Hello all you lovely Christmas Cracker December ladies! Just want to pop my head in and wish you all the best for your treatment.
I started the December 2011 chemo support thread at this time last year, so can tell you all that this is do-able. It is a bit miserable BUT with the support of those going through the same thing as you it is manageable, so take advantage of this thread.
I had four rounds of TC, first one on 16 December, and I managed to have a lovely Christmas day with my family without too many SEs. On the SE side, I lost my hair everywhere except my eyebrows, eyelashes and toes (of all places!) but everything is back in the right place now including a two inch length of wavy hair on my head. I also ran the gammut of SEs but different ones after each round and some worse than others including a midnight hospitalisation for suspected neutropenia after my final round.
My advice to you all is: go with the tiredness you will feel, don't fight it, sleep is your friend. Drink water like it's going out of fashion. Remember to take your temperature religiously. And treat yourselves to something nice during the third week when you'll be feeling almost human again.
All the best ladies!
... View more
Hi KG, I'm so sorry you've had to join us here and just want to let you know we are here for you during this. I'm hoping you have a good support network of family and friends who will swing into action and take care of those wee babies of yours and you. I don't have any children myself, but I have nothing but admiration for those going through treatment whilst also looking after their families.
... View more
Chascat I'm so glad you have posted about this! I have been on Tamoxifen for six months now and haven't had a decent night's sleep the whole time. That said, I haven't really had any decent sleep since I was diagnosed a year ago, but since starting on the Tamoxifen I have found it so hard to drop off to sleep, and what sleep I do get is really light, so I am constantly waking during the night and I am wide awake at between 5:30 and 6am every morning. I've had sleep issues before, when I worked shift hours, so I know what an emotional wreck lack of sleep does to me. A friend just recently recommended acupuncture, so I might give that a go. It's reassuring to know this is common and that I'm not going mad!
... View more
I had a very similar experience to what you are going through but I went through it this time last year. I was originally diagnosed the week before my 39th birthday with a 22mm invasive ductal tumour er/pr+ and was told WLE, rads and 5 years of Tamoxifen, but once they went in it turned out to be 34mm and had extensive lymphovascular invasion. Because of the size and my age I was told chemo required and was given the option of a mastectomy. I went into a complete meltdown on hearing those words, like you have, it is a natural reaction to have. But I knew I needed to get as much information as I could before making my decision, so I went back to my surgeon and asked her lots of questions and a friend wrote everything down for me.
My situation is a bit different in that I actually went back to my home country New Zealand for my chemo and eventual mx, so I got yet another opinion from a top breast surgeon there as well before I made up my mind. In the end I wanted the reassurance an MX gave of only 2% recurrence over 13% without, so I had an mx with immediate reconstruction. It turns out that the pathology from the mx showed a "complete response" and there were no cancer cells anywhere in the breast tissue. The reassurance I have from this makes the whole rocky journey worthwhile. I know it's hard to imagine it now, but eventually you will come to terms with what you are going through, because you have to.
As has already been mentioned, you don't have to have your op on the 6th if you need some more time, I think it might help you start dealing with this if you make a decision now to take control of the situation by telling your surgeon you need more time, and you want a second opinion. You also must seek help for your anxiety and stress levels, please please please ask your BCN for a referral or go to your GP. There is help available to you and you must take it. None of us here will tell you anything other than this is a tough journey to be on, it can be really crap at times (especially at the beginning) but it IS survivable and you too will survive it because we are all here to help you at every stage of this. No question is stupid, no complaint is unreasonable here and you are never alone through this.
Take care, and do keep posting so we know how you are getting on.
... View more
Not sure if this info helps, but I have had my chemo in New Zealand, where the oncologists tend to follow clinical regimes recommended by the States, so I had 4x TC (Docetaxel and Cyclo-somethingIcanneverremember). I think it is more usual in the UK to have either just FEC, or FEC-T which as mentioned above is FEC followed by Tax. Knowing that in the UK I would have had the 6x FEC regime, I wanted some reassurance from my oncologist in NZ that I wasn't being short-changed, and he said no, the 4x TC would give me what was needed for my particular diagnosis (34mm, grade 2 invasive ductal with extensive lymphovascular invasion but no node involvement). Having just Tax does sound unusual though, so I would be getting some clarification from my BC nurse and possibly onco as well on that.
