Going through it in Finland

Well! Deep breath. I’m wondering if reading the messages on this board this morning has been a case of too much information in a lump - scuse the tasteless pun. It’s been moving and fascinating, however, and my thoughts go out to all of you who are showing so much courage and humour in the face of a fairly unwished-for experience.

I live just outside Helsinki in Finland - Australian born of Brit parents - and had breast cancer diagnosed a few weeks ago. I’m 50 and it was picked up in the population scanning that starts at that age here - as well as in Britain from what I gather. I got an invite for the mammogram and nearly didn’t bother attending - I was busy that day - but am happy I did. Then the phone call a few days later to go back in for further tests - “This doesn’t sound like good news,” I said to the nurse and we both giggled. Horrid doc who muttered, “Very nasty, very nasty” as he did the ultra sound. It’s hard to be combative when you’re lying flat on your back, naked from the waist up. Bit of a shock really and I spilled out into the waiting room trying to wipe away tears and couldn’t find my way out of the bloody place. Stoic Finnish women peering gimletty at the hysterical foreigner with her bad news as she blundered around looking for the exit. Not a nice moment.

It’s all happened so fast since then. Four days later I had a session in my nearest hospital with the surgeon - a nice woman, thank god - and then a session in the Helsinki ‘Department of Nuclear Medicine’ for lymph node mapping. I haven’t come across a mention of that here - or not by a title that I recognise - but they inject the tumour with radioactive fluid so they can photograph the sentinels. Next day I had the 25 cm (on edit: this would have been a record - I meant mm of course) tumour removed along with wide margin and sentinels; the pathologist on hand diced the sentinels & found cancer so they took out 19 altogether. I really hadn’t a clue what was going on and didn’t much care. I’ve lived in Finland for over 20 years with a deliberate programme of not speaking the language, despite Finnish husband and 16-year-old son, and I LIKE not knowing what’s going on. Particularly if my knowing is not going to make any difference to outcome. Plus, everyone speaks English so much better than I would ever speak Finnish…

Wonderful, virtually free, medical care here - I had pre-eclampsia with my son and was in hosp for a month with that; then another 2 weeks a couple of years ago with suspected ovarian cancer that turned out to be a massive abdominal infection, cause never fully determined - I’ve liked hospital. Very restful. The first 2 visits they gave me a private room, perhaps because I’m a weird foreigner, perhaps because I really wanted one - and this time round was also pleasant: the surgical wards only contain 2 beds, plus state of the art bathroom & personal media screens & my room mate kept me in stitches (sorry) with tales of the older woman she’d shared with on her previous visit (her lumpectomy - this time roommate was back for lymph-node clearance; I was glad to get the 2 ops over in one) who had fully planned and paid for her funeral before her op - and discussed it with room mate down to the colour of her casket lining and the sandwich fillings - for hours. I still chortle as I think about it. Room mate and I enjoyed the fact that THAT was something we were never going to worry about - someone else’s chore. Finnish humour?

I came home with a drain - probably the worst aspect of the whole thing. I’ve been a professional cook in my youth & am happy gutting and filleting, but the drain sack got me down. But that came out four days later and I had a lunch party to celebrate - driving to my local supermarket for ingredients because my husband shops for food the way I’d paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I won’t be told what not to do. Consequently, when I went in 2 days ago for a post-op check, the surgeon was surprised by the flexibility of my arm & shoulder. More or less back to normal with little discomfort. She cut well, I’m guessing.

I’m 178 cm tall, weigh 80 kg and have a D bra-cup size so she’d been able to take out a wide margin around the monster and it was clear. Good news. On the other hand, 4 out of 19 nodes show cancer. Not so good, but I don’t have my first treatment appointment for four weeks so don’t know what that will be. All these terms that people are familiar with here are Greek to me, though I know the choices are radiotherapy, hormonal and chemo. I had waist length hair until the day before my op when I had it chopped off above the shoulder. Such a bad hair cut that I won’t be sorry to kiss it off if I need chemo - whereupon I will have my skull shaved by a gay friend who has been doing it for years. It suits him. Might suit me.

