Tips for an easier post op experience.

13 Jun

I will start by saying I am not a trained professional. I do not have any certification or qualifications to dispense advice on your recovery or nutritional needs! This post is not about what foods your should eat and what exercises you should do. I’m simply here to pass along tips on making life a little easier during your recovery. For advice on what you should eat I suggest you see a nutritionist. You may also choose to reference this guide by the Canadian Cancer Society. For exercise you can reference their Exercise after Breast Surgery guide.

I do strongly recommend you follow the instructions given to you by your surgeon, oncology team, and your GP. 

Prior to surgery I was a gym rat. I love fitness and yoga! I had a solid routine of taking classes at the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and following each class with an hour Yin yoga to help reduce muscle soreness. I went to hot yoga on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays as well. I was very active. I also kept a relatively clean eating plan. The day before surgery I noticed that for the first time in 20 years I had abs!

Cancer brings on all kinds of emotions. Seeing your body mutilated for survival will bring you through all the emotions and back again on repeat. There just aren’t words to accurately describe those feelings. For me, the fact that I had finally attained abs-level physique less than 5 days prior to standing in front of a mirror with a foreign growth where once was a beautiful breast was absolutely devastating. I can’t even begin to imagine what others who had a mastectomy felt. The anesthetic had such a negative affect on me that getting out of bed for more than 5 minutes took all my strength. I got dizzy quickly. I felt nauseous frequently. Between that and the cording, I was unable to get back to any physical activity for an additional 8 weeks. Those abs were quickly replaced by fat.

I wished I’d have planned ahead, but I had no idea what to expect. It’s important not to be hard on yourself or blame yourself during recovery, or ever for that matter. These things are out of your control. No one could have guessed I’d be unwell for so long. It is my hope that this post will help anyone going into surgery to prepare for an easier recovery.

If you’re fortunate that you have family and loved ones to help you during your recovery, take the help. Ask your medical team about resources available to you and then use them. Most of the services are paid for by your hard-earned tax dollars so don’t be shy in using them. You already paid for them. If you want to give back you can always volunteer your time once you’ve recovered.

Here are some tips to help in the days or weeks after recovery. These same tips can be useful in everyday life as well.


Make a list of the meals you would like to eat. Shop for the ingredients and be sure to have freezer bags on that list. Then spend time getting those meals ready. This is called meal prep. A good example is spaghetti. You can make a pot spaghetti store meal sized portions in your freezer. Then it is very easy to take out just the portion you need to thaw, toss it in the microwave or a pot and you’ve got a meal in minutes. Added tip: store the freezer bags flat. It helps thaw faster.

If you can, wash and cut vegetables in advance so you have healthy meal options. You can also buy vegetables that are already cut. Some cities have delivery options as well. I use Grocery Gateway through Longo’s. There are many stores that will delivery to your door and the price is very reasonable. There are also many places that make meals in advance and deliver to you so you only need to heat and eat.

It is important that you not shame yourself for your eating during recovery. If you can only eat french fries because that is what your stomach will allow, then eat french fries. You’re beating cancer, you’ve earned fries!

Keeping busy.

Aside the recommended light exercise, you may find yourself unable to do much during recovery. Set up your main recovery space so that you have easy access to entertainment. You may wish to have a television or a laptop nearby. Make sure you have easy access to remotes, adapters, devices, etc. If you like to read, have some books in reaching distance. Or magazines, puzzles, knitting, anything you like as a hobby.

Daily activity.

Have comfortable clothing set out for yourself. Make sure it’s easy to put on and take off. Think of any items you use on a daily basis and make sure they are not stored somewhere that will require reaching to get to. All these routine things that we take for granted can be difficult during recovery. Housework is not an option during recovery either, so bribe people in advance to come clean for you during recovery! If you can’t bribe anyone, then let it be. The house work will still be there when you recover. You don’t need to be a martyr.

If you have long hair put it in a braid so you don’t have to do as much brushing and it isn’t in your way.

Whatever you can do to make your recovery more comfortable, go ahead and do it.

Post-op Delights

07 May

The days following my surgery were hit and miss due to the adverse reaction I had to the anesthetic. I spent a lot of time resting and dealing with nausea, dizziness and fatigue. I was fortunately able to manage my pain with extra strength Tylenol and didn’t need any pain killers.

I was advised to keep the bandages on for 48 hours, then I could remove them.