I'm four months post-chemo now and it's almost a distant memory for me. It can be horrible when you're going through it, but it DOES end and it IS manageable. Make sure you join the "starting chemo in x month" thread on here as the support you will get from others going through it at the same time is invaluable.
... View more
I had my last dose of TC (have had four in total) a week ago and I just want to let you know this is manageable! Each one of my doses gave me different side effects and to differing degrees. The first and third for me were the worst, the second I was completely wiped out by tiredness for the entire first week and the last one landed me in hospital on Thursday with a fever from a cold virus (not neutropenic though so only stayed in for the day) but I'm actually feeling good now with almost no SEs. The third week was definitely the only time I felt even vaguely normal through doses 1-3.
Definitely call your oncology unit and tell them what you have been through with this one. They can and will change your anti-sickness meds and prescribe other things to help with SEs.
Hope you're feeling better soon!
... View more
Hi lovely DDs,
It's day seven post my final dose of TC and I've had a bit of an interesting week! Lets just say I can COMPLETELY sympathise with you Kathleen because I was admitted to hospital just after midnight on Wednesday night with a fever. Had to take a taxi from my parents house to Auckland hospital as only my mum was home and I don't like her driving so far after dark (it's a 45 minute drive along some fairly windy roads).
Anyway, after having blood taken, urine sample taken, chest x-ray done and being hooked up to IV fluids (and that took quite a lengthy negotiation with the lovely English nurse as to whether I'd let her try and canulate me, damn new-found fear of needles!) I was eventually taken to the oncology ward for a bit of sleep. Very luckily the blood test came back saying my neuts were fine, and the other tests all ruled out an infection so it looks like a simple cold virus got the better of me! I had thought my runny nose and sneezing was an allergic reaction to my cat, but it turned into a very sore throat and cough and I'm still suffering with it now. Because I wasn't neutropenic the (lovely!) oncology registrar said I was better off NOT in hospital, so I was allowed to leave on Thursday afternoon.
Apart from the stinking cold I'm actually not suffering too badly from the usual SEs, I think two large bags of IV fluids going into me has flushed the chemo through so my mouth isn't nearly as bad as it usually is and I've not been nauseaous at all so far.
Kathleen - I hope the hospital rest will do the trick and you are feeling better very soon. It's so annoying having to go in but it's definitely the best place for you if you are neutropenic. I was so reassured while I was on the oncology ward seeing how wonderful all the staff were so I hope they are as good at your hospital.
All of you who have had another dose this week I hope the SEs are manageable and please do take care of yourselves!
Sending you all lots of love from Down Under!
... View more
I'm kind of in the same position as you as I have to make a decision in the next two weeks on what type of recon I want to go with my MX next month. I can have any of them, so have to weight up the pros and cons for all of them! An extenuating factor for me is that after being diagnosed and having WLE and SNB in London, I have come back to my home country New Zealand for chemotherapy and now the MX and recon, as this is choice I was given based on lots of grey areas in my diagnosis (extensive lymphovascular invasion being the main one!) so I have to factor in an eventual long-haul flight back to London which I will have to be medically cleared for.
At the moment I'm leaning towards a standard TRAM flap rather than the one involving micro-surgery as it's less time on the operating table and gives much better long term results than an impant (even though an expander plus implant would be much less recovery, it involves two operations with a three month wait in between, so for me I will be looking at three months plus before I can head back to London) and another factor for me is that micro-surgery is only performed at one hospital where I am and that unfortunatley doesn't have the greatest reputation (I also have very bad memories of it from when my grandfather was there on two occasions) and the standard op is performed at an almost brand new super clinic where the facilities are much better and I would be in a room by myself or with just one other.
The main thing I'm concerned about with a TRAM flap is the loss of tummy muscle strength, but the plastic surgeon I saw said this can be regained, and I have a very good friend who is a yoga teacher who has said he will put some extra exercises together for me for when I get back to London, as he is currently doing this for a client of his who had a TRAM recon in January.
Any advice about having the TRAM flap op would be very gratefully received!
... View more
It has been a loooooong time since my last post, but I have been stopping by to read all your posts and even though I haven't been posting I have had all of you in my thoughts, with wishes for very tiny SEs for you all. Unfortunately it looks like some of you have copped the worst of it and have been suffering, so I'm sending extra virtual hugs to you and hope you are feeling much much better very soon.
