This is my diary of how I discovered I had breast cancer, my operation, treatment and basically how we all coped with it.  The feelings or experience I describe throughout my diary are how I felt or how I dealt with things.  It is not based on fact of how other people may find things.  Some of the side effects or comments made may be slightly off-putting, but it is a truthful and heartfelt account of what my children and I fought - and won!!!

Late on Sunday 21st May 2006, there was a power cut.  Nothing unusual in this you would think, but it was to mark the turning point on what had up till then been my fairly run of the mill, humdrum but happy life. Being unable to do anything without power I finally gave up wondering when the power would return and I headed to my bed.  As I lay on my right hand side trying to get comfortable, I tucked my right hand in between my body and my left arm and something just didn't feel quite right. Having a good prod and poke about I could feel a lump - a big one! I initially thought that everything would be okay and that I was probably feeling a cyst or something, but fear and worry was coursing through me like a tornado!  Needless to say I did not get very much sleep that night as my mind worked overtime wondering what it could be.

First thing on Monday 22nd May, I called my doctors surgery for an appointment and thankfully was given one at 9.40am.  My friend Alayne came with me to the appointment for moral support.  After an examination by the Doctor I was referred to the Breast Clinic at Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline, as was standard procedure with anyone presenting with a lump within the breast or axilla area.  He did however say that the lump felt regular and was moveable and that he thought it would be nothing to worry about.  The referral was as a precaution.

Eventually the appointment for the Breast Clinic came through and I was sent for my first mammogram. Another friend Sue came with me on this occasion, again for moral support.  The nurse was lovely and she tried her best to put me at ease.  I had to stand in front of this x ray machine and had two x rays taken on each side.  One was a front on view and one which was at an angled tilt so that it would include my axilla on either side too.  Some people may find it painful, but I felt it more uncomfortable as opposed to painful and being rather large chested, I couldn't believe that my boobs could squash so flat!!! It was like a big ball of dough or plasticine being rolled out and squashed flat!  Oh my god!!

The next appointment was for the results of the mammogram and I was seen by a locum doctor who was a horrible man.  He was obnoxious and insensitive, and didn't even attempt to put me at ease or give any reassurance. I couldn't pronounce his name but it was Dr Van Something - who I will forever more think of as Dr Van Evil!  He showed me the mammogram x ray and pointed out the lump - which showed as a big white blob - and told me that in his opinion it was a calcified lymph gland.  So of course I asked him what that was and all he would say was that it was unusual.  I was then given an examination again and felt like I was being treated like a slab of meat! Out came a needle to take an aspiration needle biopsy from the lump, but never once did Dr Van Evil tell me what he was doing or why, throughout the whole process. In fact his parting words to me at the door as I made to leave, were  "well I don't think its cancer anyway!", and were said in a very uncaring tone.  The first time that the C word had actually been spoken out loud!  Sue had accompanied me again and God did she have her work cut out for her trying to get me to calm down once we left the Hospital.  I was so upset at the treatment I had just received and I so wish I had taken her into the consultancy room with me so she could have heard for herself his awful bedside manner.

I had to return a week later for the results of the biopsy and Sue came with me again.  But this time she came into the consultancy room with me as unfortunately I had been scheduled to see Dr Van Evil!  He barely even looked at me or told me much except that biopsy had returned with inconclusive results and that I would need a small operation to remove it for further tests.  Sue was on the ball though and made sure she asked lots of questions regarding the operation and waiting times etc. By this point I was beginning to really worry that something was seriously wrong but I kept trying to push the thoughts to the back of my mind until any further results were in. 

The following week I was recalled for mammogram and that made me really scared. What had they seen on the x ray that had been previously missed?  The nurse I saw was simply wonderful.  She could see how terrified I was and really took her time reassuring me and telling me that one of the x rays had shown a very small shadow that they wanted to have a further look at.  She took a single mammogram x ray of my left breast and found a doctor to look at it there and then so that I would know before leaving the hospital.  Whatever it was on the original x ray had since gone and I was told it was nothing to worry about.  Phew!! Thank God!!

