breast cancer · breast surgeon · chemotherapy · children · ironman triathlon · lumpectomy · mastectomy · Mr Cool · sentinel node biopsy

24 hours from the surgeon’s scalpel

A strange calm is hanging over me. There are so many unknowns ahead but the immediacy of the removal of the cancer takes priority.

I have no idea how I will process what lays ahead. My fertility window has just been slammed shut. We were trying for our third child this year and I can’t even connect with what this will mean to me or my husband in the months and years to come. It never occurred to me that the couple of years I still had to add to my family might evaporate into thin air, but it has. At nearly 38, this diagnosis means I’ll be on hormone drugs till I’m 44 and pregnancy hormones feed this cancer. So future pregnancy would be beyond the realms of sensibility.

How will I feel about my changed breast? A lumpectomy, although a small procedure, will pretty much remove half of what I have as there wasn’t much to begin with. I have decided to have this minimally invasive procedure first, (lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy) then treat the cancer asap, and then decide what to do later on with mastectomy and reconstruction or radiotherapy. Statistics for survival are the same with lumpectomy versus mastectomy. With young children a mastectomy would be quite a feat to recover from with groping arms and cuddles and lifting. And we don’t want any complications that would delay chemotherapy from starting. Women can still get breast cancer after a mastectomy, but it tends to be much earlier detected. The surgeon tells me I can keep my nipples, but that one will point under my armpit post surgery. How exciting!

The surgeon has also suggested I have a 30 percent chance of the cancer turning up in my other breast. And that a double mastectomy might be on the cards. The pros for this being I would have “a set” that look the same if I chose to have reconstructive surgery, and I might also get out of having radiotherapy if both breasts are removed. There are some rare cases coming through in research studies where women under 40 who have radio for breast cancer are turning up with radio caused chest, lung, liver and bone cancers in their fifties. Yippee!

How long will all of this it take to heal? How long will it be till I can continue on my distance running quest? Will I ever get to finish a half Ironman Triathlon?

I had so many goals for myself this year. Cancer was not in my plans.

Will they get it all out and what will the pathology results be? Will the nodes be involved? What if they are? What will chemotherapy do to me? Who will look after my kids? Will my husband cope?

I’m hurtling towards some challenging times.

5 thoughts on “24 hours from the surgeon’s scalpel

  1. I’d just started running when I was diagnosed too. I have just finished chemo, still on Herceptin & just started Tamoxifen. I am starting again after 7-8 months.
    I am not a fast runner but I plod along.
    I still walked and ran a little the Sydney City to Surf 14km about 2 weeks after I had my first chemo and 2 weeks after I had my drain out (it was in for a month).- I did a sub 1hr 59mins 54 sec or so.
    I stopped running during rest of chemo so i didn’t stress my body too much and the fatigue is a killer when you already have kids to run after.
    Just saying …nothing can stop your running goal even if it is a little harder at first.
    Good luck on your journey.


    1. Thank you so much Trish. It’s great to know life can go on. It’s important for me to be able to do some things when I can. Will be interesting to see how it effects me. Thanks again. x


  2. PS I’ve managed to continue to walking [on treadmill] all the way through chemo except on traveling days (had to travel 350km each way for first 3 months) and first few days after chemo – mostly it is was ok.
    It’s no picnic but chemo for me wasn’t as horrific as I imagined. Nausea yes with AC chemo, fatigue and slight aches with Paclitaxil mostly but I had to walk no matter what because it helps with fatigue strangely and the endorphins rock.
    Sorry for the essay !


  3. I know you have other posts, post this one, and have had your lumpectomy. I would like to share my experiences 14 months after the fact. Also a quick note: here in the states, Florida anyways, things are done a little differently, but yours seems better.

    I opted for a lumpectomy as well. After all, at 57,I had grown rather fond of the girls. They had been rather handy what with breast feeding three daughters and being a major erogenous zone. Because of lymph involvement I needed chemo (carboplatin and taxotere, and herceptin), followed by radiation because of the lumpectomy, then a post-menopausal aromatase inhibitor for 5 years.

    Before radiation they stopped the Herceptin because of adverse side effects. It wasn’t until after radiation and having heart problems with the Femora that I realized how nasty the radiation could be. My cardiologist said it usually takes 20 years to show up: lesions on the lungs, liver, and heart valve problems. Something to look forward to! I know one woman whose lesion on her liver showed up immediately after radiation was finished. So much for rare or taking its freaking time.

    THEN, I had my yearly mammogram done. What was I thinking?? (by the way your George Forman comments were brilliant!) I won’t let a blood pressure cuff near my right arm but didn’t think twice about allowing them to squeeze my D-sized breast flatter than a pancake. And that is supposed to happen twice a year now? F*** me.

    Long story short, after having NO problems with lymphodema I ended up with chest wall lymphodema that then spread into my upper arm. Two compression bras ($400) and two lymphatic drainage massages a week ($60 each) for three months later I am back to normal though highly susceptible to it happening again. Plane trips (I have two daughters in Chicago, one is moving to Alaska and I am going to Italy this June), making fudge, unusual physical activity (chainsawing downed trees from hurricanes, gardening) can send it into overdrive again. Joy!

    You are certainly more fit (I applaud your life style changes and strength of will to do so) than I am and I know you will sail through this just fine. But if I had to do it over again I would have had the mastectomy and avoided the radiation. I would not have had reconstruction though I know other women who have done so (after double mastectomies) but they remove the nipples here and I couldn’t handle a breast without a nipple or one tattooed on. (What the…!!) You are correct with needing to bounce back because of your children and life demands. Reconstruction would put a serious crimp on that: no stairs, no lifting for months after.

    This was meant to help, not terrify you. If you need to chat you can catch me here at word press. I used an acupuncturist weekly and she prescribed herbs (From Australia, MediHerb) to counteract chemo side effects, etc. I also took Mistletoe extract as well. Every thing helped. Well, I was bald, but I liked that actually. My badge of courage, in a way.

    Love your blog. Good luck. ~D.


    1. Hi Stemimi.
      Thanks for sharing your story. It is very helpful to speak with others who have travelled the road before. I am still in the waiting for results zone, after my surgeon changed our appointment time from Friday to Monday. I have been given an additional three days to find out the story of my cancer and treatment plan so it will be two weeks from surgery to results. What has surprised me most about this diagnosis and treatment is the varied pathways and choices women have. In these early days, I am feeling very uneasy about the idea of radiation treatment. I will have until chemo is almost done to make a decision about the next step with respect to single or double mastectomy and reconstruction or not or radiotherapy. It has been interesting to gain insight into the perspective and biases of different people in the treatment team. The surgeons are happy to slice and dice, get the cancer out, take the breast or breasts off and build a new set if you want one (now or later). The oncologists happy to chemo before and after surgery, the breast nurses sharing the experiences of other women and their surgery choices, the 50/50 statistics of survival based on the different surgery choices and recurring cancers, but it is a deeply personal one and there is no ‘right’ decision. Sometimes I think it would be much easier if I would be told the best option for me. I have always been a bit of a drifter. Never been able to sign off on the big decisions like career choices etc. I always take an hour in the video store just to chose the ‘right’ movie. lol But I guess I’ll work through it all as time progresses. Many thanks for your insight. x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s