Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and count to three…..
Yesterday was difficult and sapped all my mental and physical energy. My son and I met with the top radiologist at the Royal Marsden ( Centre of Excellence for Cancer Treatment). After an hour and half wait, in just a few minutes, we were informed that owing to the size and position of the tumour, I was not a candidate for a newer type of radio called Cyberknife. This would have involved only a few sessions opposed to the normal RT which I am eligible for and involves many more visits to the hospital. Last time following surgery, I had 35 sessions of rads to my breast ( 2008)
Nevertheless, he would like me to speak with the head and neck surgeon ….
And so I was presented to Mr ‘Carver’, as I will refer to him in this post. I had geared myself up psychologically for the scene that was to follow: Here is a synopsis:
Setting: Dimly lit small visiting room. Enter elderly surgeon who smiles, takes a seat and proceeds to feel patients neck)
Mr Carver: It is operable and I advise that we remove it which will greatly reduce the possibility of spread
Me: I thought it was inoperable owing to its position and that Neck Dissection was quite a complicated procedure associated with many side effects
Mr Carver: Cancer has clearly travelled up from breast so more nodes are potentially involved ( he feels lower clavicle and sighs)
Me: But could we…..
Mr Carver: It will be fine, two approximately 4cm cuts along you neck, through the muscle and we remove the chain of lymph nodes. Scars will be inside neck creases as much as possible and should heal quite nicely.
Me: Excuse me, Mr Carver, surely there are side effects if you remove lymph nodes, where will all the lymph fluid drain to?
Mr Carver: Oh, it will find a way through another route
Me: But maybe it would be better to wait a while and see if the hormonal drug Letrozole has any effect
Mr Carver: ( looking straight at me) Would be better to remove as soon as possible.If it continues to grow could become inoperable and treatment is always more effective on microscopic metastasis… how about the 5th or 19th of July.?
And so FEAR plunges into my world again: a world where I was learning to live and accept my unwanted friend in my neck……. but we were doing okay. A heated discussion ensued with my son who has clearly been affected and ‘convinced’ of the argument Mr Carver presented. Surgeons are notorious for wanting to wield their scalpels and remove what they see as the problem ‘the tumour’. Gifted in their trade they are not, however, interested in the ‘source’ of the problem -
Although we are ultimately the owners and designers of our thoughts, it is interesting how these can be modified and completely influenced by external stimuli; I had convinced myself after discussion with my oncologist, that operating was really not an option…. to find myself now seriously debating surgery.
My mind returns to the sequence of events four and half years ago: I never shared the fear, anguish and physical pain that I went through when first disgnosed. I basically just got on with life as best as possible and on the outside I certainly managed to do a good job. Unfortunately, it was the inside of me that was hurting more that I knew.
Selfishly i think to myself that I don’t want to go through this again, I pray for strength but moreover, I pray for conviction in the choices I will ultimately have to make.
So….. deep breath one, two , three…
My reasoning takes me to making an appointment with another recommended top oncologist for a second opinion. Life resumes….