I’m looking on the whole thing as a positive experience. I went back to university a while back, culminating in being awarded a Ph.D. in anthropology three years ago - this sort of stuff is grist to the anthropological mill, but more to the point, I’ve been unhappy with somewhat exploitative employment options since then and I’ve not known quite what to do about it. I’m honestly delighted to be able to take a ‘legitimate’ break and think about how to make changes. As many people mention here, you take it in small stages, and reading about other people’s experiences reassures me that we can deal with what we’re thrown. So this, too, has been part of the positive experience. Along with hearing that other people have the laughter/tears attacks, and a guilty association with daytime TV. Thank you all so much. I didn’t realise how much I had to get off my chest (sorry again, I can’t help it).You’ve made my day.

Welcome Emelle

There’s masses of support and information on this site…I’ve been around it for 4 years now. Hope you get as much out of it as I have.

Its really interesting to hear about differences in Finnish sytem. As you say I’ve never heard of the phrase lymph node mapping here…though thinking about it its what is called sentinal node bippsy (SNB) here…The UK is lagging behind the rest of Europe in breast cancer treatments, and I guess Finland may be near the top.

Hope you’ll get loads of replies, particularly from some recently diagnosed women.

very best wishes

Jane

Some of the messages on this site indicate a kind of series of operations. As many as four for some people and my heart goes out to you. You’ve got to keep finding another store of courage and endurance. That’s fairly uncommon here - according to my Finnish room mate who was on her second. Needle biopsy is performed - they take four samples - then you are shunted through to surgery as fast as poss, if required, but before that is the ‘nuclear’ mapping of the sentinels. So the surgeon has a clear pic of where they are and the first thing she does to the anaesthetised patient is inject a blue dye that shows up all nodes (and has patient peeing and pooing blue for a couple of days) in the area & then she excises the sentinels. As preliminary pathology on these takes place during surgery - leading on to full removal in my case - it is unusual for changed diagnoses to be made after the event. I’d rather have the whole whack done in one go - as most people probably would.

I’m kind of looking forward to the post-op treatment - in an objective sort of way. It’s unlikely to be dull.

Somehow deleted my welcome to you , so sorry you have been diognosed with bc. Seem you are being treated well in Finland although you do have a long wait! Hope you are managing to keep youself busy. Alicex

Dear Emelle

So sorry that you have breast cancer, but I am delighted that you have found this site, and you will find wonderful support and friendship here. I am living in Australia for three years as my husband is on a posting here. Two months after we arrived I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a WLE in November and am now half way through chemotherapy (radiotherapy and hormones after this). This site and all the wonderful ladies who write here has been a real life line for me, and connection with home.

Like you I had sentinel node mapping. My surgeon chooses to use both procedures, the radioactive isotopes AND the injection of the blue dye, just to be doubly accurate. I just had two nodes removed. Glad you are recovering well from your surgery. I know it is hard when you are waiting to hear what the rest of your treatment plan is. I would think almost certainly you will have radotherapy as that is given when someone has a WLE. Probably chemo as well (my nodes were negative but I had some local lympho vascular invastion, Grade III tumour, so that’s why I’m having chemo). 5 years of hormones after is also pretty standard.

You wrote such a wonderful posting, and obviously have a great sense of humour and that will really help get you through. Please do keep writing here as you go through. It is great as whichever stage you are at you can “link up” with others going through the same thing, or seek advice from those who have already been there.
Good luck with everything. Love Sarah.

Dear Sarah,
Thanks so much for you message.To tell the truth I woke up this morning thinking I’d overdone it here with information - and you reassured me. I hadn’t realised how much I wanted/needed to say: ‘look, this is who I am, and this is what has happened to me’ - and I haven’t liked to with friends and family who either get very upset or would rather not hear. Plus, I’ve always seen myself as such a tough guy, lucky, a coper - too much hubris & this is the fall. It’s a hard one. The hardest part of the whole experience, if I’m honest. Silly, but there we are. Your message and all the others on this site are helping to wipe away the big L I feel has been stamped on my forehead.

