Stage 3a & feeling hopeless

I am 51 & was called back after my first routine mammogram in April. Having been told when I arrived that the mammogram showed small areas of calcification & that it would probably just mean a marker would be implanted so they could ‘keep an eye’, I left 3 hours later, having had biopsies on 2 obviously cancerous tumours which showed up on the ultrasound, in my boob & a lymph node. That was a Wednesday, the results were due Friday, but the pre-op BCN rang on Thursday to tell me not to bother coming the next day, because the Pathologist needed more time. 10 days later, on the following Friday, my Fiancè’s birthday, we went to get the results…both lumps were malignant & I needed a lumpectomy for the 2cm tumour & a full axillary clearance. The Surgeon said the cancer was Grade 2. I had a visit the following week from the BBC & she said the cancer was Grade 2/3. On 11th June I had the surgery & a couple of weeks later I went to get the results. The Surgeon said the cancer was in 5/11 lymph nodes & was Grade 3, the tumour was 2.9cm & he was unable to get a clear posterior margin, as it was lying against the chest wall, (& added “which we already knew”…which I most certainly did not!). He said I needed a full body CT, which I had & he then told me had come back clear. Hooray! At last some good news! Then, today I saw an Oncology Registrar, apparently while the rest of the body seems clear, there is in fact a further ‘suspicious’, enlarged 5mm lymph node in my upper arm & as they don’t know whether this could also be cancerous, or simply a response to surgery, they will need to do another CT after chemo to check. On top of all this, they had planned to give me the Dense Dose for ‘advanced, aggressive’ cancers, but apparently this can cause neuropathy & on hearing I have had Type 1 Diabetes & Pernicious Anaemia for nearly 30 years, the Registrar thought this was probably not advisable & decided I should have FED, starting with a reduced dose to see how I tolerate it, as well as reduced steroids to try to avoid raising my blood sugar levels. Plus, after chemo, I will need an ‘extra boost’ of radiotherapy to the tumour bed on the chest wall. I just feel completely beaten down by all this. To top it all my best friend died coming up to 4 years ago, just 11 months after her initial diagnosis, of this vile disease. People keep saying to keep positive, but every single time I try to do that, the news keeps getting worse. I have been trawling through various sites & forums, just trying to find one survivor whose diagnosis was as bad as mine, with no success whatsoever. I feel like a hopeless cause & then I feel guilty because it seems there’s this idea that if you don’t think positively you have brought it on yourself. I feel like a petulant child that just wants to scream “this isn’t bloody fair”, but that won’t help & I just don’t know what will. Apologies if I sound self putting, no one to talk to & needed to offload.

Hi Elise
So sorry to read that you are feeling such despair. Yours is a perfectly reasonable response to a **bleep**ty situation. I too was shocked when I realised that my cancer was considered aggressive and metastatic (to nodes within the breast) I have made a decision Ito not google stats or to compare my situation to others. Although I do take heart from the fact that my mum is still going strong eighteen years after stopping chemo because it was too hard for her. I also strongly believe that only now is a given so try to make each day the best it can be. This is not fatalistic and I don’t intend to die anytime soon, but it does help with peace of mind.
I hope you can find peace with your situation and get on with the job of getting well.
All best wishes to you
Jacq x

Hi Else,

It probably sounds worse than it actually is. If it’s not spread beyond the nodes that’s pretty positive. Like you minecancer which was 11cms was right against the chest wall so after a mastectomy I had to go back for a full node clearance (I had 11cms of cancer in 6/11 nodes) and for them to shave the chest muscle to get clear margins. I’m now having 5 months of chemo to mop up anything that may have escaped the nodes but my CT and Bone scans were clear.
I’m type 2 diabetic on insulin and the steroids are a challenge but I persuaded my oncologist to halve them (it’s only 3 days per cycle) to try and minimise the effect on my blood sugars. It’s not too bad and bar a couple of massive blips I can keep them fairly under control. The day after the last steroids they drip back to normal. Unfortunately due to having had it for a previous different cancer I can’t have radiotherapy at all this time round.To be honest I didn’t find radiotherapy a big deal last time. Just an inconvenience.

To be honest I don’t see that your diagnosis is that awful. Obviously to you it is but it’s no worse than lots of people who are past treatment and are living normal happy lives.

Hi Elise, your emotions are completely normal, how I remember the “this isn’t bloody fair just make it go away” anger that would rage through me!! 

Its really hard when you have lost people close to you from cancer , my mum died from breast cancer and 6 weeks before my diagnosis we buried one of my best friends who we lost to ovarian cancer so I understand how much this will be fueling your fears because it did mine. 


Please try not to compare your diagnosis to others, and googling for answers will just upset you further as you can’t get the reassurance you want as the majority of those who recover and move on just don’t post as much , it’s always the negative stories that will jump out from google no matter what the question is. 


You remind me of a lovely lady called Clare who was in your shoes a couple of years ago, things seemed to be going from bad to worse and she was distraught thinking she wasn’t going to get through this but she did and is back to full health and doing great now, she’s not around the forum much but pops on now and then to keep in touch.


Things will settle down and once your treatment starts you will begin to feel more in control, trust in the team looking after you, they do this every day and will know just how to deal with it. 


Take a deep breath and focus on a day at a time Xx Jo 

Hi Elise


It’s Emily here from Breast Cancer Care.


I’m sorry to hear about what you’ve been through so far, in particular that things have changed a lot for you in terms of your diagnosis and your treatment.


As well as getting responses on here, I just wanted to let you know that you’d be very welcome to speak to a Breast Cancer Care telephone volunteer. Sometimes it can be helpful to chat to someone who’s a few years past their own treatments, but has had a similar experience in their diagnosis changing. If you’d like to be put in touch with someone, feel free to give us  call on 0345 077 1893. 


Best wishes

Emily at Breast Cancer Care

Hi elise
So sorry to read that you are having a really rotten time. You are experiencing that really awful time when you are having one test after another and its so stressful.
Can I just suggest to you to try concentrating on one treatment at a time and then one cycle at a time otherwise it all gets too much. Or even just one day at a time…
Also, I had grade 3 lobular cancer that was treated very successfully and am now 2 years clear.
Try not to Google as it just makes things worse… Pop on here or Macmillian.
Best wishes
Sue xx