We see the Doctor again, he says “the second lump in the right is cancer, the left is benign”. He then says “You need a mastectomy, and I can do it on Friday”.
In my head I am saying to him, as if you are touching me dude! You can’t even remember my name how do I know you will remove the correct breast! I actually say, “I want a second opinion and will see another breast surgeon”. He mumbles uncomfortably, “yes sure you can do that, it is your right, I am sure he will say the same things as I just have.”
I call the Doctor who was recommended to me by the radiologist. He is back from holidays this very day; they agree to squeeze me in this Wednesday as in the day after tomorrow! – Thank you God. At least there is minimal wait time this time around. I don’t realise until much later how unusual this was. This doctor has a waiting list of more than 3 weeks!!
We begin making contact with everyone we need to tell. This is so taxing. Repeating the same story, dealing with the shock and emotion of the other person, making sure they are ok with your cancer diagnosis, it takes a real toll.
We get practical and do some group text messages, which really hit home for some of our friends. They respond with shock, calling to say “how can you tell us by text?” At the time this was really hard however reflecting back I am sure this was just their shock speaking. Practically we seriously couldn’t tell everyone we needed or wanted to tell.
We know more now so it is decided that we need to tell the kids. For those who don’t know we have a blended family. Marc has two amazing kids Josh, 20 and Monica now 18. I have the wonderful Samuel who is 13. Moni and Sam live with us in Sydney, Joshua lives in Adelaide closer to his Mum. Marc tells his kids and we tell Samuel. I decided to be really open as I remember what it was like for me as a kid not knowing the full story with my Mums health crisis. When you don’t know you fill in the blanks and that is a scary place.
I used the word cancer, and encouraged him to ask questions. His first question was, “will you lose your hair?” I said “maybe, maybe not, that still needs to be determined, but I am having surgery to remove one breast first.” Samuel is such a deep thinker, he took his time and then said “well Mum, if you lose your hair, I will get you a really cool beanie.” What a sweet heart!
I watched him like a hawk to ensure he was ok. I encouraged him to ask me anything he wanted too promising that no question was silly or too hard. I also shared with him that I really believed that I would be ok, that I felt that God would look after me. I didn’t talk much with Moni about what was going on, she seemed to internalize it and to be honest at the time this happened we had not been in a great place for a long time.
On Wednesday 27th November we see the Doctor for a second opinion. He agrees mastectomy is the best course of action and can do it next week. I say “the other Doctor said he can do it Friday” he says, “let me check, oh I can do it tomorrow.”
Holy crap that was quick! He explains the process and says that he will also do a sentinel node biopsy to determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes because that will change treatment options. I explain that based on my family history I want both breasts removed and now is preferable.
He listened but said “Look my first priority is to ensure we get the cancer under control, until we get in and do the pathology we don’t know what we are dealing with. We need to control cancer first, then discuss the other mastectomy, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree that that is your best course of action”.
I appreciated his honesty and candor and agreed that first priority was the cancer. I also needed to know that he would listen to my perspective, and I felt he would. So we agreed to go ahead and left with all of the paperwork.
We leave and call HCF, do you know until this point we didn’t even know if we were covered. Even with cover, upfront payment was $2000 just for the surgeon. I am nervously on the phone with a consultant and yes we are covered – thank God!
Marc and I then book in for surgery tomorrow and then go and get some new PJ’s for hospital. I’m going to need stretchy lose tops that allow good access to my chest.
I decide to make tonight a celebration so we have a “bye-bye booby” cake that night. I make a cake to represent my right breast. I want tonight to be a celebration not a sad event. So we crack open the champers, we laugh at my ridiculous rendition of a boob cake, it really doesn’t look like a boob. Any caterers or creative cake makers out there, this may be an opportunity for you?
What a day! What a week, and tomorrow the real fun begins.