my surgeon (aka Supreme Being) arrives armed with felt tips, a measuring tape and a camera and proceeds to draw carefully measured lines all over my right boob with black and red markers, elegantly depicting ALF as a large, black blob.  He then stands me against the wall and takes endless pictures whilst I feebly attempt to protect my dignity with the hospital gown tied precariously around my waist.  It's at this point that Mark returns from his impromptu shopping trip brandishing foundation garments and wanting to know if they fit.  Struggling hopelessly to do the wretched thing up myself (and avoid covering pristine underwear in felt tip pen), both husband and surgeon take over and before I can say 'B cup', my gown has slipped and dressed only in knee-high socks, paper knickers and a beanie, I am stuck helplessly whilst the pair of them wrestle to do up said sports bra with "innovative front zipper".  Discretion being the better part of valour, my surgeon gives up first, claiming he wasn't taught this sort of thing at medical school so Mark wins by default, 3 falls to a submission.  Dignity quietly leaves the room.....

The operation has been hugely successful... or in the words of Supreme Being : "everything went as anticipated".  Obviously I have dropped quite a few cup sizes, but essentially a work of art and even the furniture put back in the right place...   My armpit a slightly different matter and it feels as though I am hosting a particularly large and prickly holly bush under there. This sadly is part and parcel of lymph node clearance as inevitably a lot of nerve endings get badly damaged..... I also acquired a brand new fashion accessory: the medical drain.  A complete nightmare and I wanted to rip it out at every available opportunity (indeed, I nearly did....by accident on odd door handles and the like), but managed to stay the course... 

 

it's everyone's fight

Waiting for the pathology results was horrific...before the statutory week wait was up, I had descended into "angry, bald dwarf" mode (again) and writing my own eulogy at 4 o'clock in the morning (again).... however, I am delighted to announce that for the first time in a long time, I have some seriously good news.  The final pathology showed ALF to be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma... as in a residual 13mm invasive b*****d, surrounded by potentially invasive crap over a total dimension of 21mm..... inside a mix of fibrosis and calcified degenerative tumour cells......wait for it....CONSISTENT WITH RESPONSE TO CHEMOTHERAPY.  1 out of 17 lymph nodes contained metastatic breast cancer and that 1 node was the marker node we already knew about.  Margins were clear.....  The histology is excellent.  Cue tears, relief, general drama....

Two weeks on, I appreciate I am not totally out of the woods, but it has become a heck of a lot sunnier in here.  The odd cloud.... I have developed something called 'cording' under my arm which is an irritating form of scar tissue which impedes arm movement.... I fear I might not be able to play my wild card at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships this year... and I still have a holly bush under my arm. Relentless exercises and physio the way forward so I can get my arm above my head in time for radiotherapy which starts after Easter...  will the fun never end...?  I am stonkingly tired all the time, but I guess that is to be expected.

Next update from the radiology department... until then, I leave you with a shameless plug for my niece, Melissa, who is running the Paris Marathon on 3rd April in aid of Breast Cancer Now. Any contribution graciously accepted...