Wednesday, 22 June 2011

ten years on .......

June 22 2001

how could I forget that particular date?

the following is direct from my original web page titled:
"my journey with breast cancer"

 I had an appointment for a mammogram and because I work at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (Victoria, Australia) and for the sake of convenience, I decided to have the procedure done there at 9.00am on Friday June 22 2001.

I felt I had nothing to be concerned about - yes there was a lump under my left arm pit - but because I had a nasty cough and cold, I just thought it may have been an infected gland.

The staff doctor suggested the follow-up mammogram after seeing her the previous day. I was surprised as I had had one only 13 mths before - I am very conscientious about screening - I have my pap smears and mammogram without fail each time they are due.

So I had the mammogram, then at 10.30 the radiologist called me back for an ultrasound - still not concerned.

Though I could not help but notice the large white mass that appeared on the screen as the instrument hovered over the lump in the arm pit. The radiologist then asked could she "take a wander around the left breast" with the ultrasound, of course I agreed. On the screen, another - this time smaller - white mass appeared, this one about 5cm to the left of my nipple.

I asked what it was.

Her reply to me was that it could be anything and that sometimes it is easy to distinguish a "good lump" over a "bad lump", but this time it was difficult to tell. She suggested I see the staff doctor as soon as possible. My answer to that was: "do I have to?"

She went on to say that she would be phoning the doctor straight away and that it would be best for me to see her as soon as I could.

I was starting to feel a little uneasy - something was wrong - I felt like I wanted to cry, but did not know why.

What was happening?

I went back to my desk, trying to think of what could be happening to me, what was wrong?
I phoned John to let him know where I was, what had happened to me and that I was about to see the staff doctor. My friend Pam came with me for support which I very much appreciated. I felt as though this was happening to someone else!
 The doctor was waiting for me......
 after I sat down, she started to say "you do realise it is in your lymph glands"

"what is in my lymph glands?" I ask

she went on to say .... "Leone, this will mean major surgery for you"

"No! No! No!, don't tell me that, I don't need to hear this, please don't tell me"

I am crying and covering my face - this cannot be happening to me.

and from that moment the nightmare started.

Within half an hour - Pam and I are over at the Freemasons Hospital - I am having a biopsy done and seeing John Collins, a well known breast surgeon here in Melbourne.

He explained everything to me clearly, showing me the mammogram films, writing down what would be needed and that surgery would be next week.


Yes, he said .... "this is an aggressive cancer and we need to get to it as soon as we can"

I think that was the most stressful week of my life!

Of course I started thinking of every possibility - 
had the cancer spread elsewhere in my body?

would the surgeon just close me up and say there is nothing he could do?

what horrors was I to face in the future?

but I soon realised that none of these thoughts were going to help me. I just had to be very positive and think that is is going to be a short detour in my life.

Our daughter Janine lives in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) how does a mother tell her daughter that she has been diagnosed with cancer.

It was very difficult, but by being positive and explaining what was happening quite clearly, it made it easier for both of us. Of course Janine wanted to come to Melbourne immediately, but we said it would be better to come later, perhaps for my birthday in August.

She has her own life to lead too, busy with work and her own life. She was very concerned and phoned many times a day. I felt for her being so far away from us too...

That weekend I spent time with John - the love of my life and who is just the most caring and loving person that I know - we went for walks, went shopping and visited family.

I even visited my mother in the nursing home to tell her what happened, you know what she said?

"are you sure you didn't catch it from work?"

But I have come along way in these past ten years ...... ten years that I truly not expect to be apart of. Goodness me, I didn't even expect to get beyond one year!

To be diagnosed with breast cancer and secondaries in the lymph glands is every persons nightmare.

Soon after my surgery, a friend said to me:

"one day you are going to forget all about your cancer, there will be times you might remember, but believe me, there will be a time that you will forget and days will go by before you even think about it"

at the time she said this, I was so full of myself and 'my' cancer that I doubted it very much, this was a nightmare, how could I forget this?

but you do and I did.

You get over it and life goes on.

you have to put it behind you and think positively and live life in the best possible way you can.

Not just for yourself, but for others around you too.

You cannot 'think of youself' all the time, there are others to consider, partners, carers, family, friends, work colleagues ...... these people are there as the "supportive team" and to be honest I doubt I would be here today - ten years on - if it were not for my supportive team.

today I am grateful for so many things.

more than I could even list here.

but I am truly blessed to have the life I have.

to have a family that matters to me.

to have friends that love me for who I am.

and for a husband that loves me unconditionally.

and yes, you do 'forget', that is until someone mentions a 
'friend that has just had breast cancer' 
or a date such as JUNE 22, that you remember.

Cancer is so limited

it cannot cripple love
it cannot shatter hope
it cannot corrode faith
it cannot eat away at peace
it cannot destroy confidence
it cannot kill friendship
it cannot shut out memories
it cannot silence courage
it cannot invade the soul
it cannot reduce eternal life
it cannot quench the spirit

- author unknown

 and just today as I was in the middle of writing this blog post, I heard from a friend that her husband has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

please be aware that cancer can touch anyone at anytime, male or female.

so be sure to have regular check ups and do not keep 'putting it off"



Anonymous said...

A beautiful post of a beautiful person. A story of struggle and hope. Your journey has made you who you are and for that, I am grateful. You are amazing!!

I love you!

F said...

Leone, so glad you are well now! You are an inspiration in so many ways.

Laurel said...

Love this post. So glad I am able to call you a friend! You have touched so many lives in the last 10 years!

BuBbles said...

Thank you so much for sharing such a personal issue and raising much needed awareness at the same time.

Beautiful post.


Joanna's cancer journey said...

Thank you. I was put onto your page by Mahrukh. I was this time last year. Masectomy, chemo then radio. Its encouraging to hear from someone 10 years on. Love and light. Joanna :)