There was an online meet up in Chester on 8th July which couldn't have come at a better time!  One last party weekend before everything really started happening.  Lemon and I travelled down to the Liverpool area on Friday 7th to stay overnight with her dad.  How we managed to get there in one piece I do not know, because tears of laughter were rolling down our faces the entire journey!  I'm renowned for getting lost and we did take the scenic route a couple of times!  When we got a text through asking where we were, it was the most natural thing in the world for our reply to be - behind an Asda lorry!!  We picked Dan up in Birkenhead and had a brilliant laugh at her dad's.  Dan was taking photo's and video's of Lemon and I laughing, and every time we tried to straighten ourselves out she would say "oh dear" and that would be us off again!  We managed to find the hotel in Chester and went off to the meet.  Met up with Jupee again and met Kaz and Babs for the first time.  Really good crowd at the meet and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  Then later on in the evening we found a karaoke bar and took it by storm!

On Wednesday 12th July I had what would be my first operation - to remove the offending lump for a more thorough look.  I was so scared of having the general anaesthetic and so convinced I wouldn't waken up from it.  By this time my parents knew what was going on - I had tried to keep as much from them as possible until I knew what was happening, and my three children were beginning to get a wee bit suspicious about why I was attending so many doctors appointments, but there was absolutely no need to be worrying or scaring three youngsters at this point.  So Mum and Dad came over on the morning of the operation and Mum took me up to the hospital.  I was second on the list and to say I was a nervous wreck is an understatement!  Well I obviously survived the general anaesthetic, and was sore and woozy from it all and still very scared.  I had a dressing on the wound and couldn't really get comfortable when trying to sleep.  I wasn't allowed to get the dressing wet and I wasn't able to drive so I had to rely on friends and family during the following week to help out with basic things like shopping etc.

I was to return the following Thursday to the Breast Clinic for the results.
 The RollerCoaster Ride
Thursday 20th July.  A definitive date in my life and one which I will never, ever forget!

Alayne came to watch the children as they were on school holidays by now, and Sue came with me to the hospital where I was to have the dressing taken off and receive the news that would utterly floor me. Dr Van Evil was no longer in charge of my case after I complained about his previous consultations so it was my new consultant Mr Neads who was seeing me.  He reminded me of Peter Sellers playing the Pink Panther and he was just a lovely man.  Apparently the best man for the job and he sure seemed it to me!  Sue and I were invited into this room to await Mr Neads.  He came in followed by a lady, Susan, who was to become my Breast Nurse.  In that single moment when she walked in behind him I knew.  Although she was a nurse, she wasn't wearing a uniform and that spoke volumes to me.  I just knew!

Mr Neads commented on my arm being stiff as he lifted it up to remove the dressing.  It was a bit sore and a wee bit tickly when he took the dressing off.  Then he sat down in his chair, looked at me, leaned forward towards me before uttering the words that will forever remain in my mind..."I'm afraid it's not the best of news".  In that split second I knew I had to keep my wits about me and really listen and pay attention and also try and keep my composure.  I was aware of Sue putting her hand on my leg and telling me how sorry she was.  It was a godsend having her there so that she could listen to everything I was being told too.  His words were reverberating around my head and I felt like I was suffocating.  The words cancer and I'm sorry kept echoing around and around.  Terrified doesn't even begin to describe it.

Inside I was screaming!!  This couldn't possibly be happening to me, to my family...God no not to my babies!!  Am I going to die?  This had to be a sick, sick joke, but it wasn't.  Susan had then taken over the consultation telling me what would happen next. Bone scans, chest x ray, liver scan, operation.  Give me a bloody break here!!  You've just told me the worst possible thing that I could ever have heard and you want me to concentrate on what happens next!?  What just happened!!  Everything is happening way too fast.  Both Susan and Mr Neads were lovely and it must be utter hell on earth to have to be the person who gives someone life changing news and then have to leave the room and go on to the next patient and remain detached from it all.