Here is a very big, very important note to anyone undergoing surgery for removal of cancerous parts:

You will not look the same after surgery as you did prior to surgery, and you will not look the same 2 days after surgery as you will in a week, and in 2 weeks, and in 2 months…


Sadly this advice was not dispensed to me prior to my removing the bandages. I was devastated.

While it is true that nothing can adequately prepare you for the first sight of your body after it is mutilated for survival, a little warning would have been greatly appreciated. I knew there would be a scar, but I was not prepared for what a change I would be looking at!

My breast was very deformed from swelling. The nipple was still there but it was in a complete different location and everything was just swollen and contorted, and devastating to look at. I immediately started crying. Luckily, and thankfully some amazing, strong women who have been through breast cancer reached out to me online to console me. My mother, bless her heart, tried her best but really didn’t understand what I was going through and so couldn’t help calm me down. I am very thankful I shared my journey because it is what helped connect me with other survivors who could relate. They shared their stories with me and it is what helped get me through it all. I can tell you now, as I type these words, that my breast looks much better and in fact, I plan to have surgery to make the left look more like the right! Now that the swelling has gone down and the scar tissue has softened slightly, my breast looks like one that has never breast fed! I don’t mind the scar at all. If they could just point in the same direction, I’ll be a very happy woman!

Then came the Axillary Web Syndrome also know as cording. Cording is essentially scar tissue that grows along your tendons. It is quite common and specific to lymph node dissection. No one seems to know why or how it happens. There are options for treatment such as physio and massage. To deal with my case, I massaged the arm in the shower, did a lot of fascia stretching, and when this wasn’t working fast enough for me I booked a massage. I wished I’d have booked sooner because after one massage session the cording was completely gone!

With that in mind, I urge you to keep calm. Everything will be alright! In a few weeks or months you will be looking back a memory.


Surgery date

16 Apr



The morning of my surgery I reported to the Ambulatory Care at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. I confirmed my identity in triplicate with every person that I came into contact with who was employed by the hospital. Well okay… Not everybody who was employed, I mean I didn’t tell the janitor any information but you get what I’m saying. After registering at the Ambulatory Care I was sent upstairs to the pre-surgery area where I again registered and confirmed my identity. I was brought to a little change room where I was handed a big plastic bag and told to remove everything except my underwear and my socks. I was given a gown and a robe to wear over the gown and little booties. My mother was with me. Staff gave my mother a card that had a number i.d. which would allow her to keep track of my process during surgery. There was a TV in the waiting area which resembled flight information screens at an airport.

After a short period a nurse came with a wheelchair to bring me to nuclear medicine. I was to have two injections around my nipple to help dr. Niaz determine which lymph nodes he was going to remove for the biopsy. The blue dye injected would show the path from my tumor to the nodes most likely, if at all were spreading the cancer. The injection feels like an electric current. I won’t lie, it hurts. The second injection hurt more and lasted more than a few seconds. Then I lay down on the table where a machine similar to an MRI machine took scans. I’m not claustrophobia but I had to stay still for a while so I closed my eyes and imagined I was on a warm beach.

After the scans were done I was again escorted via wheelchair to the biopsy area, this time to have a wire inserted through my breast into my tumor. This was done using ultrasound to guide the path of the wire. The needle to freeze me didn’t hurt at all. The insertion of the wire was completely pain-free. I felt very bionic having this wire sticking out of my breast for the rest of the day. After the wire was inserted in my breast I was wheeled to the Diagnostics Clinic again to have another mammogram done. It was interesting having a mammogram done with wire sticking out of my chest but we managed.

I was then was brought back to the pre-surgery waiting area to wait for my turn to have surgery.  We waited for a few hours. I was so hungry.  Once it was my turn to go in for surgery I was brought to yet another waiting room only this time my mother wasn’t allowed to come with me. Typically I wear contact lenses but I had to remove them for the surgery so I was pretty blind. The nurses gave me a heated blanket which was very nice because it was freezing in there! It didn’t help that there was construction going on all over the hospital.

Dr. Niaz came to discuss the surgery and see how I was doing.  Then I was greeted by the anethetist. I advised him that I get sick every time I have surgery so he told me he would switch things up a bit. I’m not sure what he did, but whatever it was made it way worse than typical! I was feeling pretty calm and just concentrated on being relaxed, breathing and meditating as much as I could.