Well, my update is I have today received my last chemo "juicing"and boy do I feel great! I feel so very fortunate to only be having 4xTC (a regime that is common in New Zealand where I am being treated, I asked my onco about it and he said they follow US chemo guidelines as well as UK and this is one that is recommended there) and when I read what all of you are going through I feel a bit guilty that mine stops now and yours will carry on. Four has been tough to manage, I don't know if I could survive six or eight so to those of you who are, I take my chemo scarf off to you! BUT, I just want you to know that when you walk out of that chemo suite after your last treatment you will feel great. Mentally, I know I can get through the next couple of weeks of SEs and even if they knock me around it will be for the last time!
So, a run down of my treatment goes like this:
TC1 - The infusion went well, no problem getting the canula in after my hand was warmed up and I felt fine for the first couple of days after but on day 3&4 I was hit by the Tax joint and muscle pain in a big way but it was over very quickly. I also had a very bad case of trapped wind that left me bedridden but I don't think it was actually a chemo SE. I had a short peiod of feeling nauseous but wasn't sick at all. I didn't feel too tired during the entire three weeks and was able to get out and about. Hair-wise, I cut my long hair short before Christmas and my sister clippered it to a #1 on New Years Eve. I had to wet shave the stubble off about ten days after that as the pain on my scalp was unbearable. I thought I would have a problem with losing my hair but it's actually been very liberating for me after having very thick and usually long hair all my life! No need to wash and dry it, just in and out of the shower and on with a scarf (not my lovely wig as I find it too irritating unfortunately) and I've been moisturising my scalp with aloe vera and vitamin E gel which keeps the skin in good nick.
TC2 - Infusion went well again, used the same vein as for #1 and it seemed to go a lot quicker. I wasn't hit so badly by the muscle and joint pains this time and had no nausea but the tiredness hit me big time almost straight away and I spent the whole of the first week in bed either asleep or staring at the ceiling not having ANY enery to get out of it (apart from to eat dinner that my dear mother cooks for me, and she makes lovely meals so I couldn't not eat it). Week two was pretty tiring too but not quite so bad and week three I was back to normal. I think the only SE other than tiredness was a small mouth ulcer that I put Bonjella on and cleared up over night. I have been using a baking soda and salt mouth rinse since a few weeks before my chemo started after my dental hygienist recommened it and I think it helped toughen up my mouth so ulcers haven't really affected me.
TC3 - This one was horrible! Starting right from the infusion, when they took three attempts to canulate me, with the first two managing to hit the same valve in the same vein which left me in tears and with a renewed needle phobia! My best friend, who I've known since I was five, was my chemo buddy for that one and the poor guy witnessed the whole thing and felt so bad for me. I felt nauseous right from the get-go and stayed that way for the whole of the first week. Bizarrely I didn't feel as tired as after no 2 but I did start getting very sensitive feet and hands and it was quite painful to walk for a while. I also managed to get a lovely rash on my neck and had to go to the GP, but it wasn't chemo related and cleared up within a few days thanks to a prescribed medicated cream. Thankfully the worst had cleared by week three and I've had a great week this week and have caught up over lunch with some friends I used to work with here, and we ate and laughed so much! I've also done some retail therapy with my sister and bought a couple of pairs of platform wedges in the sales, a bit decadent but I figure I deserve to treat myself a bit!
One thing I have managed to avoid through all of this is neutropenia, which is a relief. My white blood cells did drop drastically after the first round so I went onto propholactic antibiotics prescribed by my onco for the remaining rounds and they seem to have done the trick. Interestingly, neulasta injections have never been mentioned by my onco so I'm wondering if they even offer them here in NZ. My temperature went up to 37.5 just the once and has stayed around the 36.5-37.0 range right through. I think I am definitely benefitting from going through this here in New Zealand where the people sniffing and snuffling are suffering from hayfever and not colds! Even though it has been very rainy here at least it has stayed warm, I do worry about all of you going through this during winter time, and I've seen how low the temperatures have got lately so I hope you are all staying warm.
The next step for me now is a MX and immediate reconstruction and I've had appointments with a breast surgeon who will do the MX and a plastic surgeon who will do the recon. I'm happy with both but now have to decide what type of recon I want, it's between expander implant followed by silicone implant, standard TRAM flap or muscle sparing TRAM flap and I'm leaning towards the standard TRAM flap as it's a shorter surgery than the muscle sparing and gives better results long term than an implant. Any which way I'll likely be facing another four months here in NZ for this but thankfully I should be covered by my companies very generous sick leave until the end of June, which is a weight off my mind.
