I have always felt uncomfortable writing about my cancer but I feel like I owe it to others who might need to hear about my story. Anybody can google the facts about cancer but I want to try to portray my experience as vividly as possible. My friend had just gone for a mammogram check-up and I was also due to go soon. She came back having found she did have cancer. It freaked me out but I told myself that we don’t have cancer in our genes, we have heart disease, so I shouldn’t worry. Some breast cancers are very difficult to detect, like mine. They say I was lucky that it was picked up at all. I say ‘go and get yourself checked regularly and find a vigilant doctor.’ Thanks to my doctor she didn’t let up. The radiologist said I had dense tissue but the doctor insisted that I have it checked further. She didn’t know what she was looking at but she didn’t like it. She called for a second doctor’s opinion. He said, ‘meh, we can leave it for another year.’ She decided to do core biopsies. I phoned my mom and told her, she said, ‘I’m sure it will be alright I also have dense breast tissue.’
For many years now I have had the support of a psychologist called Michael Wohlman. He is part of this journey and I may include excerpts of letters and conversations as well as journal entries along the way to illustrate my experiences. When I told him I have to have core biopsies his eyes narrowed, I felt like he winced inside. I felt bad because I knew his mother had and died of cancer.
Later that week I wrote to him:
I am feeling crap. In turmoil. I am trying not to worry about Friday and the core biopsy. I know that it is routine and that they have to biopsy even if they might think it is nothing but my mind keeps on knocking on the ‘what if’ door. I don’t want to open the door or entertain the thoughts further as I know it is not going to help if there is cancer and it is going to drain my energy worrying about even it if there isn’t. But I am stressed and that is draining me anyway. I feel like I can’t enter into conversations because my mind is elsewhere; actually frozen. The kids don’t know because I don’t see the point in causing them unnecessary worry. My doctor said I would probably only know on the next Monday. This is a long time to wait. I am really not sure if I should tell them now or if I would be mistaken to only tell them when I know for sure….
I took pain killers before the core biopsies. The needle went in 8 times. It looked like a knitting needle. I felt and looked like a horse had kicked my breast. It was a Friday. Anyone, having had to wait for medical results, will know how stressful it is waiting.
I decided to think about my options over the weekend. I am that sort of person. I try to control my anxiety by informing myself enough so that when the oncology surgeon spoke to me I would know what he was talking about. I also wanted to think about what I would do if it was in the last stages, how I would handle the situation with my family, was I ready to die, what did I still I want to do etc. it was a very sobering weekend. I did tell the children I had tests. I am too transparent. I had one child in Matric, finishing school; the other studying university; and a husband that had never really become familiar with the inside of the kitchen. Yet still I believed that they would get through it. They would be challenged and grow from it. On the Monday the doctor phoned to let me know that I did have cancer.
My Journal entry… 20th August 2012
YES. I do have cancer. That is that. Tomorrow I will go to the surgeon at Kingsbury, Dr Aaron Nghluni. There I will find out more about the extent.
I am sad. Very sad, but I know I will persevere though the ‘fire’. I choose life, to live. If I have to have a mastectomy I will gladly have it. I will do anything to live a joyful life. I am loved, by my friends and family, my children, Derek, my mother, and God. I accept their love. I accept good health care.
What will I do with my life?
I am fortunate enough to have a community of family and friends that rallied around me loosely but supportive. I was in shock. Knowing that I had cancer made me feel like I had an alien living inside of me.
Till next time, take care,
If you want to read the sequence of events that followed on from here you can find them
First Discovering I had cancer
Seventh Breast reconstruction.