I could hear another patient somewhere who was afraid of needles and screaming bloody murder! My goodness those surgeons had their work cut out for them on that one.

When it was finally my turn to have surgery I was brought into a large and very cold room where Dr. Niaz and his team guided me too the table. One of the nurses brought me some more heated blankets. Everyone took turns introducing themselves but of course I don’t remember any of them because I was about to have surgery and not taking notes of names. Dr. Niaz was talking into a tape recorder. A nurse was helping me get out of my robe. The Anethetist inserted and i.v. into my hand. Everybody was busying themselves with getting me ready for surgery and the last thing I remember was the anethetist saying you’re going to start to feel woozy. The nurse asked me a question and as I started to answer it I was out.

When I woke up I was extremely nauseous and couldn’t stop throwing up. I was told that the surgery was a success. But I was so sick that the nurse went to get dr. Niaz to tell him that there was no way I was going to be able to go home if it continued. It was supposed to be a day surgery however Dr. Niaz said if I continue to be that sick they would have to admit me. This was around 2 p.m.

By 6 p.m. I was still getting sick. I hadn’t been given any water, or food. The nurses and Dr. Niaz agreed that if the 8 o’clock staff should have me admitted. 8 p.m. was the shift change for nurses. When the new shift arrived they were nowhere near as friendly. In fact my experience was so horrible I filed a complaint!

They refused to give me anything to drink no matter how thirsty I was. They said that if I put anything in my stomach I would just throw it up. I had to stop so that they could send me home. They went to get my mother but lied to her saying that I hadn’t been sick in a of couple hours but I had just been sick 15 minutes prior. I finally convinced them to give me ice chips.  Because there was nothing in my stomach to vomit I was throwing up bile. My stomach was contracting with such force that it made me urinate the bed. I told the nurses several times that I had peed and they left me sitting in it for over an hour!

I convinced a nurse to let me use the washroom at which point they wheeled my bed over to another area to do so. This made me more ill. The one nurse actually said to me, and I quote “I know that you don’t feel well but you can still use your legs so come on, get up.” And she proceeded to forcibly lift me out of the bed and make me walk to the toilet.

I asked about a change of clothes but they just ignored me. My mother returned and was livid at the condition she found me in. Other nurses came by and we kept asking for Gravol or something to help with my nausea. My mother reminded them that Dr. Niaz had said if I was still sick I had to be admitted but they said that since it was not written on my chart it wasn’t going to happen. They said there were no rooms available even if they could get me one.

My mother got me a change of clothes  since the nurses still had me sitting in my urine soaked underwear, and insisted they give me some crackers. The nurse said the level of anti-nausea medication that I was on was near overdose and didn’t understand why I was still sick.

At 11 p.m. they actually kicked me out. A nurse passing by saw me getting into the wheelchair and stopped to say “This patient does not look well. She looks like she’s about to be sick. Why are we making her leave?” If you ask me these other nurses just wanted to go home. I understand, it’s the end of their shift. However I’m vomiting so maybe a little consideration would be nice.

The nurse who had asked why they were kicking me out decided to take over an escort me to the cab herself because clearly she didn’t feel these other nurses gave a shit about me. She made sure I had a box of tissue and a plastic bag and got me a damp towel for my forehead. We got into a taxi and off we went home. Luckily I only live a 10-minute ride from the hospital, and luckily I only vomited once during that ride. Once I was home my mother gave me Gravol and some toast and water, and I slept in my own bed.

I was sick for 2 weeks after surgery! I had a very bad reaction to the anesthetic. For the most part the staff at Credit Valley Hospital is great. That last batch of nurses gives everyone a bad name.


Breast is best.

22 Mar

Telling the people you love that you have cancer is often more difficult than hearing it yourself. As mentioned in a previous post, there is no support system near me. This means I rely heavily on my phone and on social media to communicate with people. Unfortunately, this is also how I had to inform my loved ones.

When I shared my journey from the start I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from people, both familiar and unknown to me. People were following my journey. Of course this meant that I had to keep them updated. It’s pretty irresponsible to share the start but not the following chapters of a story when you get people emotionally involved. However, people do need to understand that things take time, and most did. When the topic is something so sensitive it needs to be shared with family and loved ones first.