By the way, what part of Australia, and are you enjoying it - apart from the obvious disadvantages, of course.
And best of luck to you as well, hope the colonials look after you well.
Love Marie-Louise

Hi Marie-Louise, and good morning! (Well of course, I’m off to bed soon!) It’s Canberra that I’m in, quiet but beautiful. Going tomorrow to the opening of a “Turner to Monet” exhibition which I am so looking forward to. I know just exactly what you mean about being a coper and then feeling a bit out of your depth when this has come to deal with. Believe me, we are all learners here, and doing it the hard way!!! Having said that it feels like real friendships that build up, and if you are having a bit of a down day there is always someone to cheer you up or encourage you, and you will do the same for others. It is brilliant! Quite apart from the cancer bit, your posting about Finland was fascinating - not a country I know a lot about. Do you get home to UK at all? Where are your family and friends - perhaps like me you have had to do a lot of telling (and supporting) on the phone. Do keep posting! Love Sarah x

Hello Marie-Louise,
welcome to this site although I guess like most of us you would prefer not to have joined. There is a wealth of information and support here and always someone who jumps in to answer a query. I am in the process of changing oncs and hospitals and it continues to amaze me how treatments can vary so much even in one country. It will be fascinating to compare your treatment in Finland with the British system. As Jane so rightly says, this country has tended in the past to lag behind the rest of Europe, although I believe there are moves to try and catch up. So, do keep posting. I think we are all learners with this disease and having been diagnosed 3 months ago I feel this has been the steepest learning curve I have ever undertaken.
I met a wonderful Finnish lady a few years ago who was writing a book about hill walks in the North of England. She stayed with me for a while and told fascinating stories about the way of life in Finland. As an ex teacher, I was linked with Finnish teachers for a two year project and learnt much about the Finnish Educational sytem so do keep in touch, it will be fasinating to compare treatments.
Best wishes
Trish

I’ve been gradually working through the other categories on this site - goodness what a lot of information - but it’s made me very chirpy - snowy morning notwithstanding. Honestly! We’ve had a foul extended autumn here all winter (Finns all wait for thick snow cover and frozen seas - I live on an estuary with close access to Finland’s beautiful archipelago, and long walks & cross-country skiing on the ice is a usual and much-anticipated winter fixture, but not this year) - and now it’s time for spring we start to get winter. Too late, she cried.

My heart has really gone out to some posters - not so much those who are possibly facing a worse prognosis than I am (though I have to wait another 3 weeks before full body scans will tell whether it has started to roam) because we all have to accept the inevitable, but those like Trish who have been screwed around by circumstances, communication breakdowns, misinformation and other human error and incompetence. It’s too much! Thanks for your message Trish - I’ve been reading your posts elsewhere and you’re a brave woman (and entertaining as well, double whammy). As for those whose families/spouses have failed them - get out the vodou dolls and the pins!

The chirpiness is due to realising that the things we do - response mechanisms - are fairly universal and therefore the way to go. The glass of wine (a very fine cab-sauv last night to accompany Jamaican jerk pork with pomelo segments and Chinese brocolli); the long walks, the pleasure in getting around in ‘comfy clothes’ - I even go to the local mall in them now & glory in it; the ups and downs. And I also realise I’ve been very lucky in that after the trauma of the first few days leading up to the op, I’ve found the whole experience a very postive one. I’m aware of every day as I haven’t been for years. I used to be an avid traveller - and this is like that; something different all the time that needs close attention to negotiate with maximum entertainment. Actually, now the disbelief, fear and shame have passed, even the trauma had hugely positive impact. I needed to change my life - as part-time university lecturer I was being badly exploited and accepting all sorts of unpaid tasks because I’m like that, and gradually getting angry and even panicky. But I couldn’t see a dignified way out.

Ha! Sorry guys, I’ve got cancer! What fun! That shut them up. I’ve even passed the academic journal I edit over to my sub-editors & I read the group emails and say, ‘good show, chaps, carry on’ and laugh to myself. Unlike so many on the board here, I don’t miss the work, my office mate (a scary type), the classes I teach which no one cares about as they are principally for exchange students requiring English tuition (just pump them through and send them home!), or the closed doors of the department. The part I like best - research & writing - I can do more peacefully and fruitfully from home and, quite frankly, the sick benefits paid by the welfare system based on my 2006 earnings are no worse than part-time lecturing. I’m going to drag them out as long as poss! I just have to be careful going into the university libraries that I don’t bump into colleagues who imagine me sunk in debilitating cancerous gloom at home: early in the morning is a safe time. Ha, ha.