Well, that's the very long update from me, I really should post more to avoid putting you all through such a lengthy post!
I'm sending you all so much love and positive thoughts for very tiny SEs for all of you about to endure another juicing.
... View more
Firstly, I certainly hope that no one will pounce on you here. It's easy to make a mistake in the heat of the moment, but as Rev Cat said a few of us will definitely be smiling at that mojo of yours 🙂 In any event, you are doing the right thing by asking for help in this situation.
I'm pretty sure the emergency contraceptive works within the first 72 hours and it's available without prescription at your pharmacy. I think there are other options that may be available post 72 hours but they will be GP prescribed so definitely get that appointment sorted with your doctor ASAP. However, as already mentioned any emergency contraceptive will be a massive dose of hormones so if you are ER/PR+ that will have to be taken into account. Is it possible to give your BCN a call about this?
... View more
Oh Cassandra65, you poor thing! You have been through the wars so no wonder you are feeling so down and negative. I do think that's normal, so don't beat yourself up even more thinking it's not. This is a trial that we are going through, it's not nice and it is physically and mentally punishing. We try our best to be strong and brave but sometimes something gets thrown at us that drops us to the floor for the eight-count! I think if you can concentrate on being good to yourself, not over-doing things and letting yourself be looked after by your family and friends that you will be able to get through this particularly bad bit. The lack of sleep certainly won't be helping, but if you're bouncing off the walls in the middle of the night and are posting on here then you'll probably see me here as well - I'm currently in my home country of New Zealand for my chemo so it's daytime and I'm trying to be on here more often.
What chemo regime are you on? I'm on 4x TC (Taxotere and Cyclophos-somethingicantremember) and had my first dose a week ago, and like you felt sick a couple of days after but not as badly as you. I've been told with Tax that SEs can kick in quite quickly and your white blood cells also drop quickly too. With what you've experienced you must make sure you tell your oncologist and chemo nurse so they can prescribe you different anti-sickness meds. I think they start us all off on the standard and lowest dose, which most people will be fine with, but some will need more or stronger meds to get them through. I spoke to my chemo nurse on the phone today and she said even my reaction was bad and that they will try something different for the next dose.
As for losing your hair, you are definitely elligible for a subsidised wig and your BCN and chemo nurse should have information on how to go about getting one. It sounds like Debs has info on where in Chelmsford to go so definitely message her about it. I guess losing our hair is the most obvious sign that we have "the big C" and it's distressing to have to deal with that without having to look into a mirror every day and see a different, bald, head staring back. I'm collecting my wig and having my hair shaved off next week, and I've just ordered a bunch of fab scarves from the Anna Bandana website, so hopefully I'll get through the next few months not looking like too much of a disaster! I've already had my long hair cut short and I look hideous so am dreading it all coming off. Oh, and I've just remembered, ask your BCN or chemo nurse about Look Good, Feel Better workshops in your area. They are sessions on skincare, doing makeup and looking after your wig especially for women going through chemo treatment. From what I've read about them they are a godsend and give you a much needed boost when you need it most, AND you get a goody bag of free makeup to take home.
I hope you start to feel a lot better soon!
... View more
I'll third this! This website, and the forums in particular, is an absolute lifeline for us when we have been diagnosed with this life-changing disease. And it's here for us where ever we are on the planet too! Having started my journey in the UK, I'm now back in my home country New Zealand where there are brilliant cancer charities and health professional, but unfortunately no online forums quite like this. So to EVERYONE on the BCC team, and all of the members here, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the service and support you give and I wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year.
... View more
Hi lovely December ladies!
Another break away from here for me, after feeling ok straight after my first TC last Friday I had a very quiet weekend and was hoping my almost non-existent SEs would continue but it wasn't to be. Monday evening the pains in my limbs and joints kicked in and I hardly slept, on top of feeling very queasy (although didn't throw up thank goodness!) On Tuesday I felt ok enough to go to the shopping mall with my mum to get my hair cut short and do my xmas shopping, and also collect my niece and nephew who stayed with us for two nights. That also went ok at the time, just felt really out of it but managed ok. However, when I got home I had a terrible bout of trapped wind so took myself to bed and only got up to take my anti-sickness meds. Wednesday I was feeling better but very tired and today I feel like new again, which is a relief! If the bad SEs only kick in for a couple of days I think I can survive them, but when they are happening it's damn miserable.
