On Wednesday 10th October, I got ready for work as normal. The only difference being that I wasn’t rushing out of the door before 8am as I did every other school morning. My son had recently passed his driving test and got himself a car, so there was no problem with my husband (his regular lift to work) working from home that day. This meant my husband was able to accompany me to get the long awaited results.
We left at 8.30am and joined the slow moving traffic on our main road to the hospital. It was a warm day and we were fairly calm as we parked in the multi-storey and made our way to the breast clinic once more.
On arrival, there were already several people waiting and I was asked to join them – no need for a laminated card this time. The TV was on and my husband and I commented on the banal morning programme that was convincing people to start the day with a healthy smoothie. Give me a proper breakfast any day!
The door opened on the opposite side of the waiting room to where I was taken last time and my name was called. My husband looked at me questioning whether he should come too. Yes, was my reply. We followed the doctor into another room and I caught a glimpse of a nurse joining us as we walked in. This was not looking good.
The doctor asked me how much information I was given at my last appointment. I shared with her the doctor’s analysis of my lump being a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5 as to whether it was anything sinister. She nodded and said, “I’m sorry to tell you that the lump is cancer.”
A box of tissues was swiftly pushed in my direction but my first reaction was not to cry. I had questions. Lots of them. We listened to the doctor telling me what information they knew at this point. The cancer was ductal, invasive, her2 positive, quite small at 7mm, and very treatable. She explained that it was a grade 3 which means the cells look like cancer and are turning over more quickly than they would at grade 1 or 2. The treatment would involve an operation within 31 days, followed by radiotherapy. My half term trip to Holland was looking in jeopardy. A further biopsy would be needed to see if the cancer had moved into my lymph nodes so the doctor left the room to find out if this could be done today.
The nurse, who had been sitting quietly on the bed until now, came and joined us in our corner of the room. She produced a stack of booklets for us to read through regarding the diagnosis and treatment. I was issued a list of telephone numbers of nurses and counseling services. She even made a note of our holiday dates, saying that if these could be avoided, they would plan around this.
The doctor reappeared and confirmed that a biopsy could be carried out that morning, so I was given a gown and the trusty shopping basket to store my clothes in once again. I admitted that I really wasn’t dressed for this in my work dress, however I did what I had to do and followed the nurse to the waiting room where I had spent several hours on my last visit. It was packed with people but I managed to find a seat, ironically exactly where I had sat last time. In the meantime, my husband had been tasked with the job of phoning school to let them know that I would not be returning today.
No more than 3 minutes later, the lovely Scottish nurse from last time came to collect me and took me through to the room where I had my scan. I joked that she thought she had got rid of me and here I was again. We chatted as I waited on the bed for the sonographer. This time it was a male, who was more efficient rather than talkative but I knew what to expect so it wasn’t so bad. He told me that he would need to scan under my arm and then take the biopsy from there. Then followed the same procedure as last time, where much anaesthetic was given and samples were taken. I wasn’t invited to look at the screen this time.
Soon, the nurse applied steri strips and a dressing, offered advice as to how to keep it dry and then I was good to go. By 9.40am I walked out of the breast clinic towards the outside seating in the sun, where my husband was waiting for me. We chatted briefly, then decided that I should let the receptionist know that I was going home. She confirmed that results would be discussed with me next Wednesday and that an appointment would be sent to me soon.
Outside, my husband was talking to someone we know from our favourite pastime of supporting our ice hockey team. We knew she worked at the hospital, but never thought we would see her since the campus is so huge. We didn’t share our news with her at that time. Instead we set off home to face the next hurdle: telling everyone our news.