I recall getting messages on social media from people, some demanding but most just asking on my results while I was still waiting for the oncologist. I thought to myself geez..  I’d really like to tell my mother first. It did remind me the importance of finishing what you start. (Hence the blog)

My first call obviously was my mother. (Though I confess my first point of contact was my very good friend via text because he’s been my pillar.) Mom did what (most) moms do and hid her emotions until she got off the phone, then cried on her coworker’s shoulder. I lead with strength but I know she heard her little girl’v voice when I asked if she could come take care of me for surgery.

It needs to be said that my parents have never done anything for themselves my entire life. They never even had a real honeymoon, and they have only been on one vacation which involved my brother’s wedding in Jamaica. This doesn’t count as something for themselves. My dad had surprised my mom with a trip to Cuba and I went and got cancer so that surgery was one week before their trip. Cancer isn’t very convenient! (This joke helped lighten the conversation for everyone. My parents did get to go on their vacation in case you’re wondering.)

My next few calls were close family and friends. It got a little easier with each call, almost like rehearsing. Then I recorded a video for social media before collecting my daughter from school because I planned the rest of the evening to be uninterrupted between the two of us. This was the conversation I felt was most important.

She had made me promise that I would tell her if it was cancer when I had informed her of the biopsy, as though she feared I would keep it from her. She said she heard stories of other moms not telling their kids because they didn’t want to worry them. It’s a personal choice. I don’t feel that is the right path for my relationship with my daughter.

I raised her to be honest and not keep secrets from her mom. It wouldn’t be very good if I didn’t lead by example. Children are stronger than we give them credit for, and most of the time their fears are actually ours projected.

That afternoon I picked her up at school instead of having her go to her after school program and we skipped martial arts. I didn’t bring anything up until we got home so I could hug when it was needed. I sat on the couch beside her and told her my results. I told her it was good that it was caught very early and I was not going to die. I just might be sick for a little while.

We cried and held each other. I asked her if she minded sharing her feelings with me and she said she was scared.  I said I wasn’t scared. I told her if you must have cancer, breast is best. It is one with very high success rates and I know I will beat this! Then I looked her in the eye and said these exact words to my 10 year old: Baby, Mommy is going to kick cancer’s ass so hard it’ll wish it never messed with me! This brought a smile to her face, and like everyone else I’ve talked to shew followed my lead in not letting the fear take over.

We had a nice evening together and life carried on as though there were nothing else going on.


Surprise! It’s cancer. Now what?

21 Mar

On February 8th, 2018 I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, classified “no special type.” I came in fully expecting a negative result and was quite shocked. My appointment was originally for 9 in the morning but there had been a mix up in schedule causing all appointments to be delayed by about 3 hours. I was again given a wrist band and seated in the waiting room. This time I brought snacks and water. It was nearly noon by the time I did finally see Dr. Niaz.

On a side note, parking at Credit Valley Hospital, as with parking anywhere in a city is incredibly expensive so be prepared! It cost me $15 for half the day. There are no lots nearby and of course street parking doesn’t exist within reasonable walking distance.

I found it interesting how everyone (after confirming my identity several times each) started their conversation with asking me how I am. It’s a standard question we use to make small talk or be polite. It’s just robotic. I responded each time with I’ll find out soon enough.” I am sitting a waiting results for cancer, like every other person there that day. I’m sure they already have a good idea of how I am.

When Dr. Niaz asked I responded with “You tell me.”

“I don’t have good news.” he replied.

“It is cancer?” I asked.

“It is cancer.” He confirmed.

I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how to describe how I felt other than my brain went fuzzy. I wished I hadn’t come alone.

Somehow I remembered to breath. It was like I’d turned on auto-pilot because the rest of that conversation was like I was having an out-of-body experience. It was me talking, but I felt like I was a spectator.

This has happened to me a few times in crisis situations where I somehow tune out and just automatically handle shit for others, but this time I was handling it for myself, like I was possessing myself. It was very surreal.

Dr. Niaz sat looking at me, waiting for me to absorb the news without pressure and when I spoke next he followed my lead. It’s so strange to say that I was very happy with how the of my having cancer was delivered. No one wants to hear that they have cancer. Since I had to hear it, I am thankful that he read me so well.

“Ok. I was not expecting that. What’s our next step?”

He lay my cards on the table. I had a choice between mastectomy and lumpectomy. Both would have the same success rate.