I hope everyone is feeling ok and that those having their special juice this week have an ok time of it too. And hello to the new names as well!
... View more
Hi lovely December ladies! And welcome to Grace21, it's good that you have joined us here for some moral support!
Today was TCx1 for me and it went ok I guess. Like many, I suffer from bad veins in my "good" left arm, so the nurse took an initial stab, pretty literally, at a vein in the underside of my forearm and it was just hideously painful! The needle ended up hitting a valve so she took it out and wrapped my hand in a heat pad and had a go there and it was good to go. Needless to say I've been left with an almight bruise on my arm, and that area is still very sore.
All went well for the steroid infusion and Taxotere bag one, then she started a second bag and all of a sudden I had quite bad stinging in my hand as the fluid came through, so I called the nurse over but she didn't seem too concerned about it. Thankfully it died away fairly quickly so I don't think it was an allergic reaction! Other than that it was a lot better than I was anticipating, the usual fear of the unknown had me quite nervous but the staff were fab and I had my sister there as my buddy so we chatted and I read her magazines over her shoulder. She was quite happy to be there as my dear nephew was in the wars at her house after a bad case of "exploding bottom" first thing in the morning, so my brother-in-law had to stay at home and look after him and my niece for a change! Sis was just glad for a few hours sitting down in peace and quite reading!
I'm back at my parents house now and chilling out in my room. Feeling well so far, not too bad with the steroids (I have worse "highs" from one too many flat whites!) and no aches or pains and my tastebuds seem to be in working order at the moment as the dinner my mum cooked of salmon and couscous tasted lovely. I'm also stocked up on plenty of fruit and prunes in a desperate attempt to stave off being bunged up from the anti-sickness meds!
Kathy, you asked if I'll be having the mx during my chemo. I'm only on 4x TC so the 12 week waiting time for the op coincides exactly with my 12 weeks of chemo, which is brilliant and will mean I can fit in the op and the recovery time into my very generous sick leave allowance and be back in the UK sometime in May next year (I have to stay until the end of April at least as that's when my nephew's 7th birthday is and I'm on a promise to attend his party. Not that I'd miss it for the world anyway!)
Hoping you are all dong well and SEs are very tiny ones!
... View more
Hello everyone, and welcome to the December gang to italia03, Acat and daisy113.
Debbie (gingersmithy) I'm so relieved to read that your CT was clear, but also sad that your bone scan picked up something. Hopefully they will get you in for that MRI asap and I have everything crossed that it will be clear. And great news that your first session has gone so well, crossing fingers your SEs stay small!
Wendy, I'm so sorry that you're hospitalised with that infected implant, what a nightmare! I hope you're feeling a lot better soon, we will pop into the Jan thread to check how you're going.
Lisa, not sure if this helps but I have seen two oncologists now, one in London before I left who said he recommended 6x FEC, and my oncologist here in NZ who is putting me on 4x TC. I wasn't worried that they were different recommendations as the London onco said that any other onco at that hospital may have suggested another type of chemo, and that didn't mean one was better that the others.
Kathy, what a mare getting to your first treatment, no wonder you were so stressed! Thank goodness the chemo itself sent so well, and it sounds like you have some wonderful nurses looking after you there. I hope your SEs stay small!
Anne, sorry to hear your chemo is still delayed and best of luck for the ax clearance. We will check in on the Jan thread for you too.
I had my chemo assessment appointment at Auckland Hospital yesterday, it went well - very quick too! I went in on time and was only there for 20 minutes. I spoke to my onco about the mastectomy I've decided to go ahead with and he has already referred me to one of the surgeons in the public system for an appointment and I should be having the op in just over six weeks time. Am about to head out into the rain for my wig appointment so will have to sign off here. Tomorrow at 10am is TC number one!
Wishing you all tiny SEs!
... View more
Hi all you lovely December ladies!
I have been ever so neglectful of this thread that I started haven't I? I apologise for not posting here more frequently, I've no excuse other than I've been in holiday mode for the past couple of weeks as I make the most of being here in NZ and have been spending time with my family, especially my niece and nephew. However, this week is d-day for me, with my first chemo on Friday, so I'm now back in the land of reality with an almighty thud.
