Saturday, 25 May 2013

Breast Aware

When I returned from holiday I received a phone call from a very close friend. She was as bubbly as ever enquiring how we enjoyed our break.  I asked her how her "how things had been with her....anything going on?"  She relied by saying "lots".  Intrigued I said" do tell" thinking this was going to be one of our usual gossip sessions.

What followed was anything but lighthearted banter.  She told me that she had been providing support to her friend who had skin cancer.  Somehow this had prompted her to examine  herself after a hospital visit.  To her surprise she found a very small lump the size of a pea under her arm.  She wasn't unduly alarmed but went to see her doctor who immediately said he didn't like the look of it and referred her immediately to a breast specialist.  A biopsy followed and at this point in time my friend was waiting for the results.

Since this phone call  many things have happened including acknowledgement that this was indeed cancer but maybe in early stage.  A lumpectomy followed only to find that several nodes were affected and therefore intensive chemo was required.  She has had various scans to make sure as far as possible that the cancer hasn't spread.  Good news on this front so chemo begins next week.

In preparation for this aggressive treatment we went to choose a wig this week. Her consultant  warned that she would almost certainly lose her hair and it would be less distressing if she cut her hair now to avoid the experience of hair fallout.  When we met at the wig provider workshop my friend had already cut her hair quite severely and I felt a pang of sadness that this was necessary.  However the wig fitting went very well and we did have quite a few laughs as she experimented with different colours and styles. She settled for one which was more her colour with with warm streaks.  It is surprising how this experience really lifted her spirits and morale  and she is in a positive frame of mind ready to face the next set of treatments.  She appreciates that she is going to have highs and lows but is determined to remain resilient and practical and to see through this lengthy process.

She has been through the inevitable feelings of shock and anger and I am sure the latter will surface every now and then.  She only retired a few months ago, doesn't smoke, hardly ever has a drink, exercises and keeps her weight under control.  Breast cancer isn't  known in the family - as she joked that bad hearts were.....

She said she had neglected examining herself. She recalled having a mammogram 2 years ago which did reveal a shadow which was assessed as a flap of skin and that no further action was taken. This may not have been sinister but looking for answers is very human.

She will have all the love and support from her family and friends and I know she will come through this and have a positive outcome.

This does highlight how important it is to self examine, have regular checks and mammograms and to be vigilant.

Here is a very informative link regarding self examination.

http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam/bse_steps

please feel free to comment on your experiences which will be helpful to others


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