And chirpy because of all sorts of tips and hints I’ve read that I’m putting into practice - from skin creams to diet. No one has said anything to me about underwire bras - if they don’t rub the scar is there a problem? My scar is neatly placed along the curving crease between armpit & largish breast, a bit above the bra line, with one fine line running halfway towards the nipple, already fading; the wire of my bras is not very close, though actually I’m perfectly happy with these sports bras I’ve bought. Glamorous? Not. And then sunshine! Good one Finland! I mentioned the benefits of vitamin D to the OH & he suggested a week somewhere like Agadir, maybe meeting up with the old dad who lives in Wales, but I’m too happy at home.

And just to answer Sarah: after 20+ years here my friends are also here though they are not as dear as some of the ‘old’ ones I have drifted away from. My long-divorced parents, my sister & her kids & half-bro all live in Britain - Suffolk, London & Wales - and I’m very close to them & we visit several times a year, but somehow don’t want to speak to them much at the moment. I’ve done all the phone telling I feel like for the time being. Is that because I am hiding something from myself? If so, it’s an ineradicable personality trait. I used to be very fond of Canberra, though I grew up in Sydney - I bet it has changed hugely over the past 30 years. And how was it for you to be diagnosed when abroad? What’s your opinion of Australian treatment? I haven’t come across your ‘diagnosis narrative’ - if you posted one.
warmest wishes and lots of cheer to everyone; have a belly laugh per day, it feels great. - M-L

Hi M-L
just read your detailed morning post. You sound chirpy and up beat. I’m pleased for you that you have found some positives. Personally(and I may be stirring up a hornet’s nest here) I haven’t so far found many positives. I took early retirement from teaching last year cause was on my own, husband died 5 years ago, fledgingsl had flown the nest and was becoming even more disillusioned with the political interference in the Education system. So I decided to take ‘time out’ and travel before the ‘zimmer frame years’ became a reality. Thought if its good enough for youngsters to take time out to see world, (almost seems like a right of passage these days) then its good enough for me. Colleagues thought I was mad but as one said ‘you’ve always had slighly way out views’ so what’s new. BC was most certainly NOT part of my plan and am still at the ‘adjusting to a new life stage’. Feel cheated and quite angry really .

There’s a wealth of information on this site, some conflicting, so you will need to shift through and find whats relevant to you.Personally. I continued to wear my usual under wired bras after WLE and never found a problem. Diet is a mine field too. I’ve decided to eat sensibly, drink in moderation. After all we still need some pleasures in life.

After using lots of energy trying to get the ‘best treatment’ for me I now have to get my head around 5-7 months chemo, shutting my house up and moving in with my son and daughter-in-law. They’ve been really supportive but I do know that having your mother-in-law to stay for 5-7 months is not the best way to start married life.
As long as chemo doesn’t prevent me reading or having a ‘muzzy head’ I guess I’ll just have to grit my teeth and join the many other ladies on this site.

You mentioned that you are waiting for a full body scan to see if the cancer has ‘roamed’. Is that standard practice in Finland? I asked my new onc who said it wasn’t something they normally did here especially with node negative tumours such as mine. I also asked about oncotype testing which they do in USA to determiine the benefits of chemo in ER++ tumours(as mine is) and was told that it wasn’t current practice in Britain (expensive) although he agreed it would become more widely used in
a few years. Don’t you just wish there was one gold standard for testing and treatment for each particular type of BC. Still, at least the searching for information keeps the little grey cells active.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my cancer is going to be an independent sod (bit like me really) and will do its own thing irrespective of my positive/negative outlook.
I came across a wonderful one liner from a lady on another thread: ’ I believe in the power of negative thinking’ It tickled my perverse sense of humour.
Best wishes
Trish

