- Referral to the Breast Clinic
- Breast Reconstruction
- Breast Cancer Surgery
Over the weekend, my left breast starts self-inflating at an alarming rate. By the end of the day it is bigger than the right hand side that has been fully expanded. I feel panicky - it looks like a weird yellow and purple jellyfish. I leave a message for Giles.
Later I receive a reply: it's a seroma or fluid buildup which may need draining on Monday. But no emergency... I'm not convinced as my breast continues to expand like something from a Woody Allen movie. My outfit for the fancy dress party that evening is suddenly a tight fit and I feel pretty uncomfortable.
I have weird dreams that night involving inflating and exploding breasts.
Sunday morning and the Jellyfish seems to have stopped growing for now. It's my birthday, I’m 44 and I feel glum, looking in the mirror at my image. It feels a long time ago when I had two normal-looking breasts, albeit one with a pea-sized lump invisible to the eye. In fact it is less than four months - it's been a rapid journey, physically and emotionally. My moods have waxed and waned at different stages along the path. I feel constrained and frustrated by my current physical limitations and the thought of a further operation to come as well to complete the reconstruction. I know I'm being impatient and should be grateful this is all I have to deal with - I am. Just not all the time. Just need to allow myself a very occasional moment feeling sorry for myself. I try not to let the negative emotion last though - positivity has been vital to my recovery.
I have an interesting discussion that evening with my son about resilience and the importance of building strong foundations to help you through difficult times. I want him to see me as a strong role model in this respect, but also tell him how vital the love and support of family and friends has been to me, often coming from unexpected quarters.
Giles checks the fluid buildup and decides it’s best to leave it alone for now to avoid introducing an infection risk. He reassures me it is unlikely to expand further - I'm relieved that my bad dreams won't come to fruition.
We briefly discuss timing for the final third procedure - I prefer to wait until the New Year so I can enjoy Xmas, but this means half term holiday plans are unlikely to materialise.
Two days later on my return from a bike ride, I have developed hives that are spreading at an alarming rate all over my body. I worry it is related to my surgery or the implant. The anti-histamine tablets are not working and I now have swollen, cauliflower ears. I feel totally unattractive with my scars, jellyfish, cauliflowers, spots and flaming red back.
I have to cancel my long awaited girls’ weekend away. I don't feel up to travelling and would need a very big hat to cover my scarlet face, neck and ears. I'm holding back tears as I call my pals. I am vile and grumpy all day to my long-suffering husband. He retreats to the TV. I am deeply fed up and bored of not feeling normal - this does feel like a new low point and I'm really uncomfortable. Yet, I am acutely aware that I have only an inkling of what cancer-sufferers who undergo radiotherapy and chemo treatment experience and the huge reserves of resilience they must have to draw on.
Giles is not sure what the rash is caused by, but reassures me it is not symptomatic of an infection. I visit my GP after two days with no respite from the rash. She is sympathetic but has no insight as to what has caused the allergic reaction.
Alongside my prescription, my GP gives me a form that entitles me to free medication on the NHS as a cancer sufferer. I'm intrigued to observe that I am treated subtly differently by the pharmacy counter in Sainsbury’s once they have read my form. They are unusually sympathetic and go out of their way to make conversation and are deeply apologetic that they won't have my prescription for a further hour. I'm appreciative and quite touched by their behaviour but also note my inner surprise - I don't see myself as a cancer patient, despite the operations undergone and the further procedure I will need to complete my reconstruction.
I have to delay my next expansion for a fortnight whilst the rash subsides. Meanwhile the fluid has drained away and the left breast has now shrunk back and is smaller than the fully expanded side. I'm still very itchy and haven't slept properly for weeks, either due to itching or to post surgery discomfort.