I just about get my date of birth out and enter the consultation room. This time there is an extra person in the room - another nurse. My brain goes in to overdrive. I sit down and I am asked how I am, hows the pain? I don't feel like I'm really there, I just feel odd. I'm asked to go behind the curtain and put the gown on. The consultant removes the steri-strips and checks the wound. Everything looks good so I get dressed and sit down again.
Mrs S, my consultant, explains that they did find a papilloma which was likely what was causing the bleeding. However, while she was removing the duct she had been able to feel that the surrounding ducts weren't right. They didn't feel as they should. She explained that she had tried to remove the areas that felt odd but they went deeper and deeper she had to stop. All of the areas she had removed had been sent away for screening and the results showed that there was a cancer present. A very early form of cancer known as DCIS - ductal carcinoma in situ. She was very apologetic - I think most likely because they were convinced I was healthy and it was me that had to push for the microductectomy in the first place. Immediately the additional nurse was introduced, she was a Macmillan nurse specialising in breast cancer.
Time stood still for a minute. I don't think I spoke. I just gripped Chris' hand tight and the nurse left to get me some water.
It was explained that the next step would be for me to have a mammogram and another ultrasound to see if the DCIS was visible then we would need to go back and see her again later today. She thought that the best way to proceed would be to perform a central excision. A large incision would be made across my left breast. They would aim to remove all of the DCIS but they would need to remove my nipple.
I left the consultants room and began to cry. I honestly think the thought of losing my nipple had hit me harder than hearing the word cancer. That may seem ridiculous but right then in that moment that was what mattered to me. My femininity. It doesn't matter whats going on in the inside as long as you look and feel the same on the outside.
We were ushered in to a side room and handed some tissues. The Macmillan nurse came in with lots of booklets for us to read. I told her, "I honestly just want them to take both boobs". I didn't want to risk my life. We talked for a while and she explained that having a bilateral mastectomy was a huge decision. I'd have to have a reconstruction with silicone implants. The silicone implants wouldn't feel like part of my body, Id have no feeling and they'd feel very cold.
I asked more questions about the results. The consultant had removed a 10cm x 1cm area and a 2cm x 1cm area. All of which came back as high grade DCIS. Luckily DCIS is completely contained within the ducts of the breast and has not yet got the ability to spread outside. As far as we know, my cancer is contained.
DCIS is graded in three ways based on how the cells look under a microscope. A system is used to classify the cancer cells according to how different they are to normal breast cells:
|Macmillan Cancer Support: DCIS Grading|
The nurse asks about whether we will tell the children. I explain that because of Dad and the association that his death has with the word cancer, we would not tell them. She agrees its probably best. Chris and I are eventually left alone to wait for my name to be called for the mammogram. We hug each other tightly.
The mammogram was horrible. I was still healing from the operation and having my boobs squished in a vice was the last thing I needed. As I stood there top off, boob flattened, I realised that I just had to get on with it. I would fight this - no matter what.
A couple of hours later we were back in with the specialist. She explained that nothing at all was visible on the scan, there was no visible calcification. Mrs S explained that because of this she would need to go in blind but the only option would be for me to have the central excision. Ideally she would have liked to have had an MRI scan done but because of my recent surgery the scan would only show inflamed areas where the previous operation had been performed. You have to wait 6 weeks post surgery to get a clear view and she explained we didn't have time to wait. I'm told it is likely that I will need radiotherapy once I'm recovered, just to ensure that all of the bad cells are eradicated.
I asked how long I was likely to have had this growing inside me and she explained because it had reached high grade it certainly would have been a number of years. I explained my concern about having pain under my arm but she thinks it's likely just down to the surgery I've had.
I was given a folder confirming my diagnosis "left breast cancer". My operation will be performed on 8th January 2018.
As we leave the hospital I see the messages and missed calls from my mum. How the hell am I supposed to tell her I have cancer so soon after losing Dad?