On Friday I went back to see the consultant and he confirmed that the cancer had indeed spread to my lymph node. So not only would I have to have a mastectomy I would also have to lose some lymph nodes. As I am now getting used to the terminology ( I practically live on the Macmillan site) the official name is Mastectomy and axillary clearance. Its seems I have stage 3a cancer. Which includes a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and then a couple of years of hormonally balancing medication. So obviously I can't think about all of it and I have to take it day by day.
My operation is scheduled for the 6th December.
I was fortunate to also have secured an appointment with the plastic surgeon in the afternoon. Where he measured me up and after some oohing and ahhing he told me that although I will lose all my skin over my boob including my nipple - tumour is attached, he can do something called a Lattisimus Dorsi Flap, which to you and me means that a muscle, skin, tissue and fat are taken from my back and used to make a new breast. So no implant yippee! Unfortunately, he also told me that he recommends that I don't have this procedure done until all my treatment is out of the way. Which means that I will have no right breast for at least a year!! Apparently, it can interfere with the radiotherapy and can make the boob hard and lumpy. Also the operation can last up to 10 hours, can put me in hospital for 10 days. Will mean I have limited use in my arm and back for up to 12 months, oh and not forgetting leave me open to infection. He then went on to tell me that if I wanted it done regardless he would consent and be available on the 6th. He gave me till Monday to make the decision.
So here I am Sunday night after having a terrible weekend of trying to please everyone, trying to stay my usual, strong, upbeat and jokey self (even though I have been crying my eyes out, and tossing and turning in bed) I have decided that I am going ahead with it. Christmas or no Christmas, I can always supervise everyone else.
Why you ask? I could say it was because I cannot image waking up and looking in the mirror every morning and seeing no breast and just a massive scar - which would be true. Or, I could tell you that trying to figure out what I would wear each day that would cover up my chest area and not seeing my cleavage , would be heartbreaking considering I have to look good for my job. I could even say that the though of wearing a prosthesis in my bra when the scars heals fills me with dread. Again this would be true - but the biggest fear is going through the operation, having chemo plus all the side effects, baldness, tiredness, mouth ulcers, weight gain etc etc. Then radiotherapy, burning skin, diarrhoea etc. Then having to put up with the Hormone medication, that also has some terrible side effects, after all this I may just turn to my husband and say " darling - I've had enough and I can't go through another operation I've had enough and I want to get on with my life" and never being brave enough to have a reconstruction. I know this would put me on a head fuck for the rest of my life, along with the - will I get cancer in the other boob and will it come back questions?
So yes I am prepared to live without a nipple ( another small operation in the future - that I may not be able to go through) and yes I am prepared to lose my hair and wear a wig, but I 've got to be realistic and realise that even I have limitations to what I can put up with, and not having a boob isn't one of them. After all there is only so much anyone can take. Everything else has got to be left to the skill and the live saving drugs from the breast cancer team, that and my positive attuitude and a great big dose of luck.
So now the decision is made - I just have to tell the hospital............