- Referral to the Breast Clinic
- Breast Reconstruction
- Breast Cancer Surgery
I start back at work this week, working two days from home and two in the office - it's about right, although I'm quite tired on the day I attempt to do the school run, cooking, piano lesson and homework. An unbroken night of sleep would be good but I'm still being zapped unexpectedly.I have been tazered in the night! I'm woken up by stabbing electrical pains across the stitches in my nipple area. I think maybe I've been over zealous on the exercises so I email Giles. No, all normal - cut nerve endings coming back to life, he replies.
Book club at my house finishes surprisingly late, I suffer the next day but it was worth it - work, social life and school run are all part of the normality that I'm craving.
Back at the consulting rooms we have a further discussion on preventive treatment options. The recommendation from the doctors' case review meeting is that I would benefit from Tamoxifen - ten years of it. My heart sinks - I realise it wasn't what I wanted to hear. There is a substantial and longstanding history of its efficacy in prevention that is hard to ignore. The side effects are outlined but we don't dwell on them (that's for me to do later). We briefly discuss the option of not doing anything, but it doesn't feel like this is an option that is recommended. Surgery is discussed again - Giles highlights there is the usual risk accompanying any surgery. We talk about potential timings and options. More food for thought.
Before leaving I have my first expansion. Giles removes the waterproof dressing but leaves the steri-strips over the nipple area - I'm relieved, still not ready to see what's underneath. I feel the needle on my skin but then nothing until the implant starts expanding - it's a strange sensation, it reminds me of breast feeding - i.e. breasts filled with concrete. As I lie there with a needle sticking out of me, we discuss school open days and secondary school fees - this is becoming a recurring feature. I drive straight to the office feeling self-conscious - one side is now noticeably larger than the other. But actually with my jumper and a scarf it doesn't notice - one hopes that colleagues aren't looking in that direction anyways...
The implant is now more comfortable as predicted by Giles - there is less of a sideways bulge but it has lifted higher. I need to go bra-shopping again and hopefully lose the uncomfortable Evil Bra in the process.
I have my first night out at my husband's gig - it's really nice to be in town with friends. We drive home and the speed bumps are still challenging although not quite as eye watering as previously - I take an ibuprofen before bed.
I pay a visit at the end of the week to the bra shop recommended by Giles and Jan. Jackie is waiting for me as I had called ahead and greets me warmly, -"Come this way my darling" and I am swept into a fitting room. Jackie is impressed with the look of my breast already and the lack of bruising. She has come back with more chunky bras - she sees the look of dismay on my face - "don't worry, you will have beautiful lingerie again..." I feel like Cinderella..."just not quite yet", she adds practically.
The bra is a much better fit - I had the wrong back size previously - and I try a silicon 'chicken fillet' in the other side to balance them out. It's surprisingly comfortable but sticks out too far. We try a few others like a weird arcade game. Eventually we find two inserts - one for now and one for the next expansion. We do the t-shirt test and try on a tight fitting vest to check the profile. It looks fine.
We discuss how far into my treatment I am and the decisions I need to make - I joke that at least I'll have warm feet if I take Tamoxifen - "unfortunately you don't" Jackie laughs, "the rest of me was boiling but I still had freezing feet". A potential silver lining slips away but I am full of admiration and immensely encouraged talking to such a vivacious and energised lady who has been through the process.
As I leave I feel suddenly tearful. Standing topless in front of a mirror with someone other than medical staff or my husband looking at my new and damaged profile is an acknowledgement of what has happened. Jackie's caring, encouraging and supportive manner also add to my emotional state and I drive and cry home; still taking care to avoid the speed bumps even with my new improved bra.