Now I know what you’ve asked while reading this because everyone had the same question: Why would you remove the whole breast if you could just remove the lump? Why would he even offer it if it’s not necessary? The answer is: Because it’s my choice. Had he not advised me of all my options the question would have been why didn’t he give you all your options? It is something available to me.

Of course I asked the big question: What are my chances of survival?

Over 90%. Over! That was the exact wording. Because I caught this very early my prognosis was incredibly good. There was no pressure to make a decision, but I was ready.

I chose lumpectomy for several reasons. If you’re reading this and are facing similar choices know that there is no one other than yourself who can tell you what is right for you. It’s your journey. Ask a lot of questions and be honest with yourself. Make your decision about you. If there is one thing you are allowed to be selfish about it is your health! On that token, you alone are responsible for your health.

Lumpectomy, while having the same success rate as mastectomy, required less recovery time. It involved a day surgery where I would be able to go home the same day. Mastectomy would require hospital stay. Also, should I choose the latter and wish to have reconstructive surgery (which I would have chosen because I really like having breasts) would result in a longer wait for surgery because they would need to coordinate with a plastic surgeon.

I am a single mother. I do not have a support system. I have people who are supportive, but that is not the same as a support system. There isn’t anyone nearby who can come care for my child for me or look after me. I’m really on my own. So I chose lumpectomy.

I was advised surgery would take place February 23rd and that I would require 2 weeks to recover. I was surprised at how quickly this entire process was. From the time I found my lump to the date of surgery less than one month had passed! Say what you want about the Canadian health system, this is impressive! My surgery will consist of the removal of the tumor and a wedge of tissue around it, as well as a Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection.

3 lymph nodes will be removed and biopsied to determine if the cancer has spread and if chemotherapy is required before the localized radiation.

This was a lot of information to process and Dr. Niaz assured me that I would be given everything in writing as well as access to a Nurse Navigator.

He then examined my breast again to try to feel the lump I felt. He still couldn’t feel it. He told me I had very good hands and should consider joining his team, which lightened the mood.

My Nurse Navigator then came in to go over questions and paperwork with me, confirming the details of my surgery and diagnosis. She handed me a folder with brochures, information and resources and her card.

Then I was on my way home feeling relieved that I’d taken the day off instead of just the morning.



The Biopsy

19 Mar

Thursday, Feb 1 I arrive at the diagnostics clinic accompanied by one of my closest friends. I am confident it isn’t cancer, but I still don’t want to be alone even though I know I won’t get results immediately.  They put a wrist band on me and confirm my identity. I’m seated in a small waiting room that isn’t set up for optimal space, but it has a small fire-place in the corner and several outlets so you can charge electronics. I start to work on the standard forms but am called in to see the oncologist before I can complete them. The nurse bringing me to see Dr. Niaz confirms my identity again and the doctor sees me right away. We go over family history and prior health topics. I am not what they consider a high risk factor but he says the scans are concerning. He examines my breast but says he feels nothing. I am sent back for a mammogram where a wonderful woman begins to explain the process to me by comparing my breasts to an overcast sky. We’re just going to part the clouds she says. She’s very lovely and informative, and I imagine this process is daunting to people so she’s trying to make it as pleasant as possible. I’m not the kind of person who likes things prettied up however so I am wishing she’d just get to it already. This needs to be done, so let’s get it done.

Before the mammogram begins she confirms my identity. This is the third time in less than an hour I’ve had to confirm my identity and each time they ask this they also check my wrist band. I am starting to wonder if the concern is my mental state or their accuracy.

We begin a series of incredibly awkward and uncomfortable poses involving this woman I’ve just met handling my breast as though it were molding clay while this machine clamps down and squashes. We do this a lot in various poses. At one point the machine actually lifted me off the ground slightly. Have you ever been picked up by the breast?

After several images are taken I am sent back to the waiting room. I am hungry and thirsty. If I can give you one bit of advice when going in for these appointments: bring a snack and water! I don’t have time to send my friend for anything because a nurse comes to collect me for more mammogram imaging. Dr. Niaz wants a better look at the spot where I can feel the lump. More awkward posing and squashing, this time with a smaller screen, and then I’m brought to a different waiting room where another nurse asks if I am Jessica. I tell her I’m not, but if being Jessica will get me in sooner I’ll be her. She laughs but then informs reception that since Jessica isn’t here and I am, she will take me in right away. Sweet!

