Today, there’s a lot of people wearing pink – have you thought about why?…
— YoungerBreastCancer (@YBCN_UK) October 20, 2017
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m four weeks on from my #breastcancer surgery, and have posted a few thoughts over the past few weeks… I was going to write something about the really irritating ‘secret’ ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’ Facebook statuses, but I think this post from 2013 does it pretty well – apparently this year we’re onto fruit, along with the random hearts! Similar for autism, where I am #headdesk! There’s got to be a research project in that!
To be honest, anything that smells of ‘chain letters’, or ‘I’m in this club and if you don’t know, you’re excluded’ always get to me, along with the fact that statuses such as ‘I’m pregnant’ which turn out to be a joke are really insensitive. My diagnosis has just made me a leeeetle more ranty about it this year … and encouraged me to ask people to share the lemons, or videos such as this:
— BBC Three (@bbcthree) October 20, 2017
So, what else has been going on over the last couple of weeks, aside from getting on with some work (home-based research), doing some PR for my new book (released 26th October 2017), popping to London for #GWL17, catching up with a few friends over food, and preparing for #PremDac17 – yeah, I’m slowing down – ahem….
Pathology Return & Scans
On Tuesday 10th October, 3-and-a-half weeks after the surgery, I met with my surgeon again for the pathology results (at some point I’ll get the full pathology report). I had watched the anxiety of others waiting for this, and thought, yep, he’s going to tell me he’s got it all, it was this big and in a couple of lymph nodes, and let’s get on with the chemotherapy…. erm – let’s come to a halt there!
Instead what I heard was “Well, it’s not bad news, but it’s not good news either”, it was bigger than expected (12cm, although a friend has since described this as the ducts being like the stalks and the tumour being like a cauliflower head, rather than me missing a HUGE lump), and was in 5 lymph nodes, rather than one. It therefore meant that rather than being able to say what stage we’re at (we already know that it’s Grade III), we need to do further scans to check it hasn’t spread…
All I could hear was IT MIGHT HAVE SPREAD …these tests are fairly routine, but I don’t get the results until Monday, so that’s going to be a few more anxious days!
Last Friday I spent nearly all of the day in the hospital being injected with a radioactive dye, waiting for it to circulate, and then finishing the day with a bone scan. I had some good company for the day, in the form of Caroline in the morning, and Paul in the afternoon (whose book I’m halfway through reading). That day it only took 3 attempts to find a cannulation vein for nuclear medicine. Monday, I was back for the CT scan (and yes, it does sound like a large washing machine, and is really quick) – I’d had to drink some form of dye two hours beforehand – that day after 4 attempts at cannulation that was abandoned (despite squeezing Naomi’s hand pretty tight), and we used the ingested dye only. Going to ask for a portacath for chemotherapy!
Monday, once the scan results are known, it’s onto finding out the next steps for treatment – likely to be 18 weeks of chemotherapy, radiotherapy for – who knows – 6 weeks, and then 10 years of hormone treatments…
Not a lot of humour in amongst the Scanxiety, but within the Facebook groups (I’m up to three – added this one – that’s enough) there still manages to be a huge amount of humour about the weirdest thing… well, I guess you’re in a group with women who are used to walking in a room and whipping their top off for various members of the NHS…
Look Good, Feel Better
Thankfully, that afternoon I had booked into Look Good, Feel Better at Maggie’s at the Christie. This was apparently set up by Estée Lauder about 25 years ago when a friend of hers had breast cancer, and she decided to give the friend a make-over. She saw the difference that made, and got together with other make up companies to start providing make-up/over sessions with a goodie bag of cosmetics.
We turn up, and this awaits us:
The sessions lasts up to a couple of hours, in which you are taught how to put on a full face of ‘everyday’ makeup, including drawing in eyebrows, and advice on not-losing eyelashes (don’t use waterproof mascara!). The volunteers were lovely, had an awareness of what we were going through, recognised that everyone was at different stages, and just seemed keen for us to walk out the door feeling better in the middle of crap times…
Each participant gets to keep everything that’s in the bag – there is the same type of content in each bag, but it could be from a different brand…
We are warned to keep the contents to ourselves, as there’s a high risk of infection for cancer patients – and to throw away any mascara after 3 months (6 months for those without cancer is seen as appropriate). Anyway – here’s the finished result:
Having got this far, thought I was doing pretty well with recovery, and expected to start driving again earlier this week… Monday, thought I felt a bit rough, Monday night knew something wasn’t doing well – I was feeling sick, wound felt over-full, hot and hard (yeah, don’t Google that). Headed in for my routine wound drainage (twice a week still – and if you want to see the procedure being demonstrated – I can’t feel the needle as it goes into the wound scar which is entirely numb), and yes, I’d picked up an infection, so a heavy dose of antibiotics is in process, a lot of sleep, but today I went back for more seroma drainage and they are very happy with the progress. Now it’s time to follow this instruction from 1939 (adapted by a friend), go to bed, and wait for Monday:
*Note, I originally posted this as five weeks post-op … well, sense of time does get lost!
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.