Breast cancer lesson number three: Good things do not always come in small packages!

As a pint-sized person, I have always been an advocate of the little things in life – Cadbury’s Heroes being a particularly good example (why would you eat a full-sized chocolate bar again?!). My breasts were no exception – until now!

It pains me to say it, but small is not always beautiful. In fact, in breast cancer land, small is pretty annoying.

My world view was crushed on what I truly believe to be the weirdest and most surreal day of my entire life. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone this time – although I think my amazing mum (hello mum!) could have been forgiven for wanting to go and lie down in darkened room about half way through. Massive credit to her for laughing along with me throughout – even without lunch.

It was supposed to be one 10am meeting with a surgeon and a breast nurse to discuss the MRI results and plan what I thought would be a wide local excision or lumpectomy (in other words, chop it out, move on to chemo). I thought I’d be back at work within the hour.

Here’s what happened:

1)   Surgeon (who is hilariously funny and witty for a surgeon) explains that the tumour is more like 40mm than 28mm and there are two other suspicious areas that need investigating (just to qualify, this part was not funny or witty). Still smiling though!

2)   Surgeon examines me – and brings mum in too for a quick feel – and confirms that my breast is just too small to save (thanks nature). Bit scared and annoyed with nature!

3)   Surgeon explains the two ‘reconstruction’ routes, one of which involves taking out my tummy tissue to give me a new mound. Has a feel of my tummy and thinks they might just be able to use it. Laughing now at fact tummy is being squeezed!

4)   Surgeon refers for second biopsy to investigate findings and my kind breast care nurse loads me up with breast reconstruction literature. Still smiling… just!

5)   Care staff at biopsy number two turn out to be very entertaining and lovely. Smiling lots to block out fact my boob is yet again being explored – trying not to laugh otherwise might disturb procedure.

6)   Lovely breast care nurse points us in direction of secret staff bus to whizz us to another hospital. Mum and I laugh while trying to look like serious hospital staff.

7)   Meet nurse quickly and get weighed! Best weight in three years (yay for dry January and losing my Christmas podge). Feeling pretty smug!

8)   Meet next nurse who makes us tea and explains that the Dutch only put milk in their children’s tea. Smiling at having discovered something new!

9)   Meet plastic surgeon, three nurses and a doctor who explain tummy procedure and give me a quick squeeze. Check leg and bum and confirm just too tight (oh yes!). Feeling pretty smug again at weight loss.

10)  Plastic surgeon thinks tummy might have enough fat to go ahead with procedure, but needs to do a CT scan to check. Feeling less smug and starting to regret losing Christmas weight. Maybe need to make a batch of mince pies!

11)  Surgeon refers me to pre op assessment (why not, while I’m here)!

12)  Behind door number one, nurse one takes blood pressure. It’s high (I would say this wasn’t surprising)! Second time round, I pass and move on to MRSA testing. Smiling due to the fact I like passing tests!

13)  Behind door number two, nurse two (who told us a lovely story about buying herself a dressing gown for Christmas and wrapping it up under the tree because she’d always wanted one and never got one) talks me through op day. Smiling lots at having met a friendly lady who would have otherwise remained a stranger!

14)  Behind door number three, nurse three takes blood. Uneventful. Smiling at fact needle went in vein and was uneventful!

15)  Op date confirmed: 21 February. Phew! Bit tired of smiling now.

So three waiting rooms, two surgeons, 15 care staff, six appointment rooms and six and a half HOURS later, and my mum and I are hugging and laughing at the tube station as we say goodbye.

While neither the day nor the results were what I was expecting when I woke up that morning, I was a) humbled and inspired by the amazing hospital staff and the way they fast-tracked me and b) happy to have spent the day experiencing and laughing through it all with my mum. Every cloud…

Tune in on Monday to find out if I passed the ‘fat’ test…

8 thoughts on “Breast cancer lesson number three: Good things do not always come in small packages!

  1. Diana

    Hi Jackie,
    It’s Diana, Nick’s girlfriend. I was shocked and saddened to hear about your diagnosis.I wanted you to know that I admire your courage, your positive attitude and how you handle all this with a big smile. “Chapeau !” .
    I trust, in a few months, all this will be behind you and you’ll be able to concentrate your energy on nicer things, like planning your wedding. 🙂
    Hope to see you again soon and in good health!

    1. So lovely to hear from you Diana and thanks for your kind wishes. My lovely colleagues have already loaded me up with Bride magazines, so I can at least dream about things even though I can’t yet plan them!
      Hope life is treating you well and I look forward to seeing you soon.
      Hugs to you.
      J x

  2. It’s wonderful that you have the courage to write about this as people need to know. I love your writing style and am looking forward to hearing about your journey. Take care of yourself and keep smiling 🙂 x

    1. Thanks Leanne. I am a great believer that my only job in this is to stay strong and positive – and encourage others to do the same on their journeys (cancer ones or daily ones). That way, I give the experts the best chance of fixing me. Great blog by the way! Thanks for posting. J x

  3. Emily

    Hi Jackie,

    I’m loving reading your blog but feeling guilty for reading updates here and not having spoken to you for a couple of weeks. Will speak soon to discuss out dinner plans as the strike next week may cause us problems!

    Glad you are still smiling through it all – you are an amazing lady (I always knew that though!)


    1. Thanks Emily, lovely to hear from you. Yep, may need a back-up plan if the tube is still a bit broken.
      Look forward to catching up, before the hospital gets their hands on me :-).
      Much love, Jackie xx

  4. Carole Johnson

    Thinking of you Jackie and sending you lots of love. I saw your mum and she, like me, is so proud of you for your positive attitude. Thank goodness you have lovely friends around you. Keep playing good Music!!!

    1. Lovely to hear from you. I hope life is treating you really well. I feel truly blessed at the moment (in every way other than the obvious) and I hope that this period will help me reignite old friendships and get a bit of much-needed life perspective. Music is a great thought and has been a fun companion on the tube these last few days already. Take care, love Jackie xx

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