She confirms my identity and looks at my wrist band. I ask if they’ve ever performed the wrong procedure on someone and that’s why they have to be this thorough. I’m fully expecting her to laugh but instead she just looks at me and says it happens, so this ensures it won’t.

I better not leave with a new hip….

I am brought into a small room with an ultrasound machine and an exam table. She searches for the lump with the ultrasound and we discuss the procedure. She tells me that the Doctor said it is concerning because there isn’t enough evidence to rule out concern yet and that it is a good sign that the lump feels tender because cancerous lumps do not typically hurt. Then she leaves to get the radiologist. I feel calm and relaxed.

Approximately 15 minutes go by when the door opens and in walks the nurse with a man behind her who is already talking when he as he enters the room. It took me a few seconds to realize he was speaking to me and that he was explaining the procedure as he walked in. As I am being prepped I stop the nurse to confirm my identity because we need a laugh. I’m in a good mood despite the hunger.

The radiologist explains that he is going to freeze my breast so I will feel a slight pinch for the injections, then he will insert the biopsy needle. When he shows me the needle I swear it looks like a small harpoon. He shows me that it will make a click when it collects the sample and that unfortunately I will feel pain when that happens but there isn’t anything he can do about that.

They have me lie as comfortably as possible with my arm up and place absorbent paper with a circle opening to expose my breast. The nurse cleans the area with a liquid resembling beet juice and informs me it will stain for a few days. The radiologist gives me a series of small injections to freeze my breast and explains he will be inserting the biopsy needle as parallel as he can from the side of my breast near my under arm along the top to reach the area where the scan shows the lesion, aka my lump. The reason it is done this way is to avoid as much breast tissue and muscle as possible for less pain and better recovery. I will bruise but will heal faster. He then begins inserting the biopsy needle and I am surprised how quickly the freezing kicked in and how effective it is. I don’t feel a thing.

It is completely painless. I even get to watch on the ultrasound screen while he harpoons me. He warned me about the click so I got ready to feel pain, but there was none. Not even a bit. He collected 3 samples and I was then cleaned, bandaged, given a small frozen gel pack and scheduled to return Feb 8 for my results.

The freezing began to wear off about an hour or so later and then I was quite sore. The pain was easily managed with a couple extra strength Tylenol and sleep.

My bruise lasted a couple of weeks and looked worse than it was. I did have a very small amount of bleeding overnight. Three blood spots smaller than pea sized on my shirt.

Photo taken 2 days post biopsy.

Now we wait…

If it isn’t cancer the stress might still kill me!

09 Mar

My biopsy is scheduled on February 1st.  The diagnostics clinic called me at 3:35pm on Tuesday, January 30th informing me that the ultrasound clinic had not sent in my scans. These are required by the morning of January 31st (next day) or I will be forced to reschedule. Beg your pardon??

They said I am responsible for getting a cd of the scans, these cannot be sent via email or fax, it needs to be a disc from the ultrasound clinic. All of this was delivered without a hint of empathy, as though I had done them some great injustice. They didn’t even call the ultrasound clinic for a follow up. Had they done this, they’d have realized that the request was never sent for the scans in the first place!

I had to leave work to collect a cd at the other end of the city, then drive to the complete opposite end of the city and pay $15 for parking just so I could drop off the CD in their mailbox. The ultrasound clinic receptionist had been so adamant in proving to me she’d never received the request to the point that I had to tell her to stop showing me all the requisitions for the other patients.  I said listen, I know you are great at your job and this is just a case of someone over there screwing up so that the rest of the world has to jump through hoops to fix their mistake. I then left a nice voicemail for the diagnostics place informing them of their mistake and that going forward they need to be nicer when asking people who are already facing the stress of possibly having cancer to jump through such hoops. I was polite about it, don’t worry.

They did call me back the next day, late afternoon again. A different woman was on the phone and was very please to tell me they did in fact receive the scans after all and so I could come in for my appointment next a.m. and not to worry. This was delivered to me as though it was great news: “Hey guess what!?”  I said “I know you got them. I left work losing an hour and half pay to drive across the city to get the cd because your clinic didn’t send the request, as per my voice mail.” To which she responds with a stutter: “Oh yeah, sorry about that. It turns out that there are 2 clinics and my colleague sent the request to the wrong one. So thank you for doing that for us, we really appreciate your help.” This was the exact wording.