Outside the hospital, with Sue's support, I had to make the most difficult phone calls of my life.  I had to call my parents and let them know and I had to forewarn Alayne back at my house with the kids - and also had to ask her the almost impossible.....please don't let on to children that anything is wrong.  Who the hell was I kidding!!

Everyone was in shock.  Alayne and Sue just didn't know what to say to me and it was all I could do to stop myself from crying hysterically, but I had to remain calm while the kids were around.  Mum came straight over and while my friends kept the children through in the other room; I broke down in my Mummy's arms.  Shit oh shit oh shit...I have Breast Cancer!

Mum took the kids home with her as my bone scans and chest x rays were scheduled for the next day, and I stayed overnight with Sue as her and her husband said they would take me for my tests at Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy.  I cried and cried all night.  Partly fear, partly disbelief.  I couldn't believe this was actually happening.  I felt suspended in some kind of surreal limbo.

Friday 21st July.  Bone scan and chest x ray.  My humour began to slowly kick in and I had to try and find something amusing in all this.  It was a coping mechanism for me.  You would think that with having visited hospital so often over the previous couple of months that I would have by now seen one dishy doctor!!  Yeah right - no chance!!  The bone scan required me to take a radioactive type dye through my veins to show anything up on the actual scan.  I don't have the best veins at the best of times so this was sure to be a trial all the way throughout treatment.  So I was given this dye thru a canular thing and had to wait for two hours for it to seep through, during which time I had to drink a load of water.  Sue and I were laughing that when I finally had to pee it would be pink with purple spots and that I'd be glowing like a belisha beacon!  The scanner itself was a huge contraption of a machine which takes a scan/x ray of the bones from top to toe.  Then it reads the results back from toe to top.  I had to lie there for 17 minutes (this is exactly the time the nurse told me it would take), staying very still, whilst inside my head the thoughts were churning around, worrying about whether this horrible disease had spread further than the lymph glands under my left axilla.  The chest x ray was next and I had to wear a very fetching little tunic thing.  The nurse had asked if I had a sore back which worried me no end.  They don't give you any results there and then and I was concerned that they had seen something on the bone scan.  I had to stand with my chin on this square block and press my chest hard up against the front of this particular machine. Couple of clicks and thank you very much.  One more nice picture of my ample chest for my records!

Tuesday 25th July. Liver scan. Sue couldn't make it with me to the hospital this time so another friend Lemon (her nickname!) came with me. Having laughed with nerves at previous appointments at the clinic, I didn't want to jinx anything this time round and was determined to sit straight faced and solemn in the waiting room.  While we were waiting, a nurse came and called this patient and we thought that she had shouted the name Sandra Dee.  That was it!!  All Lemon and I could think of was the song from Grease and we absolute burst into hysterics!! I swear the other patients in the waiting room thought that we had completely lost the plot!!  It was just absurd but as they say - laughter is the best medicine - and I was determined by this point that I was about to prove the theory 100% right!!

The scan was over 2 hours late and my nerves were beginning to go again.  Eventually we were called through.  The nurse who was doing all the scanning checked out my liver, my heart, my spleen, my kidneys, my pancreas...I can now safely say that Lemon has seen me inside out!  It even looked like there were wee fish swimming around inside me - which Lemon said was angel fish but I insisted they were posh Koi Carp!!  Thank God the nurse told me there and then that she saw nothing for concern and that everything was fine!  That was a huge load off my mind.  Now all I needed were the results from the bone scan and chest x ray.  Susan, my breast nurse, had already seen how long we'd had to wait for the liver scan and off the record she patted me on my arm and told me that the rest of the results were fine too.  Then we were called in to the consultancy room and saw both Susan and Mr Neads again.  He confirmed what Susan had told me and said that yes although I had breast cancer,  it was contained in the one place and therefore treatment would deal with it and all would be okay.  I just needed an MRI scan to see if they could detect where it had started but ultimately that wouldn't affect the course of treatment he was about to discuss with me.  The cells were conclusive to breast cancer although it didn't actually take hold and grow within the breast.  He told me that was unusual but that he thought that for whatever reason it hadn't rooted itself in the breast, it had only spread to a small area under my left axilla and that there was no reason why treatment wouldn't be successful in eradicating it altogether.  So.... I had breast cancer and I was distraught by that thought but I was jumping for joy.  It's contained and I'm going to be okay!  Crazy stuff!!

