Saturday, October 29, 2011
Think Pink: Bev Clarke
My mother had cancer, and she died in 1946 after an operation. I am lucky my Dr. kept a good watch over me. I'm also lucky that I got cancer at a good time in my life and times. My Dr. said at it might not be very agressive at my age. I get a mammography every year and still do.
In June 2007, the mammography showed there was a mass. I'm not sure why I didn't panic, I just became resigned I guess. In July I made an appointment for a needle biopsy. My daughter drove me up to that. The technician said she could see cancerous nodes with ultra sound. After the radiologist did the needle biopsy she went over my breast with the ultrasound. She seemed sure there was no cancerous nodes so I chose to have a lumpectomy instead of a full Mastectomy.
When I saw the surgeon after the operation he said, "There is good news and bad news." There was a margin around my lump that means he couldn't find cancer in the rest of my breast. But, they took out 8 lymph nodes and found 2 cancerous. After that I went through a battery of tests and exrays for about a month.
The upshot of this told them I didn't have any cancer in my body. (Good!) I then went to the oncologists who would look after me. I have two - a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist.
The medical oncologist gave me percentages. I took the percentage that had the highest forecast - 22% in ten years or hopefully not at all. The apparently couldn't be sure if the nodes had something there they couldn't see.
I started Chemo. It went on for 6 sessions, a session every 3 weeks. In my first session I developed fever and I had to get myself to the ER. It was discovered that the white blood cells in my body had gone down. That required a week in hospital and a nurse to come to my house 24 hours after each session to give my a shot. I also (through my own stupidity) didn't drink the right types of liquid and ended up with a problem there. During the first 3 sessions I was really very ill.
I could work quite easily around the house. My big problem at the time was my husband, Des. He knew what was happening but because of his own illness I couldn't look after him properly. His judgement was off and it was necesssary to have him go to nursing home.
During the first three sessions they removed all the medicine that I was taking. The seniors took me to the sessions, because they weren't sure how each patient took the Chemo. Whle I was away those three sessions my friend Marilyn would look after Des for me. During the last three sessions they changed medicine. This medicine took my taste away Everything that I ate tasted like dry stale bread. They also put cold mitts on my hands to help my nails. Although that didn't help much my nails are in very bad condition.
My friend Marilyn would come over occasionally and take me out to lunch. I couldn't eat a lot and she knew it but she would do it any way. I have had good friends. She is one of the best. I went down to 140 pounds then although you wouldn't know that now. I have to say I also lost all my hair during the first week. I lost every bit on my body except a small piece on my eyebrows.
After the treatments are finished you go ring the bell. I did it but I tried to get out. Some have people there to take your picture.
After the chemo I started into my radiation treatments. That was everyday except weekends. My radiation oncologist said "we are going in after those lymph nodes." The radiation isn't very bad. I was only on the table for a few minutes at a time and they pointed the rays where they needed them. I now have 5 tattoo dots on my breast area but I can only see one. How anyone would want to get a tatoo is beyond me. It hurts! I still see my Drs about every six months and I take tamoxifen once a day for five years. I'm 4 years clear and I cross my fingers when I say that.
When you have a disease like this your friends are your help. Des died 3 weeks after I finished everything. Marilyn, my seniorsgroup and my friends at the Canadian Legion got me through a year - and still do.