Hi Trish - Just want to say that I hope the chemo goes OK for you and also that I have never read so many books in my life as I have this past few weeks (had four cycles of chemo now), and it has been a real pleasure (the reading of course - not the chemo!). Hope it will be the same for you. Also although it must be so frustrating that you can’t go off on your travels just now, I hope that you still will when you get through all this treatment. Although you have some concerns about staying with your son don’t forget that they wouldn’t have invited you if they didn’t feel comfortable about it. I am sure you will all have an extra close relationship after they have gone through this with you. Although the first week after is rather tough hopefully weeks two and three will be prety much OK for you. As you say, we all have little choice but to grit our teeth and go day to day, and I must say that I agree with your comment about cancer doing it’s own thing irrespective of how we approach it! It does it’s thing, we do ours. We don’t have control over it, but we do have control over how we individually respond to it and all it’s challenges. I find that quite enpowering!

Hi again ML - love your postings. Yes, the treatment here in Australia has been brilliant, and of course the sunshine is an extra tonic. I was diagnosd with Grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma in November last year, had WLE (which actually contained three main tumours and two little ones). Margins clear, but lympho vascular invasion. Nodes clear. Had 3 FEC, Now in the middle of 3 Taxotere, then 6 weeks radiotherapy, then 5 years hormones (ER pos HER2 neg) - all pretty standard treatment I think! Good luck to both of you. Sarah

Hi Sarah - I do envy you the sunshine - it gave me quite a twinge of ‘homesickness’. Most of the rest of what you say goes over my head, however. Common to both being a ‘foreigner’ and having a complete lack of ‘local’ or ‘expert’ knowledge about something (in this case about breast cancer) is less that you don’t get answers to your questions, but that you don’t know what questions to ask. I’m keeping a pad here beside my computer & writing down everything I don’t understand that people mention here - a long list already, with lots of acronyms & things like ‘grades’ & the relevance of hormones. I tried looking things up on the net but it’s not good for the state of mind. I’ll be seeing local experts in about 3 weeks & I’ll wait till then for enlightenment.

And Trish - ‘full body scans’ may be my twisted take on what the surgeon said; she mentioned scans to explore the possibility of untreated secondary cancers in the rest of my body (or so I understood). I’ve no idea what that means, or whether it is standard here. She could give me little info about treatment, beyond the probability of a couple of drug names I’ve forgotten, so I’m completely in the dark. I put my trust in the Finnish health system and think about other things.

As a keen traveller myself I’m so sorry you’ve had to cancel travel dreams for this drudgery - why not keep planning them as diversion over the next months? To paraphrase Jane Austen, sometimes the anticipation of something pleasurable can be the best part. I travelled for six years before meeting my husband and then for four more after that - very slowly & with no permanent home base & I think I got the ‘long haul’ out of my system. Nowadays it’s usually no more than a fortnight, but I get months of pleasure out of planning, discarding and re-planning even those itty-bitty trips. The internet is a treasure trove for those sorts of explorations.

Best of luck, M-L

P.S. Trish - my own disillusion with the politicisation of academia and academic work has, in fact, led to one of the positive outcomes of diagnosis as far as I am concerned - I get to escape, thumb my nose and realise that if I feel better now than when I was part of it, I must have hated it pretty profoundly. A cesspit & the antithesis of scholarship.

Morning M-L
Evening Sarah

Its a beautiful Spring morning here in the North of England and here I am writing this. I’m ready to leave home this afternoon and start the dreaded poisons tomorrow.
I can’t believe its 2008 and this is the best they can do to kill cancer cells.
Its a good job I don’t live in Finland. I don’t do ill health with any sort of good grace and certainly don’t believe in the stiff British upper lip so I wonder what the stoial Finnish women would make of me.
I’m hoping to enjoy reading Sarah, although some threads keep mentioning the inability to concentrate and something called hemo brain . No doubt I’ll learn at first hand what these mean.
M-L I don’t miss work, like you I’m glad I’m out of it. Some ex-colleagues called in last night to say goodbye and I listened to their gripes about the school and thought how petty they sounded.
I read in another post that you are keeping a list of questions to ask. I did that, this site is good for prompting questions.My experience has been that you need to ask the right questions. That was my mistake, I didn’t know about vascular invasion so of course couldn’t ask about it. If I had known it would have saved me the anxiety of waiting and changing hospitals, although it wouldn’t have made much difference in treatment.
Best wishes
Trish

Rats! Pressed the wrong button & lost the post. Brain like a pea.

