Friday, 18 November 2016

Return of the Mammogram

Two weeks after I had my review with my surgeon (read about that in my last post) I was back at the hospital for my yearly mammogram. 

I wasn't overly worried about my mammogram as I had had one before on the day I was diagnosed. After I'd been told the dreaded news that I had cancer I was sent off for a mammogram just, as my BCN put it, to tick a box. I’d already had an ultrasound and biopsy before I was diagnosed so I might as well have a mammogram as well. 

The mammogram on the day I was diagnosed went perfectly fine. The nurse was really nice – although I had been told five minutes earlier that I had breast cancer so you’d like to think she wouldn't be mean. I can't remember it hurting too much either. Or maybe it did and I was just hoping the machine would squish the breast cancer right out of my boob.

After my mammogram I was swiftly whisked back off to the ultrasound room. Dr ultrasound scanned my right boob. This was strange as my cancer is in my left boob. I asked the mammogram nurse if they think I also have cancer in my right boob. The mammogram nurse welled up and didn't say anything. Dr ultrasound said ‘we don't think so’ and looked back to the scan screen. 

When I got back to the clinic room my BCN told me they thought I could also have cancer in my right boob but it turned out to be just a calcification. Phew.

I was still fairly numb after being told I had breast cancer so my memories of the mammogram itself were positive in that it probably wouldn't hurt too much and maybe a little negative too in that the mammogram could show that my cancer is back. I haven't actually had any scans since I started treatment over a year ago. They think I'm ‘cancer free’ but as we all know they can't be sure. 

So I enter the mammogram clinic with mixed emotions. The nurse seems nice and welcomes me in to the mammogram room. The mammogram machine looks as large and menacing as ever.

I give my name and date of birth to the nurse. She makes a confused face at the screen and then says she has to nip out and check something. I wonder if that's because I'm only 28 and she wonders why I'm having a mammogram? Does that mean she thought I looked over 50 when she called me in from the waiting room? I was still trying to work out if I should be offended when she came back in to the room. 

‘Ok Kirsty. If you just take of your clothes and glasses and stand in front of the machine. Don't worry about the window. It's one way glass’.

I looked through the window horrified as an old man looked at me dead in the eye as he waited at the bus stop outside. 

‘Hmm I'll close the blind anyway. That’ll make you more comfortable’ suggested the nurse. 

I stripped off and took off my glasses. At least that made the machine a bit blurry. I stood in front of the machine and the nurse moved me in to position. 

‘A bit to the left.’ ‘A bit to the right’. ‘Now shuffle slightly more to the right’. ‘Now lean forward just an inch’. ‘Now a bit to the left again’. Mammogramming is like a fine art. I don't know how nurses have the patience. I was getting impatient with myself and it was my fault. 

‘Now stay completely still’ directs the nurse.

Then the boob squishing starts. I can only describe it as someone putting your boob in a vice and then slowly closing it. This makes it sound awful but it honestly sounds worse than it is and it doesn't hurt that much. It's all done very slowly and the nurse asks if you can take anymore each time she tightens it. 

Once the nurse is happy with the position and you are happy with the level of boob squishing the nurse goes back to her screen and starts taking the images.

‘Now don’t breath’ exclaims the nurse.

What? I don't know if anyone has ever told you not to breath but it's not the same as someone asking you to hold your breath. Holding your breath means you take a large intake of breath..and then we'll you know…you hold your breath. Saying don't breath doesn't sound like you should take an intake of breath first. Plus it had taken ages to get me in to position and it was to the millimetre so taking a deep breath would surely put me out of  position. As would talking. So asking if I was allowed to take a deep breath first was out of the question too. 

‘Nearly there’ says the nurse whilst I'm still not breathing – and without the aforementioned pre  gasp of air making me look as purple as Barney the dinosaur.

‘All done. Wasn't too bad was it?’ the nurse asks. 

It  wasn't too bad. It was definitely a little more painful then my first mammogram but I think the nurse on the first mammogram was probably being extra gentle since I only found out I had cancer five minutes earlier. My left boob also hurt a little more this time because of my lumpectomy but the pain was very manageable. I certainly won't be as worried about it next time. So, if you're old enough, go  and get yourselves screened ladies! It's really not that bad!

The nurse tells me I'll get the results within two weeks by post. She says I'll have a yearly mammogram from now on until I'm old enough for the national screening programme. 

‘You’ll join the national screening programme in…’. Checks computer screen. ‘2038’ she states proudly. 

Hmm I guess I'll have to write that in my diary. 