I've just updated my spreadsheet with the details of all the newcomers, my our little posse has grown while I've been away! Welcome to all the new faces, and for those of you who have started now I hope your SEs are very small ones and that your days are going well between treatments. From what I've just read it seems like most of you are getting on ok which is brilliant to see.
I'm glad (I guess!) that there are others starting this week too, we can hold each others virtual hands over the coming days. I will be heading down to Auckland tomorrow to stay at my sister's until Friday. I have my assessment appointment on Wednesday and will be given a prescription for the steriods and anti-sickness drugs to take away with me. At the chemo orientation session I went to the other week they recommended having the prescription filled prior to the chemo appointment and to bring all the drugs with you and the chemo nurses will then write up a schedule for when to take them. I don't think cancer patients are exempt from prescription cherges over here so I'll have to pay for them, no idea how much it will cost me!
I have my wig consultation on Thursday afternoon which I'm starting to feel a bit anxious about. I have tried to put the hair loss out of my mind up till now, and have been able to put on a brave face to family and friends about it, but now that it's going to be a reality I'm starting to feel a bit upset. I have long, thick hair and haven't had it cut yet, I think I'm going to break down when I do have it cut. I'm hoping the sister of my best friend here who is a hairdresser can do it, I won't feel so bad if it's someone I know.
Since I last posted in here I had some upsetting news from a friend back in the UK that he has been diagnosed with cancer (not the breast type!) and that knocked me for six, but I've told him I'm here for him if he needs me and that I know what he's going through. It just makes me so sad that this horrible disease hits the most unexpected people.
Anyway, I'll try not to drift off into being all morose! Even though the weather is horrible here today so perfect for moping about. We're only a few weeks before Christmas and it should be blazing sunshine here but mother nature just isn't playing ball this week.
Sending you all good wishes and positive thoughts!
... View more
Hi Sharon, Debbie, Herbi, Colette and scotianne! Thanks for joining the thread. I've taken an idea from the November thread and just created a spreadsheet with your names and details of chemo schedule for those who know it already, so I can keep track of who's starting what and when. There are a lot of TBAs though, I hope you all find out soon what you'll be getting.
Thanks so much to Lulu, Silvershar,Jules and Simone for sending us your best wishes. It's so reassuring to know there are others who have been there before us and who will be on hand with their welth of experience to help us if we need it. You're all amazing, I just hope I can get through this with as much dignity, good humour and grace as you all have/are.
Sharon, I know how you feel about wanting to get things underway. I had my operation (WLE and SNB) at the end of September so I'm now at the two month post-op mark and should really be starting chemo now but I'm in the public health system here in NZ so have been in the waiting line for a date. At least I have one though.
Debbie, good luck for your scans and I hope your onco can tell you more on Monday about your treatment. I had a bone scan done before I left London but still don't know the results so I still don't know if there's been any spread, I was node negative though so not likely (cross fingers!)
Colette, I have my chemo orientation at Auckland Hospital chemo unit next week. My sister is coming with me. I'm not sure what to expect, I just hope they can give me an idea of what I'll be able to get as a matter of course for SEs and also info on where I can go for a wig.
Scotianne, good luck for your results tomorrow and I will be hoping like you that you have good margins and clear nodes. I think it depends where you are and what hospital you are treated at as to what scans you might be offered as a matter of course, it's also based on your specific circumstances with dx but there's no harm in asking your specialist tomorrow. I was told at my appointment with a breast surgeon here last week that they give all women under 40 who have bc an MRI automatically after chemo, which is interesting.
Herbi, that's a lot of affected nodes! But as you say, six are not and if they were doing their job as defences then hopefully there won't be any spread. Here's hoping your onco appointment comes through quickly.
Well, the sun is going down here in NZ and I imagine you are all just waking up so I hope the day ahead is a good one for you all!
... View more
So sorry that you have had to join us here. I was in a similar situation as you re given the option of a mastectomy, but that was only after my WLE and SNB, I'm 39 as well so I know what it's like to be diagnosed at this age.
My diagnosis originally was a 20mm grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, ER and PR+, HER2- and node negative. I had the tumour taken out and at my follow-up appointment my surgeon told me the lump was bigger than originally thought at 34mm, and because of that I would need chemo as well as radiation, but that I also had the option of a mastectomy (mx) to possibly avoid rads and it was my decision to make. That absolutely blew me away as originally I was told WLE, SNB and six weeks of rads plus five years of tamoxifen!
