‘Corresponding to the region of interest within the 9 o’clock position of the left breast 12 cm from the nipple there is an irregular hypoechoic mass which demonstrates infiltrating margins, it measures 24x13x23 mm and there is associated posterior acoustic shadowing. It is sonographically suspicious for malginancy.’
Monday 18 February.
The Surgeon is over an hour late arriving from Darwin. My husband Shaun and I sit in the over air conditioned ‘Visiting Specialists’ waiting area at the Katherine Hospital. I seem to know most of the staff who waltz by, exchanging chirpy, ‘good morning’, Hot isn’t it? How was your weekend?’
The couple beside us are waiting to see the same Surgeon, and live in the same street as me. He was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer last year and it was detected early when he responded to the free bowel cancer kits that are sent out each year – by Rotary I think?
I am asked if I mind being seen by a Medical Student in her final year. She asks me thousands of questions. How many children did you have? Did you breast feed? Do you smoke? Do your drink alcohol? Are you on any medications? Do you have a family history of cancer?
Yes- my Aunty Sue is currently being treated for breast cancer as is my cousin Robyn who is the same age as me is also undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
She asks me to climb on the table for an examination. There is no pillow and no covering sheet – I strip off my shirt and bra and lay on the cold plastic and undergo another breast examination while the Doctor chatters away. Pushing and probing methodically around each breast and under the arms.
The Doctor leaves to discuss her findings with the Surgeon and they return. A slow spoken and methodic surgeon he again asks me some of the questions and again asks me to climb on the table for an examination. He goes out to find a pillow and a cover.
The Surgeon says that the lump is suspicous but they will have to do another mammogram and ‘Core Biopsy’ to take a larger sample in Darwin. He assures me that it is an early detection and that the lump is not big. It feels HUGE to me! He also has to hand me to another Surgeon in Darwin as he is going away.
So – this means a week of phone calls to set up appointments in Darwin and a 650 kilometre round trip each time.
I talk to the Breast Care Nurse who explains who is is who that I am dealing with, and the procedures and process that I will be going through over the coming weeks. I have to sign documents for the release of mammograms taken by Breast Screen NT only 15 months ago.
The Core Biopsy and Mammogram has been set for Wednesday 6th of March. In the mean time I must travel to Darwin on Wednesday 27 Feb to meet with the new Surgeon, Mr David Read.
We drive to Darwin to meet with Mr Read who, after yet another breast examination, confirms that it is Breast Cancer and that I will need to undergo some surgery and treatment. He again assures me that my lump is early and cant feel any swelling in the lymph glands – however the Core Biopsy and Mammograms next week will give an exact picture.
The Surgery has been set for Tuesday 12 March.
There are two options at this stage
1: Full mastectomy and no radio therapy – and a reconstruction later if I want it.
2: Lumpectomy (partial masectomy) and 5 weeks x 5 days a week radio therapy in Darwin. This will mean finding accomodation and spending 5 weeks in Darwin – maybe coming home on the weekends.
So – in two days time – It is back to Darwin for an overnight stay, Mammogram and Core Biopsy at the Darwin Private Hospital – then waiting again for more results.
I never thought this would happen to me. I never thought I would ever have to say to my children, to my Mum, to my large extended family and friends ….. I HAVE CANCER! It is harder than you would think.
However the journey has begun. I have always said that I love a challenge, but of course didn’t think it would be this one!
I am happy and at peace with myself, and thankful that I have a wonderful supportive husband, great kids, a large extended family and network of friends.
So what will be, will be!