But hey Trish, my thoughts go with you. Five to seven months away from comfy beddies is a bit of a drag, but don’t worry about the challenge posed to your son & DIL’s new marriage by having you live with them. Just make it work - it can be a personal hurdle to take your mind off the medical treatment. It’s what I meant when I referred to ‘positive’ aspects of an intimation of mortality like breast cancer. We are not just a collection of job-specific cell clusters, some of which have gone haywire - we are humans who can decide who we want to be, what we want to do, what mark we want to make, what memories we wish to leave behind us - the cell clusters will give up the ghost for everyone. I have no conventional ‘faith’ but I do believe there is more to being human than this silly old body we are stuck with. And the after-life is, at the very least, the memories those we finally leave behind (decades from now :slight_smile: have of us and tell of us. Make the time with your son & DIL a great period - it’s in your hands.

I adore my only kid, my 16-year-old son. He’s been trying really hard to help me out on the kitchen front since all this started (not very reliably) and doing a stellar job on the cuddles/laughter front. My OH is very Finnish and doesn’t touch any more - no kisses or cuddles - so I don’t hold out much hope in that direction, though he has sterling qualities and we never bicker. THAT’S given me one of my self-prescribed belly laughs of the day - what a man! Being a selfish cow, I’d delight in the opportunity to move back in with boychik for a stint after he marries and leaves, but I’d also do everything I could to make sure that he relished the experience - which means that his OH would also have to find it companionable and rewarding.

Sounds like more ‘I’m fine’ time - a tough proposition - but come here and tell us about it.

Big hugs and keep your end up. Belly laugh per day, M-L

Hi M-L
I’m proscrastinating. Have less than an hour to catch train and would rather spend last few minutes of ‘good health’ and ‘freedom’ on here.
Have just had today’s belly laugh. I have 3 children and am going to stay with eldest son (daughter’s expecting first child in July, first granchild in family)
and discovered they are all emailing each other with dates for respite care. I haven’t even got started yet and they are working out respite care dates. I just love the modern generation, they are so upfront about their needs. The belly laugh is because I was responsible for nursing my mother until she died 18 months ago and I was the one who emailed siblings who live abroad for their respite care dates for me. How the tables have turned, not sure I like the comparison, I’m not old enough yet.
I have every intention of making my stay with son and DIL as positive for them and me. I’ll make sure I come on here to divulge ‘the stuff under the shell’
Love your posts
Thankyou
Trish

First off -
I’ve been following posts here over the past weeks, periodically, but haven’t come across any from Patricia 157 (Trish) & seabird (Sarah) - how are you guys doing? How is life with your son & DIL Trish - hope the company is helping to compensate for the discomfort of chemo (I’m right behind you - let me know how it goes). And life under cancer in Canberra, Sarah? I hope my own countryfolk are providing you the warmth, support & general decency that those of my adopted Finland have offered me.

Six weeks after surgery - and they have been a wonderful re-awakening of self-before-poor-work-environment, a thoughtful, restful time - and the ‘Finnish cancer-fighting machine’ starts to process me again. Two days ago I met with the guys who will be part of my life over the following months: an hour with an empathetic doc where I could go through all the questions which I’ve listed as I have read these pages over the past weeks - huge thanks to everyone who has raised queries I wanted to have answered. It was a good session. We laughed a lot - and very loudly. And then a nurse for another hour - more appointments than I could keep track of, along with instructions for claiming back expenditure on everything from car travel to drugs, to getting a free wig. I think I’ll go platinum blond for the duration. Then the blood tests & an ECG.

Today was a bone scan - according to doc the most common site for secondary cancer. A shot of something, then a kill-time session with a physio who got me to lift my arm above my head - and then we both giggled. That was about it. Five minutes. Don’t lift anything heavy for a long time. My Finnish is poor and a lot of the medical community here are not linguists (unlike almost everyone else), so occasionally we rely on goodwill and decency to get messages across. It makes my eyes water thinking about how wonderful everyone has been since the first clinical-diagnostician who was a bit of a crud. Seems like a long time ago.

