[CANCER] Another Day, Another Scanner #BreastCancer #CancerSucks

New Year’s Eve was my liver scan, and yesterday was the spinal biopsy. The last (and only) I’ve ever had was on my breast tissue, to determine that it was cancer – and that was not fun (one of the nurses I was talking to yesterday said she’d had to watch one, and she was nearly sick!) – not too bad at the time with the anaesthetic, but once it wore off, bruising for about a week afterwards. 2 weeks after that the tissue was lopped off anyway in a mastectomy.

The spinal journey:

  • Last January something was spotted on my spine via MRI, they thought a benign hemangioma, and retested 3 months later. They were happy it hadn’t changed, but said they’d do another MRI scan 6 months later ‘just to be thorough’.
  • That scan was in October, and indicated that the lump had shrunk… which sounds like a good thing, except that this then indicated that it had responded to the cancer drugs, and therefore could be cancerous.
  • I then had a CT scan with contrast, which confirmed there was something that required further investigation.
  • I then had a nuclear scan, which thankfully indicated no sign of cancer in the bones
  • The surgeon then requested a spinal biopsy, so that we can identify what is on the spine once and for all.

So, on 15th January, if all the scans are back, I will find out the results of both liver scans and spinal biopsies. Obviously hoping and praying for ‘No Evidence of Disease‘ (formerly remission).

Spinal Biopsy: Waiting

It was a super-early start (with instructions not to eat after midnight, and drink nothing after 6am), to be on the ward by 8am (with post-cancer fatigue, waking at 9am is more normal):

Where it was time to hang out in the waiting room (never realised ‘waiting’ was going to be such a big thing in cancer):


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It’s #waitroomfeet time …

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After the pre-op questions, ‘no, I’m definitely not pregnant’, wrapping various bands around my arm (like a bad festival):

Weirdly, I was then taken down to the CT suite in a wheelchair. I am still confused by that – I was perfectly capable of walking between the ward and the CT suite! But anyway, quite fun being steered through the corridors…

Went into the CT room to be shown what the procedure was going to be, as the CT scanner was to be used to guide the biopsy.

For the scan, I’m to be laid face down on this bed, head on the pillow, and I’ll be moved in/out of the CT scanner, as they adjust/find the spot on my back to take the sample from:

I met the surgeon, and unfortunately his first words were ‘I’m sorry, I’ve some bad news, your bloods aren’t up to date, so we can’t do the procedure today’. This was incredibly stressful, as I’m now pretty desperate for results (even if they’re bad, at least I’ll know). Fortunately for me, I’d had bloods done at the Christie just before Christmas, and they were prepared to share these with Stepping Hill – otherwise I would have to come back another day, so after a few minutes of staring at this door:

It was time for the next bit of joy – cannulation (‘only’ 3 attempts, and we were in):

The Biopsy

The actual procedure only took around 35-40 minutes. It was a lovely, very calming team. I was given a sedative via the cannula, because I needed to keep super-still whilst they were working on my spine. Also given a local anaesthetic, and a pipe was shoved up one nostril giving me oxygen, plus heart rate monitor on my finger, and blood pressure on my arm throughout the procedure (unfortunately on my treatment arm, but they said they had no choice, and now it’s over 12 months..).

I felt various pressure points on my back as pen marks were made, and I slid in and out of the CT scanner several times (thankfully didn’t have to do any particular breathing), and various pulling and tugging as an incision was made on my back. It didn’t feel too long before they said ‘well done, it’s all done’, and then I had to shuffle across to another bed – and again went flying down the corridors.

Bed Rest

To ensure that there’s no bleeding from the wound, I was then kept on bedrest – they said for 4 hours afterwards, then they said 5pm, but I was on the ward before noon – so managed to leave by 4.30pm (and miss some of the traffic):

Thanks to Hazel who accompanied me, as I lay there, having blood pressure and heart rate done frequently, and my back checked occasionally. We enjoyed some choc orange segment with the fizzy stuff in them, and the hospital hot drinks! I should remember if I have to do another one to download a film to my iPad and put that on, as quite dopey, but couldn’t sleep!

It’s actually a very small mark, and feel a bit like I’ve been punched in the back!:

The Day After

I was in bed by 6, having had some food. I was looking forward to some TV, but halfway through an episode of Mrs Maisel, could feel myself drooping! I finished the episode and don’t remember a lot more, except for waking up 8.30, 11.30 and 4.30 for more pain relief, and slept for about 14 hours.

I had forgotten that anaesthetic left me (and others in my groups) feeling low, so that was a bit of a struggle this morning… in the afternoon, after a chat with colleague, I got enough to head out of bed, shower, and walk round the block (got to catch those Pokemon), before a Skype with my research mentor!

Here’s to tomorrow feeling even better, and less pain! Back in the office on Thursday, so hopefully all good by then!


[CANCER] DEXA Scan Complete

The combination of endocrinology drugs that I’m on – tamoxifen and Zoladex at the moment, swapping to exestemene (sp?) in 6-7 weeks, means that I’m being pushed into an early menopause, with consequent risks of Osteoporosis. Today, therefore, I had a baseline scan on my bone strength. I’ve been told these are typically every 2 years now…

The first appointment was slap bang in the middle of a big meeting at work that I couldn’t rearrange, so when I rang up Weds, was not expecting it this morning. I have counselling at 11am though, so let’s get this out the way! As soon as I was told it wasn’t a cannula (twice they’ve failed to manage this!) I relaxed!

Made it in time, despite making sure that I was packed for Greenbelt later today – and did my ‘Selfie a day’

Found department 63 (up a lift), and found reception. She asked if I’d filled in the (long) questionnaire – I said I hadn’t received it (realised after that it had come with the first appointment letter, but there was no reminder on the new time!) – so filled that in!

Shortly after, called in, weighed (don’t know, don’t want to know), height (163cm) – and how tall was I at age 25 – erm – same?! We then went to the DEXA scan room – more questions/checks – then realised that I usually wear leggings but trousers with a zip – so another lovely bum-exposing hospital gown! Was thinking bra not underwired so left that on – but of course it has clasps – but they seems to work around that.

I was in/on the machine for about 20 mins maximum – feet wedged around a block to scan the hips, then feet up on a (massive) soft block for spinal scan. Just pretended I was still snoozing whilst the machine moved around – sounding like a big photocopier. Then we were done, and I was able to come and get a bacon buttie from the Christie cafe whilst I wait for counselling (and the fire alarm testing was a joy).

This was written on the phone, and edited to add images afterwards.