Hi, my name is Janet and I am age 55 years old. I am writing this after reading and being inspired by Caroline Edmonds' and Kate Giles' blogs. I have been full time nursing since the age of 16 and have just taken early retirement and returned to work 3 days a week. I was obviously looking forward to this and spending time for myself for once and also more time with my 1 year old grandson.
However, 3 weeks after going part time I received an appointment for my routine mammogram. This was a particular scarey time for me as my close cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer just over 3 years ago and sadly we were waiting for her to die as her condition deteriorated. Sadly she has now passed away on the 11th July.
I attended for my mammogram on the 12th May and after 4 weeks I had presumed all must have been clear. Unfortunately I received a letter stating I needed to attend for further investigations as significant changes had been noted since my previous mammogram 3 years ago. Obviously by this time I had convinced myself I had breast cancer and in my mind was considering how I would cope. Would I be like my cousin, who had really given up from the first day she was diagnosed, or would I fight it?
My good friend accompanied me to the hospital on the 12th June and I was astonished when the Consultant Radiologist stated he did not think it was breast cancer, but obviously could not rule this out at the time. He then proceeded to ask me if I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, TB or been in contact with any exotic diseases. He also mentioned Lymphoma 3 times during the conversation. By this time I was totally confused and being a nurse asked many questions.
Waiting for test results
There were obvious "lumps" present in both axillas, showing on the mammogram. I was unable to feel them and until that moment of now feeling "physically sick", I had felt so well. A biopsy was taken from one of the deep lumps and I was informed the results would take 2 weeks. he then informed me that the sample may need to go to Newcastle for further testing and could take another 6 weeks!!! Well I came out of that room totally emotionless is the only way I can describe how I felt. I had gone in thinking I had breast cancer aqnd came out more confused than ever!!!
It was really difficult to try and explain to my friend and we could hardly speak all the way home.
The following 2 weeks were torture!!! I was and still am constantly feeling for lumps and looking for signs of night sweats, etc. This is ironic really, as the weather has been so hot recently that I am sure everyone feels hot!
I have so many friends and a really supportive family and I decided to inform them from the start. This has been extremely difficult as I look and feel so well physically, yet mentally I am a mess!!! The support I have received has been so overwhelming from everyone and I feel so sorry for anyone who has to possibly cope alone.
The longest 2 weeks of my life finally passed and as I had no results I contacted the hospital to make enquiries. I was informed that the Consultant needed to speak to me and I then knew it was not going to be good news, but still thought at this point it was breast cancer. That afternoon I waited for my mobile to ring but no such luck. I had 2 missed messages on my landline from my GP and I knew by her tone of voice it was not good. I saw her the next day andtook my best friend for support. I knew it was no good taking my husband as he would be so upset.
My diagnosis with lymphoma
I was right, my GP confirmed it was not good news. Still I thought breast cancer, so when she told me Lymphoma I was so shocked and thought I was hearing things! My friend and I both cried and I felt so angry, again asking myself all the usual questions. You sort of go through a bereavement stage, feeling all the emotions at once. My GP was also shocked as she had not really expected this either. She faxed the request for an appointment to be seen ASAP by the Consultant Haematologist at our local hospital.
Being a nurse I felt so impatient and decided to contact his secretary the next day to ty and speed up the appointment. I was informed this would be a week later but I was not happy, as when it happens to yourself all you want is everything done now!!! After more or less demanding an appointment that day as I knew he had a clinic, I managed to see him later that afternoon. I took my son with me as I knew he would keep me calm and remain sensible!
The Consultant was lovely, as was his nursing sister and I asked many questions as well as searching on the internet prior to my appointment to check out his "Qualifications". After all, my life is going to be in his hands so I needed to know I had faith in him. He was trying his best to comfort and reassure me, but it was'nt really working. I have nursed cancer patients too many times in my career and surely this could not be happening to me!!!
I had my bone marrow biopsy and bloods the following day and CT scan 2 days after that. After a further week waiting for the results (What a nightmare that was!!!) I saw the Consultant on the 10th july, again taking my son (God love him!). I remember thinking this can't be right, I should be always there for my child and not him having to support me in times like this. By this point I had chosen my funeral songs and everything, as you do when all strange thoughts are going through your head!!!
God, by now I was even more confused and totally a mess! What on earth was I "Watching and waiting" for? Of course I was not desperate to have chemotherapy, but I felt as though I now had "this thing" inside me eating me away and nobody was doing anything about it so it would only get worse surely!!! No matter how much they reassured me, even my son tried, I told them although I felt well and yes I know it was found "by chance", how was I expected to deal with this mentally when I know it's there!!! I knew then that this was going to be a long emotional rollercoaster and battle.
Understanding my lymphoma
Being told you have cancer that is not curable, but is hopefully kept under control is certainly one of the most testing and scariest things that has happened to me so far. It also does not help when people say "Well if you have to get cancer, this is one of the better one's to get!" Well guess what, to those people let me say "You have it then!!!"
Since being diagnosed I have remained on sick leave as I can't concentrate on work. At times I feel guilty as people tell me I look so well, but believe me over the last 39 years I can count on one hand how mwny times I have been on the sick and so don't do this lightly! I can't understand what's happening myself, therefore I do not expect my family and friends to understand either. I have thought about antidpressants, however, I do not really want to pump any medication into my body at present which I feel may "poison" my system even further.
Silly, I am sure, but I am takink some health potions to hopefully boost my immune system. These, along with various books such as "What to eat if you have cancer", were recommende by a close friend who is currently in remission from breast cancer. I just feel I need to be doing something.
What really bugs me is when I decided to book a Spa day and a holiday and guess what, I have been told I can't have the Spa treatment and my holiday insurance will be high. I am learning fast that once you have mentioned the big "C" word everything around you changes! It would be lovely to meet someone going through a similar situation as my own to give me any tips on how to cope!!! I know we are all different and will all cope in our own ways, but every little helps i am sure. Sorry for anyone that reads this as I have gabbled on I know, but i feel better already just putting it all down in words.