As this is my first scan after my treatment I was quite nervous about the results. Waiting for scan results after having cancer is always a nerve racking time whatever your prognosis. In the ‘cancer world’ its known as ‘scanxiety’ – and for the two weeks after my mammogram I was filled with it.

Thankfully I was in for some good news…

‘No radiological features to cause any concern’.

I'm taking that as medical talk for ‘Have a glass of Pinot mate you're doing all right’. 


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Drug Dramas

A couple of weeks ago I had my 12 month breast examination. I think I was meant to have my yearly mammogram but Dr S told me they couldn't use the machines on that day. Meaning I had to make another trip to the hospital for my mammogram the following week. 

So basically this was just a groping session. It's a good job I have lost all sense of decency at this point. For my breast examination I need to lie topless in front of Dr S, Kath (my BCN) and usually Michele or my mum - whoever is taking me. Dr S has a good feel around of both my breasts and surrounding areas. I then have to sit up on the bed and put my hands to the side and then above my head. Still topless and still with an audience. Then they make me sing and dance. Ok that last sentence was just a joke - although it would not surprise me. 

My breast examination was over shadowed slightly by the fact that pre-breast examination I had been having a nightmare getting my Herceptin prescription. This accumulated in me arriving at the breast clinic. Seeing Kath. Then immediately bursting in to floods of tears in front of the entire waiting room - which was packed with people. 

My Herceptin injection is given by Healthcare at Home every three weeks. I always have it on a Wednesday and a nurse always rings me on the Tuesday to tell me what time they are coming to administer the injection. 

This time I got no phone call on the Tuesday. I presumed a nurse had just forgotten so I gave Healthcare at homes head office a call on the Wednesday.

'No it's not due until Thursday' stated a harassed sounding women from HAH customer services.

'Erm yep pretty sure I always have my Herceptin injection on a Wednesday' I'm glad she couldn't see my eye roll from the other end of the phone.

After them 'looking in to it' and me calling my BCN, oncologist, oncologists secretary and just about a gazillion other people it turned  out my herceptin prescription hadn't been signed by my oncologist and in turn sent to HAH to order and book in.

But why wasn't it signed I hear you ask?! Good question guys. Apparently I missed a review appointment with my oncologist so he therefore didn't sign it. Why would I miss such an important appointment? Another great question! As far as I'm concerned I didn't. I hadn't received any appointment letters.

'Oh we have had a few issues with appointments' offered my BCN.

Oh right.

So what was going to happen then? I just don't get my herceptin? I'll just die of secondary cancer shall?

Jesus Christ.

So Wednesday came and went. No Herceptin injection. My herceptin injection is meant to be administered on the same day every three weeks. There must be a reason for this. I was not happy that this would now be a day late.

Thankfully I already had  an appointment with my surgeon on the Thursday morning at St Luke's hospital. Oh that's good timing isn't it? Surely your surgeon could just sign your prescription for you?

Well no. Apparently that would be too fucking easy.

So, as I say, this accumulated in me crying my eyes out like an actual baby in front of everyone in the waiting room at the breast clinic.

Kath took me in to a side room.

'Dr Bradley is PUNISHING me for not attending an appointment - that I didn't know about. He isn't giving me my herceptin prescription!'

'Dr Bradley's trying to KILL ME!!' I whaled.

Take note: There is no one more dramatic than a distressed women with zero estrogen in their body.

Kath calmed me down as much as she could and promised she would sort it all out for me.

HAH told me they need the signature on the prescription by 4pm Thursday to be able to do it on the Friday. I go on holiday to Furteventura on the Saturday so Friday was my last chance. Otherwise I'd have to wait over a week for my injection. Like I say this is meant to be every three weeks for a year on the same day. Having any kind of a delay on this, especially for over a week, does not sit well with me.

After a million more phone calls, to I think everyone in the NHS, Dr Bradley finally calls me.

He rang me at 15:56 to say he'll sign my prescription. HAH swiftly got it sorted and a nurse came to administer my injection on the Friday.

I'm sure it's really tough working for the NHS. I'm sure Dr Bradley's really busy. But....really? All that stress caused for him to just give me a quick ring and sign it.

I got my herceptin injection and flew to Furteventura as planned on the Saturday. I spent two full afternoons in bed because I was tired from my injection. Cheers Dr Bradley! Love you too!

Apart from being ridiculously tired the holiday was amazing! 

Here's a few holiday pics for you to gaze at while i ponder (and seriously calculate) how much it is to go private! x

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