So then I had a couple of hours till the injection of whatever it was went to work & the scan took place and I called a woman whom I used to party with - more than 15 years ago - when I was still a mad Australian new to Helsinki. She moved to Lapland, we lost touch, & someone told me a couple of weeks ago that she too has recently been through this. Small town Helsinki - she now lives down the road from the University Hospital so we met for coffee as I waited.

Technology in Finland has moved on in only the past 4 years since she was first diagnosed - things like lymph node biopsy etc. We laughed a lot. A moving and hilarious session. She brought me tulips and I kissed her smooth cheek as we said ‘see you soon’. She’s down a breast and has had 2 recurrences in 3 years and sparkles through it. She’s also collected a French partner since mastectomy, who bought her and her kids their Helsinki appartment, visits one week out of four - and thinks that one breast is quite enough. We laughed until our eyes watered. Her cancer was so aggressive they have postponed reconstruction. Her kids are young enough to still really need her.

This experience is slicing through all sorts of barriers and transforming ‘social’ contact into something much more honest - surely major compensation for the inconvenience and fear.

Bone scanning was just a rest under a gamma thingy. Monday is a CT scan at the kids’ hospital. Apparently the best in the land.

Then all this data will be assembled &, if nothing in the way of a new ‘macro’ tumour shows up, I start chemo on 24th April. 3 tax, 3 fec (whatever that means) - with big dosage of something like cortizone for the first couple of days of the first session. I have it all written down & a ‘personal nurse’ to talk to - ‘can I take her home?’ I asked. There was a communication breakdown for a moment until I explained I was joking.

I’ve cried enjoyably and laughed a helluva lot since all this has started. It might seem weird, but I’ve never been so conscious of being alive, so aware of it and the people part of it. I’m grateful for the compensation. It may even be worth it.

Good luck & strength to all, M-L

hey… marie-L - i have a few oz friends and wow - after the time in Finland you are still v oz!!! Good!!

it can get hard to keep on track with threads on here/ people you have messaged- i am hoping that that with new planned web site that will improve.

i’ve done last dose of epirubcin on wednesday and feeling a tad dopy…ok v sleepy after having a good day. i met up with 2 women from here and we laughed a lot. I have been fortunate all the way through this, lots of things have been funny. it is 9.30 pm i am allowed to be sleepy since i have been awake since 4 am. gah i can do more intelligent but not now…

my life is good - this makes me more aware of what is to be valued. it is not a compensation -it is a gift.

as i said - not doing clever…

hah might blind u with brain some time…hmmmmmmm depends what you teach at uni!

Jennifer

Hi M.L
Good to see you posting again in your usual upbeat style. I haven’t posted much because I had a bit of a rough time after the first chemo.
Its one thing reading about and expecting nausea and fatigue and muzzy head but it another thing experiencing it. Have just had the second one and I’m hoping it won’t be so bad. They have changed the anti- sickeness medication and altered the way I take the steroids. I have to wean off them this time… apparently some people come down with a bang when they are suddenly stopped and they reckoned that was what happened to me.

I’ve been shedding hair for the last few days and today the last few tufts came out. What with my shedding hair and two moulting cats the vacuum cleaner has had good use.

I’m really spoilt by my son and DIL… they have a large 3 storey house and given me the middle floor with my own bedroom, bathroom and turned the study into a sitting room for me… also they have a cleaner who comes in twice a week and even does my ironing… I’ve never had so much luxury… wow can see me loving this and not wanting to leave.

Also its been really great exploring the city… makes a huge change after my remote rural home. Busses turn up every 10 mins instead of one a day… and I can visit exhibitions and art galleries etc without making a major excursion…
The hospital and all the nurses are lovely, so understanding and compassionate… with good sense of humour thrown in. Ireally can’t fault any treatment.

Did you find out more about your type of cancer? You seem to be offered more of the works than here e.g scans/ECG

I still don’t see this disease as having many positives… I was actually enjoying my life before this happened but like every thing else in life we find ways to get through … I agree with you I do wake up each morning , truly welcome in a new day and feel grateful for the life I’ve had and hopefully will have albeit in a changed way with perhaps different goals and focii.

