I am sitting in my surgeon’s office, my head exploding with information. I am scheduled in the coming days for a lumpectomy and axillary node section. It was apparent from the ultrasound and biopsy that I had many nodes containing cancer, the number yet to be determined. The actual tumour in my breast was approximately 2 cm’s. If he couldn’t get clear margins, I might wake up out of the surgery without a right breast. Oh, and did I read the book he gave me last week? The one that contained pages of information about the procedure? the things I might experience post-op, possible side effects, the staging of my cancer, prognosis, the ensuing chemo and radiation, lymphedema…….the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher rings through my head Wuuuuuh, Waaaaah.
Fast forward to November 2015
Yes, I am yet another stat. Another 1 in 8 women, who is (happily) here and has a story of what happens when you get a breast cancer diagnosis. You have likely heard it before, although each story is different and includes a few, (or many), different details. However, all of the stories include the emotion called fear. The emotion called anger. The emotion called confusion.
What happens after one gets a breast cancer diagnosis? after the various treatments and then is, “released” to their “previous life?” Insecurity. Going through treatment, although often quite awful, does give you a sense of control. You are, “doing something” to eradicate the disease. You have regular doctor visits, monitoring, encouragement. The treatments themselves become your, “job” Fear. Every story you hear of someone’s friend or relative who just passed away causes you anxiety. Every ache and pain makes you wonder, “has it come back?” Pain. The chemo and radiation treatments themselves can cause both short term and long term pain and discomfort. As well, if you are taking medications such as hormone therapy they can cause various side effects such as joint, muscle and bone pain.
Then there is something that is rarely fully discussed or fully understood. A condition called, Lymphedema. Oh, it was briefly discussed in that helpful book my surgeon handed me on my first visit after my diagnosis. A side effect that he proudly stated had never happened to any of his patients when I asked him about it. Of course, that answer satisfied me because at the time I was still numb with the knowledge that I had breast cancer. Lymphedema was something I would tuck away in the back of my mind and deal with “if” it should ever happen.
Check out future blogs where I will share my own lymphedema journey and what I have learned so far; what it is, the risks to your health and mental well being, why it is important to get as much information as you can if your cancer treatments involve surgery and radiation and what you can do to manage this condition for your lifetime.