In January, doctor told my mum she’s got a breast cancer. She has been doing regular self-check ups and it literally felt like the lump she’s found, has grown overnight (she didn’t have any other symptoms). We all thought this was hormonal stuff (it happened before). Besides, cancer happens to ‘others’ not us, right? Well, it turns out it happens to us and it’s a mean, fast growing stage 2 cancer.
Finding out process.
After finding a lump, mum visited her local GP practice. She was referred to a cancer clinic for further tests: mammogram, breast ultrasound and biopsy (in that order). It took around 3 weeks (counting from the day mum has found the lump) to get a diagnosis.
Here in the UK, you get contact number to a nurse that is familiar with your medical case and is supporting you through the whole process. In Edinburgh, there’s separate clinic for treating breast cancer. Caring volunteers give coffee and cookies to patients and families in the waiting room. Unfortunately, there are tons of patients there everyday! Volunteers also sew small cushions, that are used as arm support by women after breast surgery.
Since January mum had two cancer and lymph nodes removal procedures, she has just started chemotherapy. She will have to undergo radiotherapy and will have to take various medicines for 5 years.
Finding out…and the internet.
Everything we thought we knew about cancer? We simply had to forget it in a blink of an eye.
Everything was different than we expected. I didn’t understand where doctors were going with this, I didn’t understand the whole process. Everything seemed illogical to me. We like to think that we are so clever , but when it comes to serious medical matters, we know nothing and we usually rely on snippets of informations from the internet. And that’s not good. After googling ‘breast cancer’ my mum has ‘found out’ that she’s got 2 years left to live (maximum), which was not true. Reasonable medical sites are not detailed enough and there’s a good reason for that: every condition is completely different and there’s absolutely no point of stating someone’s chance for survival over the internet. Doctors will tell you everything you need to know, when they know. Unreasonable medical sites will scare the beejesus out of you, giving you very detailed description of ‘everything you need to know’. It turned out to be totally misleading in my mum’s case, as her cancer size and type didn’t ‘match’ general description. Obviously, after diagnosis you want to find out ‘something’ about it online, but maybe it’s a good idea to stick to official gov sites (it’s www.nhs.uk & patient.info in the UK) or to read about someone’s experience on their blog (or cancer forum). But please, for your own sake never google generic info and read one page article that will scare you and make you more confused! Waiting for the results is the worst and that was the time when my mum was tempted to google stuff.
Random things that surprised me.
They told my mum it was a cancer immediately after biopsy. After that I was super confused. How can they know without official biopsy results??? Nurse told mum, that doctor was able to ‘recognize’ cancer when looking at sample’s color.
Doctor didn’t use term invasive . He said that ‘cancer is a cancer’. I’m still super confused about that one. What about the benign?
I was not aware that mum will have to go through chemo after cancer removal surgery. Cancer was out of her body, so there’s nothing to fight, right? But doctor told mum that, some cancer types respond great to chemo ( as in ‘they hate chemo’) and she must undergo chemotherapy to make sure cancer won’t come back.
After the lymph nodes removal procedure, mum’s hand is a little bit shorter. In some places it’s a bit like a phantom hand: mum feels nothing while touching it.
Next time, I’ll write some more about undergoing cancer surgery.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or health professional. Please, always seek help from health professionals.