When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2017, I thought, right, get the treatment done, and then get on with life…. Life is not that straightforward (and this seems quite common within the ‘cancer club’), and the scans and treatments continue. I posted this the other week on Facebook, which has struck a chord, and proved helpful for friends:
This current round of Scanxiety started in October, provided more results that need further investigations at the beginning of December, and some good news later, as the bone scans came back clear of evidence of cancer (though your brain still worries that there’s something there that is just not showing up.
Liver MRI Scan
Excellent way to spend New Year’s Eve .. the day I was planning on having a lie in, so I can go out to a NY Eve party (with friends who I joined via Facetime for 2 minutes last year as I was mid chemo, and everyone had colds). Instead I was at the hospital before 9am, having my cannula fitted by the Laurel Suite… and they got it in first time.
Andrew had come with me for company (having a friend who is prepared to have their hand squeezed and can take the conversational lead whilst cannulation happens, seems to help relax me!), and we headed across to the scanning suite – where I was recognised (I think I’ve now had one failed (sent home without cannulation) breast MRI, one successful breast MRI, and 3 spinal MRIs – which don’t require cannulation)… and they were very grateful to see the cannula already in.
We headed into the MRI *note, if you watch Holby/Casualty – they are MUCH smaller than those! More paperwork, remove any metal, and thankfully it was not a starving scan. Good explanations of what was going to happen – and a note that I should ‘squeeze the bulb’ that gets put in your hand if started to feel bad, etc. but to try and hold tight for the first 5 minutes at least, otherwise the appointment would need to be rescheduled (it’s already 1.5 weeks later than it should be!).
I’ve reached the point where going into the machine does not cause anxiety – it’s not comfortable, it’s not nice, and it’s a tight fit, but I want the results, so I pay attention to my instructions and just try and get on with it. This test was about 40 minutes – so one of the longest. This test was also different from others in that I needed to undertake breath holding. The machine would say ‘breath in, breath out, hold breath’ and then about 15 seconds later ‘breath normally’ on a relatively swift cycle. Combined with continued back muscle spasms (no idea if that’s treatment related, will ask the GP on Weds), and being strapped in with a cage over the liver area to get the detailed diagnostics, that was a challenging one (Some information from Cancer Research). Staff very encouraging and supportive, and as you’ll see here – breakfast to look forward to afterwards:
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My face after getting out of the hospital – MRI for liver all done – need to drink 2 pints of water for any glass of wine tonight! Andrew & I then went for breakfast and just dropped tonight’s party food off with Karen & Stuart. Cannula went in first go again …. #cancerlife
I’ve had a phone call to say that I have my spinal biopsy will be next Monday – and that I need to be at the hospital by 8am, having not eaten since midnight, nor drunk anything since 6.30am. The biopsy will be around 10am, and I’ll be on the ward til about 4-5pm. There is something on my spine that they have thought is benign, but it shrunk, which makes them think it has responded to cancer treatment, indicating it could be a cancerous lump. The bone scan is encouraging, but we need to know what the lump is, and hopefully confirm it is benign – whilst still trying to be prepared that it might not be.
I’ll likely get results from both those scans on 14th January, once my case has been discussed at the MDT meeting. Obviously I’m hoping that those are all clear, and, for now, I can get on with things … recognising that there are going to be ongoing scans to monitor things, and that I continue to need to be vigilant!
Meantime, tonight, I’m heading to friends for New Year’s Eve – trying to decide whether to walk there (fresh air), or take up the offer of a lift (manage fatigue) … guess it’s shower time first!
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.