After having ‘Leukaemia’ and 12 years of treatment, including a ‘Bone Marrow Transplant’, and then losing an aunt to ‘Breast Cancer’ I thought my fight was over. Then my wife heard this,
Friday 8th October 2010.
Meeting: at Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, East Melbourne.
Dr.: “So, in the right breast, the lump that we can see, the one that looks cystic and a bit solid, so the needle biopsy through the solid part of that shows Breast Cancer.”
“Primary breast cancer; not come from anywhere else. It is the ‘commoner type’ if you like, so that’s called a ‘ductal cancer’ as it started in the milk ducts, about 80% of breast cancers do that, nothing particularly unusual about that.”
“It is definitely cancerous. Remember we saw, on the ultrasound, another little nodule that was far away from that and we said because there is cancer in one spot we need to make sure there is not cancer all over the breast so we took a needle biopsy of that and it appears not to be cancerous. This cyst is just fluid filled and very common. If I went down to Spring Street and stopped one hundred women, did a test, we would find fifty of them have one and there would be no interest.’
“In your armpit, we saw on the ultrasound, the lymph gland is a bit swollen and we put a fine needle test in that. Out of that, again we found cancerous cells.”
“So, what that means, is that as the main lump is cancerous, some of those cells have travelled out to the armpit. It does not mean they have travelled anywhere else, but it does mean they can travel. So the biggest issue in breast cancer is not really the main lump, or the secondary lump, it is whether any of those cells have gone outside of this region; got into your bloodstream and gone elsewhere. Because if they get into your bloodstream they can land in another organ like the liver or the lungs or your bone and start to grow there. It is when they do that, or if they do that, we are in real trouble with breast cancer.”
“If we find, as we would expect because it is what we find with most ladies, that there is no sign of anything else at the moment then we would be saying ‘good’ it appears that we have identified this problem early enough to make a very successful go of getting rid of it and you having a long term future that you and everyone in this room wants.”
“So if you said, ‘where does your particular breast cancer fit in the great scheme of breast cancer, because it really goes from tiny little things up to terribly advanced things. You would be about in the middle’. What does that mean; well it means ‘good, we know about it’ now we have got to get on with it and fix it.”
“We know that most people who walk into a Doctor with ‘early breast cancer’, like you, in Victoria, in 2008, were treated successfully [90%]. They lived a long life. I would love that figure to be 100%, but it is a damn site better than being 50%.”
“So, that is what we are on about now, doing everything we can to make sure it is as close to 100% as possible”
“So, where do we go from here? Next step is [it is wise to be sure that there is nothing anywhere else] to do some scans, two tests. One is a CAT scan that will take a picture of your lungs and liver, mostly, a few other things but they are what we are mostly interested in, because if breast cancer moves it often goes there and we want to see that there is no sign of lumps and nodules in there. If you are not busy Tuesday at 8.30am that is when you will be having them.”
Wife: “Boss [a nurse] has already given me six weeks off work.”
Dr: “That’s a good start, we will be able to occupy that time for sure”.
“The other test is called a ‘Bone Scan’, a CAT scan can look at your bones but doesn’t give a whole picture and that is what we want. It just takes a picture of your skeleton to make sure there is no ‘hot spots’. If you have ever had a broken bone the scan will show it and if the breast cancer has moved to your bones this will also show.”
“Assuming these tests are ok, the next step is surgery. In your case the key cancer bits are to remove that lump.”
This is just the start of a very intensive treatment program. These tests alone have cost $379. Not only will we have to deal with the emotion of having a major illness, the scaring that may result and the constant trips to hospital, specialists and testing facilities, we will also have to find the money and time for all of this whilst being on one wage. Each time we visit a new doctor or treatment facility we will be required to go through the whole story again because our ‘health system’ does not communicate within itself and every doctor operates [excuse the pun] in their own little world. We will have to wait for results that no one has the desire, or interest to report to us and we will have to pay through the nose for service from people, on the most part, who are to busy to give us the time of day.
If we were criminals and we committed crimes for the last 12 years we would have a record that every police and justice department could access. If the criminals became to many to manage the government would increase police numbers as this would be classed as a threat to the community, which is expected. The police would be instantly able to identify that we are a threat to the community and take necessary steps to apprehend, convict and rehabilitate; all at tax payer’s expense. I have two questions for our state and federal governments,
1. If we were in a serious car accident and could not speak for ourselves, how would the treating emergency medical teams, either paramedic or any hospital we might be taken to, know about our medical history, what medication we are on and our recent news, without having to waste valuable time going through the whole process of investigation, so that they could make critical, lifesaving decisions on the spot?
2. When are you going to realise that money spent on ‘train ticketing systems’ that don’t work and elections that have no result is a waste and that people are dying from a disgusting disease which you have no plan to fix?
It is time that more funding and care was put into our so called ‘health system’. A system to link patients and doctors, across the country, is needed along with more medical staff for hospitals and other treatment facilities, to ease the load. Costs need to be lowered for everyone. Don’t tell me you don’t have the money, I have seen enough waste.
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.