We appreciate your help? First off, why didn’t you lead with the apology since you clearly knew that your clinic had screwed up? As though the scans magically appeared and I wouldn’t notice all the effort I went through to make it happen.. I was livid. When your job involves such a sensitive issue like cancer you would think you’d be a lot more careful with how you do it. No it is not an easy job, but guess what? No job is. So do it right or don’t do it at all. When you make a mistake, even if it isn’t your direct actions that caused it, don’t try to bullshit your way out of it, take ownership.

It doesn’t leave me with a lot of confidence that I’ll go in for a biopsy and won’t come out with a new hip.

This little lump of mine…

08 Mar

Monday, January 15, 2018

I found it accidentally. I wasn’t looking for it. It wasn’t a self exam. I was lying in bed and my hand just happened to come to rest on my breast without intent. I just happened to place my hand with just enough firmness to feel the tiniest little lump.

Well, I thought, that shouldn’t be there. So my not a self exam turned into a self exam. It was definitely a lump. But there is no history of breast cancer in my family that I was aware of, and from all the information I’ve heard it doesn’t hurt when it’s a cancerous lump. But pressing on this tiny lump hurt a bit, so it’s probably just a cyst. Just to be sure, I’ll book in with my doctor. I’m sure it’s nothing. And I rolled over and went to sleep.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I call to book with my doctor. They offer an appointment that evening but that would make me miss hot yoga. It’s my newfound addiction, I’m not willing to miss it. I’m sure this is just a cyst or something so there is no rush. She is closed on Wednesdays, I ask for a Saturday. This way I don’t have to miss any gym or yoga time and I’m disrupting my evenings.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

My doctor examines my breasts and says she feels the lump as well as several others. It is very likely just breast tissue. We discuss my family history and how there is no breast cancer. She and I agree it is better to be safe than sorry so we get set up for an ultrasound. If there is something concerning in the scans then she will send me for a mammogram. The y unfortunately cannot see me until Tuesday. I am a little concerned as anyone would be, but mostly I’m confident It’s nothing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2108

I get to the ultrasound clinic. I’m calm. A tiny voice in my head is giving me the what ifs, but it’s overpowered by my self reassurance that I am not really a risk factor and all the women who have told me that most of the time these lumps are benign. However my concern shifts slightly when in the room being scanned as the technician is taking many photos and measurements. I was there for over 40 minutes being scanned. It doesn’t typically take that long, does it? At the end she tells me it is normal to take lots of measurements and asks me to please not worry about it. My doctor will have the scans in 2 to 3 business days. O.k. then, I will try not to worry. I collect my child and we go about our regular lifestyle. We go to the gym, she enjoys the amazing child minding service provided and I enjoy a wonderful session of hot Yin yoga.

After yoga I find a voice mail on my phone from my doctor. She wants to see me asap. Well, now I’m worried. Of course, her office closes in 30 minutes from the time I get the message, I’m a 35 minute drive away, and she is closed Wednesdays. So I’m booked in for Thursday late morning. 2 to 3 business days ended up being 2 to 3 hours.

Enjoying some hot Yin before I received the voice mail.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

I took the morning off so I can take my time before my appointment. I’ve remained calm and have convinced myself that I do not have cancer. The more people I speak with, the more I believe it.

I remained calm, until I got out of the shower to a voice mail from the hospital confirming my biopsy appointment. I hadn’t even made it in to my doctor yet and the hospital is confirming biopsies. The haste is rather intimidating. On one hand you’re happy they’re not wasting any time. On the other hand it’s pretty effing scary they’re not wasting any time!

Just breathe!

My doctor was very apologetic for making me wait and not telling me over the phone, and advised me that there wasn’t any definitive results that an ultrasound could provide other than it’s concerning. She said she doesn’t take any risks with this kind of thing so she’s sending me for a biopsy.

Keep breathing.

16 years ago I was diagnosed with P.T.S.D. and mental health was even more scarce then than it is now. So I was told the best form of therapy while you’re waiting for mental health care is to talk about your experience. Even if it is strictly the form of a secret, hand-written journal, getting it out instead of keeping it in is such a great relief. When you open up to the universe the amazing thing is that she responds. I posted this video on my Facebook and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, even from strangers! People who have had their own journey through lumps and scares reached out thanking me for sharing and returning the favour. Knowing that I am not alone was so therapeutic and strengthening, which is why I do it.

Biopsy is scheduled for Thursday, February 1st.

Just keep breathing…