Tomorrow is the first anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer. On this day one year I didn't know I had cancer. I was not worried at all.
I went to the GP with a strange sore hardness in my breast. He thought it was probably a cyst but sent me off for an ultrasound to be sure. The ultrasound technician said it wasn't a cyst but was probably a fibroidonoma (sp?) which is a benign lump. The GP then sent me to the hospital for a biopsy to confirm this. The surgical registrar at the hospital gave me the choice of a needle biopsy or an excision biospy. I choose the excision biopsy - surgery to remove the lump & then they would biopsy it afterwards.
The last thing the GP said to me before sending me off to the hospital for the biopsy was "I wouldn't lose any sleep over it". When the registrar was explaining about the surgery and what would happen she said "there's a tiny chance it could be malignant but we'll deal that if it happens".
Apparently it did not feel like cancer. It certainly didn't feel like how I imagined a cancerous lump would feel. I had previously had an ultrasound on the other side for what actually did turn out to be cysts and they felt how I imagined cancerous lumps would feel.
So, I had the excision biopsy and the next week went back to see the surgeon so she could check the wound and as a technicality confirm that it was a benign lump. I can remember sitting in the waiting room and the only thing I was worried about was the fact that I was waiting a long time and it would make me late for work.
Finally the surgeon called me in and said "It's bad news - it's cancer". I didn't know what to do. She then got me to sit up on the bed while she changed the dressing and I couldn't think of anything to say. She scheduled me for more surgery the next week and introduced me to a breast care nurse, saying to her "Here's [Allicat], she's in shock". I remember thinking crossly "well it's your fault I'm in shock, you're the one you just told me shocking news".
So, I had a meeting with the breast care nurse and she loaded me about with guide books and pamphlets. Then I went home and talked to my mum and we read the guide books together.
I think we dealt with it by taking one step at a time. That first week we didn't know if it had spread or what treatment might be required. So it was almost that there was no use worrying until we knew more. We read the books and skipped the worse parts because they might not be going to happen.
Now here I am one year on. I can see now that I have been relatively lucky. I had 4 months of chemo and while it was not pleasant, especially as it built up towards the end, my side effects were definitely on the lighter side. I was still going to work and doing my running throughout.
In total I had 4 surgeries including a unilateral mastectomy. I was terrified about the mastecomy and I simply couldn't imagine getting though it. I talked to a woman through the cancer council beforehand who had had a mastectomy. I didn't know what to say to her and I felt a bit embarrassed but just the fact that she was still a functioning human being after her mastecomy was helpful to know.
I still have hormone treatments for another 4 and a half years but it is otherwise over. So, I should be feeling good but instead I feel completely unable to cope. When I try to think about why I can't cope the main thing I come up with is: I can't cope with this feeling of being unable to cope.
I have an appointment with my counsellor tomorrow. Last week we went over words to describe the past year and she said all the words I suggested were normal but she noted it was odd I didn't include "sad". I said I thought "annoying" was a better word that "sad". That is the attitude I have always had - I remember the day after I was diagnosed when I told my boss he said "that's sad" and I thought "no, it's annoying".
The counsellor related me not being sad back to childhood trauma making me close off the part of my brain that would acknowledge this being sad. She said we didn't need to do anything about it, just make a note of it. I think this was an extremely unhelpful thing to say as I have been obsessed with whether I should be sad ever since.
I think I could look at other people with cancer and think that was sad for them but I can't think that way about myself. Whether that shows that I am somehow damaged or whether that shows that I have good positive attitude I don't know. Thinking about it too much makes me cry. So, does that then mean I am sad? And, is that a good thing or a bad thing? If I keep like thinking like this I will go crazy.
I feel very tired this week when I try to concentrate. I have had several naps but they have not made me better. I was at work all day Tuesday and I couldn't get anything done and had to go to the toilet a couple of times to cry for no particular reason. I'm having the rest of the week off.
Hopefully tomorrow I can discuss the whole sad thing with the counsellor and then get past the anniversary and have a fresh start next week.
Sorry for going on so long but it helps me to write things out on the page rather than just having them roll around inside my head.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.