I finally had a good look at my original MRI scans last week. I was in too much denial to face them few weeks ago. I found this image which I wanted to post (please keep in mind that my boob isn’t that strange shape – it was being seriously squashed between two flat plates at the time). I also thought it was time to share the story of how I found myself with stage 4 breast cancer. I wasn’t ready before, I was too pissed off with myself for being so f-ing stupid and couldn’t face writing it out in black and white for everyone to see – warts and all – my major failure. I also want to ensure I save all of you from my fate.
So, that’s what bad news looks like and this is how it got out of hand in a very short amount of time…
I had what I thought was a lump in my boob in November 2011. I went and had a mammogram and an ultra-sound where they told me there was no lump and nothing suspicious. So, being 42 and stupid, I thought I was safe.
Less than 6 months later, I developed a lump. I went to the Dr who said it was most likely a cyst and to stop drinking coffee as it makes them worse. She also suggested I might want to think about getting another mammogram. I said that I had only just had one and on top of that, insurance still hadn’t paid for it, so I would wait it out and see what happened. I couldn’t possibly have breast cancer. Firstly, that only happens to other people and secondly I just had an f-ing mammogram – how fast could that happen?
The other mistake I made was going online and self diagnosing myself. Everything I read pointed to a cyst. I was convinced even more by the fact that it hurt before my period and then the pain went away – I thought breast cancer tumours didn’t hurt.
So, precious months went by and the ‘cyst’ grew. Alan kept bugging me to have it looked at. I thought I would go to the Dr and they would say that it needed nothing but draining or at worst, removed with a simple surgery.
Finally, right after our trip to Colorado at Christmas (pretty much a year since my last mammogram), I went to the Dr who sent me for another mammogram and an ultra-sound. These tests came back ‘highly suspicious’ so I was sent for an MRI. An awful experience where you have to lay on your stomach with your boobs hanging down into two holes in the bed (where’s my dignity?) and your face in another hole while they put you in a little tube for half an hour – you also get an injection half way through of some ‘whatever-juice’ and told not to move one inch. It’s hot and very, very loud and your arms have to be stretched out in front of you so they go numb. This machine isn’t so bad when they’re scanning your brain but the boobs are another story. Anyway, they found more damaging evidence of something awful and I was therefore sent to HK to have a biopsy.
Here’s my boob, hanging down the hole in the MRI machine showing two tumours (note the dent where the tumour is that looks like ‘puckering’ from the outside which is another sign it’s cancer so take note girls)…
And check OUT those veins! Boobs are truly amazing things!
The rest of the week was the worst week of our lives. The biopsy experience was bloody and painful and scary as they wouldn’t let Alan come in. They poked a needle into my armpit to gather samples of my lymph node fluid and then they poked a bigger hole in my boob with a tool that cuts samples from the tumour. I had about 6 of those taken.
To try and make this shorter – I’ll skip some stuff….
We saw the doctor who said I had stage 2 cancer but the good news (I thought stage 2 cancer was bad news – little did I know what was to come) was that my tumour was hormone receptor-positive (ER positive) which was fantastic news as it’s easier to treat. This is the reason my tumour was hurting before my period – it was feeding off my hormones. What a beautifully designed, awful little disease.
The Dr suggested that because the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, I needed a PET scan to see if it had gone anywhere else in my body. PET scans are an easy peasy test – more tubes and injections of ‘whatever-juice’ but nothing scary. I had the results the next day and was called by the Dr who asked me to come in to his office as soon as I could get in. Alan wasn’t with me as he had to go back to Shanghai the previous day for the girls and Truddy had taken his place as surrogate husband (thanks, Truddy).
It was the longest metro trip I’ve ever taken. All I knew was that terrible news awaited me. The look the Dr gave me when he called me in said every thing. He told me I had stage 4 cancer with metastasis to the bone. I still haven’t managed to ask what my statistics are but Alan and I have decided that those stats don’t belong to us – they’re someone else’s and I’m me and will take my own path to a long life.
I hope my story helps all my girl pals who are reading this. Don’t self-diagnose, don’t assume that you don’t have breast cancer because you’ve just had a mammogram – cancer is evil and can grow very, very fast – eat better, be happy (cancer feeds off stress and unhappiness although I’m not sure that fits in my case!), check your boobs every month and never, ever assume it’s a cyst or that cancer only happens to other people.
Lastly, I haven’t shown everyone my tits for the fun of it (although maybe it’s fun for some of you and for that I’m happy) so I hope you all learn something from this. I’d rather this self exposure not be in vain!
Here’s some humour from my favourite cartoonist to help you get over what you’ve just seen and read….