I didn't really take in what the surgeon said at that appointment so I spoke to my BCN and she arranged another meeting with her and I took a friend along that time to take notes and she explained things better and put my mind at ease. Since then I've come to New Zealand (my home country) for my chemo treatment and I've seen the top breast cancer surgeon here at a private appointment, and she's also explained more to me about my diagnosis and how that suggested the mx option. I'm right on the edge as far as age, size of the lump and it's location, I had really close margins with extensive lymphovascular invasion and pre-cancerous cells in the area as well, so all these things combined add up to slightly higer risk of recurrance apparently.
I was really against further surgery until I saw the surgeon here in Auckland, but after seeing some examples of her reconstructions I'm feeling like I'll go with that option now as my risk of recurrance will be a lot lower, she said 2%, and I'll get a new breast out of it to replace my rather ugly post-WLE boob!
It is a very personal decision, and you will have to weigh up the options based on what your surgeon, oncologist and radiation oncologist tell you based on your own diagnosis - we are all different in what is specifically happening to us, but whatever you decide you will have our support and the resources of this site to help you through it all.
I started writing this reply a while ago and see you have posted since with questions. Is it a WLE (lumpectomy) you're having? If it is, this is what I had and I found it to be a lot less horrible than I was expecting. Mine was done as day surgery and I was up and about very quickly after coming round and going to the ward to recover. I only had pain when I came round from the anesthetic, they asked me how bad it was on a scale of one to ten, I said seven so they gave me three pumps of morphine and after that I only had a tiny bit of discomfort.
Even though it's a day surgery you should take an overnight bag with pjs that do up at the front, and preferably that you don't have to put over your head as you will have restricted movement of the arm on your affected boob side. You should only have to stay in if your surgery is done late afternoon as they don't usually discharge after about 8pm I think, and they always want you to go home with someone as well. Take a book, magazines, iPad, iPod with you as well as there is always a bit of waiting around to do on the day.
Post-op you will need to start doing exercises that your BCN or ward nurse will give you (it's a booklet and dvd supplied by the good folks here at BCC) pretty much straight away, you should also keep taking whatever pain meds you are given as they will help in your recovery. I was pretty much back to normal the day after, and didn't feel any sickness from the anasthetic.
Re your lymph node question, I had my lymph nodes checked at the same time as my ultrasound scan after the mammogram. They also took a biopsy of my lump but not of the lymph nodes. In my case they did a sentinal node biopsy at the same time as the lumpectomy, which is when they take just those nodes that are linked to the breast lump and send them off for checking, if they are found to have any cancer cells they will go back in for a full clearance I think. They locate the sentinal nodes by giving you a pre-op injection in your affected boob of radioactive tracer, and also injecting blue dye either before or during the op. The tracer injection is just a tiny scratch (mine was painless as the doctor giving the injection was rather lovely to look at! :-)) and the blue dye will probably leave your boob with a blue stain on the skin for a while after (mine still has a blue patch on it and I'm now two months post-op).
Re your question about tablets, if your lump is responsive to hormones (oestrogen and progesterone I think they are) they are referred to as ER and PR positive, and these cancers can be treated by hormone therapies, the most common you will see is Tamoxifen and that is what you take for five years, and in most ladies it will force you into menopause. This will impact on fertility, so you should speak to your surgeon and BCN about a referal to a fertility clinic if you think you want to harvest eggs for future IVF treatment. I was given this option but didn't go ahead with it as I will be 45 by the time the Tamoxifen finishes. The fertility thing is an extra added shock on top of everything else for those of our age, I think I was more upset about that than the cancer in the early days after my diagnosis because I don't have children and desperately wanted them, but in the end I just wanted to get my treatment underway so have pushed that to the side for now.
One thing I would say is if you can take someone with you to your appointments this is a good idea as it is such a lot to take in and your brain gets overloaded, a second pair of ears makes sure you have all the information but also don't be afraid to call your BCN and ask questions or ask for another meeting with your surgeon. You can also ring the BCC helpline (Jo posted the number in an earlier post) and they can answer questions or just listen if you need to offload emotionally.
Good luck for your op on the 30th and keep asking questions here if you need to.
All the best,
... View more