One good thing is slobbing around in comfie clothes, no make-up and catching up on loads of reading, I don’t feel guilty I use the cancer card as an excuse although I guess I’ll have to use it sparingly.

How is Spring in Finland? We’ve had some sunny days here, snow over Easter, rain as usual and not really warm yet but with the promise of a better summer than last year.

Take care keep in touch and share your experience of chemo. If you end up belly laughing through that you are one amazing lady. Sorry… not meaning to put you off as we are all different and react differently.

Best wishes
Trish

Hi Trish, ML and Jennifer

So glad to see this thread come up again - I have been thinking of you. I have been sending odd postings (mostly on the chemo thread), but as you say sometimes it is hard to keep track! ML, so glad to hear you sounding so positive and able to find good things in this tough journey, may it continue for you. I love reading your postings. Trish, I am sorry that the chemo is being hard, but it does sound as though you are being wonderfully looked after by your family, and that you more than deserve it. Jennifer, hope the rest of the chemo goes OK.

I had my LAST taxotere (three FEC then three Taxotere) on Thursday, just coming down from the steroids now and know that I will have a painful/stiff week ahead, but I am delighted to have reached this particular finishing line. Rads planning next week, then a three week break before starting. Other than that, still feeling good and positive and enjoying life in Oz. My son goes back to UK tomorrow (AS exams) and I will miss him a lot. We are sorting out all the arrangements for when my daughter starts at Warwick Uni in September. I go to UK for six week from middle of August, can’t wait! Meanwhile still going to life drawing classes, reading a lot, and counting my many blessings. Love to you all, we will get there! Sarah xx

Hi Ladies

I hope you don’t mind me butting in on your thread, but much of what is written is so comforting. Emelle, you are truly inspirational and Trish, you seem so upbeat even though you have had to move in with you son. It sounds that they have done everything to make you at home, but I guess you still miss home especially at this time.

I was diagnosed in February and although my type of cancer is not considered to be aggressive with very good odds of survival and I should be very grateful, I still have major concerns. If it is so innocuous, why has it turned my life upside down in such a short space of time? I am going through radiotherapy at the moment and feeling very strange. Can’t put my finger on it exactly, but kind of looking at life through dark tinted windows. Very surreal, probably the dust is just settling in my head and the dawn of realisation has kicked in that I have indeed got cancer, albeit a treatable type.

However, like you Emelle, I am beginning to realise how many positive aspects there are. From a work perspective, I had just taken a job in a big teaching hospital. This is a wonderful opportunity, working with a very respected professor, but involves a 2hour commute each way, getting up at 5.30am and not returning until 6.45pm. I am studying for a master’s degree and working with the professor on a computerised risk assessment tool. It is extremely exciting, but very tiring. I have now been forced to stop everything and for the first time possibly since childhood, I have had time to appreciate life. I now take long walks with my dogs everyday and have time to stop and look at the wildlife - normally it would be a quick powerwalk and back to the house to rush around getting ready. I have read - not just academic books and research papers but wonderful novels and magazines full of delightful rubbish. I have started cooking properly and found to my big surprise that I actually enjoy it when I have the time to do it and am not starving just having come in from a very long day. I had to smile, Emelle, when you said it was great to have the “cancer” card up your sleeve to use at your discretion. I have found it has many uses too. I don’t want to milk it, but it comes into its own to give you a legitimate way out of commitments that I found truly overwhelming. What I don’t particularly like, is the pity and fussing that goes hand in hand with the freedom it offers, but I feel the two can’t be separated.

I am not sure what to do with my life now. On reflection, it wasn’t particularly a happy one, although I thought it was at the time. I have postponed my studies and don’t know if I could go back to the four hour commute anymore. I want to do something very different, like study to be an acupunturist or nutritionist, something far removed from my traditional medical background. Who knows? For now, I have found this forced time off to be liberating and inspirational. It is as though I have been given a metaphoric smack in the face and if I don’t use this time positively and productively, then I have no-one but myself to blame if life trudges on the same. I know in my heart it can’t otherwise I think I would be signing my own death warrant.

love to hear more from you all

Cathy