But oh shit.  I was still going to have to have a further operation called a lymph gland clearance, to remove all the cancer infected glands under my arm and I was going to require a course of chemotherapy and probably radiotherapy.  Oh No!!!  My hair!!!!  I couldn't cope with the horrendous thought of losing my long hair - a small price to pay maybe as it would grow back again - but god no not my hair!!

So just one more test to endure now and that was to be the MRI scan.  Mum came with me to Edinburgh's Western General Hospital.  I had to lie front down with my forehead on a piece of foam and my boobs dropping down into these two holes - a bit like cup holders on a deck chair!  Got sent into the tunnel with headphones on, a canular thing in my right arm which hurt like hell, which released a contrast dye and I was given a panic alarm button in my left hand in case I panicked in the tunnel!  It was really so very dignified!! Not!  Through the headphones the nurses were able to communicate with me to let me know what they were doing as we went along and while the machine was running they played music.  Well, it's just as well that I do have a sense of humour and a bit of a warped one at that.  The first song I was played was U2's  "Beautiful Day".  Oh yeah??  And just exactly is so beautiful about when I'm stuck in a tunnel, hooked up to various things with my boobs hanging down into cup holders!!!  The other song I hear was Travis "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?".  I couldn't even laugh because I had to stay still in the scanner but I just thought to myself - oh boy someone is really taking the piss here!!!  Afterwards, I bruised badly from where the canular thing was and I was ready for a few days away at a caravan to get away from it all.

Onto the next step! 
Now that the results were in and I knew what was going to happen, I had to deal with telling my children.  That was really tough going.  They were only 6, 8 and 11 at that time and to see their faces and hear them ask if mummy was going to die was absolutely heartbreaking.  I told them about the treatment I would have and how I would lose my hair and they were so scared about it all.  One of my daughters started to worry every time I sighed or took a deep breath in case there was something wrong, my son asked if he could have his hair cut into a skinhead when I lost my hair and my other daughter wanted a blonde wig when I had to go and get one!! 

The lymph gland clearance operation was scheduled for August 30th and chemotherapy was to start a month later.  Because any form of cancer takes over control of your life, I decided that whatever I was able to take control of, I would do so.  So first off I took the decision to have my hair cut shorter in preparation for it falling out.  I had about 3 or inches lobbed off and although I hated it, I did feel better at having some control over when to do it.  I also started doing some research on the internet into breast cancer and chemotherapy etc.  However, I soon stopped myself from doing that as I found some of the things I was reading too upsetting - as well as the fact that it dealt with general circumstances and sometimes worst case scenarios - and this was personal to me and how I would deal with things.  So I stopped looking and decided to just deal with things in my own way as and when they happened.

It became all consuming in our lives and I began to get quite selfish.  When others around me were moaning about the kind of day they had had or the fact that their life wasn't all a bed of roses for whatever reason, I'd find myself thinking - hey hang on a bloody minute!!!  Do you have breast cancer??  Do you have a wee girl who asked if you'd die?  Is that all you have to worry about!!!??  I had to have a word with myself and realise that everyone's own problems are relevant and that I had to stop thinking in that way. 

Susan discussed what would happen regarding the operation and the treatments.  She told me that after the lymph gland clearance I would probably have an odd sensation at the top of my arm because of possible damage or basically just the fact that nerves had been messed about with during the op.  She explained that I was entitled to a wig on the NHS and that chemotherapy would be on a three weekly basis and last between 6 and 9 months.  I was to get a wig voucher and take it over to Edinburgh to one of two shops that redeem the vouchers and that if I wasn't able to take it there and then, that they would post it out to me at home.  Have you ever heard the likes!!??
 Hair by post!!