It is a glorious sunny day as we (Mark and I) head to the city for an appointment to inject radioactive material into my left boob. A nice doctor gets what looks like one of Ben’s pen knives and does four quick injections… uncomfortable rather than painful. We have a few hours before I need to be at the hospital so we go for a lovely walk around the bottom of Lake Zurich (or maybe it’s the top?)…
And I know that something is up, because Mark doesn’t balk at the ridiculously expensive coffees we enjoy to kill time.
I made the mistake of asking a few questions of Mr Google the night before, so now realise that a lumpectomy may be more of a deal than I thought… A bit annoyed that my ten-day summer break becomes sick leave*, but also relieved to be cracking on with this.
*Actually, I don’t end up needing any sick leave, but it also isn’t a ‘holiday’ as such!
I get settled in and then am wheeled off to theatre for the third time in less than a year. Big X to mark the left boob and I feel ready to get this thing out of me.
I wake up in recovery and feel ok. A bit sore, but ok. I really didn’t need to stay in for 2 nights, but for once, I do as I’m told. Am again impressed at the wonderful medical and support staff and enjoy a beautiful terrace to get some steps in and a good book. When I am discharged, I am pleasantly surprised that Dr Behrens tells me I can even swim because of the waterproof dressing and I am officially on holiday not on sick leave.
I sport a fetching 80s style bandage boobtube and am relieved that I didn’t need a drain. I go home on the Sunday happy that the cancer should be out and just have to wait for the histology results.
Still, I am feeling well, could even swim and had a week’s holiday to look forward to. I knew that the all-important histology results would come by Tuesday or Wednesday… but I was able to put them out of my mind for a while.
On Sunday it was heavenly to go into the lake (Mark and the children said I shouldn’t, but the Doctor’s ok trumped their view) it is a form of therapy to float in the lake and look at the blue sky and the mountains… and we had a quiet day. On Monday, Mark and I headed to Davos and ended up walking 14 kilometers. I felt good and it was great to be distracted.
I only realized how nervous I was about the results when I woke up at 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep (I could put sleeping as a skill on my CV, could even win medals for it). So far, I have just been positive. There is no other choice in my mind. Yes, I bloody wish this hadn’t happened, but it has, so I aim to deal with it in the best possible way. But lying there that morning, my mind was whirring with how I’d deal with the news that it had spread. Somehow, bad enough it is aggressive triple negative, but the idea that I needed to fight even harder and to manage the worry of loved ones…
Dr Behrens called early with the fantastic news that the cancer hadn’t spread into the margin of the tumour, or into the blood or into the lymph nodes. We were all so relieved. It was as good a piece of news that I could get. It is so odd that two weeks earlier you just can’t imagine that this counts as good news. It was great to be able to tell my good friends, to send a WhatsApp to my team and of course my family.
Now for making plans. I found a local, English speaking cancer support group and some ladies have shared useful information. I made an appointment for a wig fitting, downloaded a hideous app to see what I look like with short hair… er just no! And have started working out how to manage things during treatment. In between, I’ve enjoyed time off reading, swimming in the lake with my daughter, eating great food and drinking. At this stage my view is the horse has bolted… I am on holiday and there is time for a major health drive next week.
A whirlwind day
Friday is the day to get stitches out and learn more about the next steps. As well as taking the stitches out, my gynaecologist does a smear test and an ultrasound check of my uterus and ovaries. Normally, a girl has a chance to mentally prepare… and normally, your husband isn’t in the room! Still, happy to be checked in any way. Next stop pre-op appointment for the small surgery for the IV port; and appointment with Dr Trojan (fabulous name), my oncologist; and a PET CT scan next Tuesday… no flies on the Swiss medical profession! Between the three medical appointments, we pop into our bank to sign the promise of payment as we’re in the process of buying a house (moving at the end of October)!
The world of chemo
Oncologist… that word. Despite the ‘Run for life’ I have done a few times for breast cancer, speaking with some incredible people in my team who have been through this and voraciously consuming brilliantly written blogs of inspirational friends (who hate being called such), it is the first time ‘oncology’ really means something. Having done too much reading I have read about ‘natural remedies, radical remissions, chemo refusal, and and and’… But walking in the Onkologyzentrum feels like being let into an important club that no one chooses to join.
So, my all-important oncologist, Dr Trojan – he hears us speaking English in the reception area and waves over with a smile. A really encouraging start. Should I tell him he looks way friendlier in the flesh than his photo on their website? I learn that chemo will start with 4 sessions every 2 weeks (so 6 weeks in total) and then 9-12 weekly sessions after that. Due to the triple negative shizzle, they recommend genomic counselling and testing as what they discover could impact on my second round of chemo.
The Dr gets me to give blood and I sign the form saying I want to know about the genetic tests. But frankly I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW… well I do, but I only want to know if it shows me something positive… This means it might not just be about me, but this is something to be parked for now.
Best part of the day
We woke up thinking we had a medical and a bank appointment. Three appointments and a diary blocked with ‘Chemo’ from now until October 7, I want to do something lovely. I head into the city to meet Libby and we have a lovely few hours. Hitting the sales, chatting and then laughing over sushi. These are the moments to cherish. Libby even allows me to take a selfie.
That day is the first day it hits me. I have cancer. In less than two weeks, I will start chemo. I won’t be in control. I won’t be able to plan my month and ensure I am on top of everything at work. I just need to get prepared to weather the chemo storm. I think I need to take some time, go for a walk or a swim on my own and maybe cry a little… I am scared.
I realize that I will need to take time to deal with this properly. Yes, I am strong, positive, resilient etc etc etc… But I want to find a way to be able to express the negative thoughts and to get them out, out, out.
My body, the temple
I decide that while I have had the ‘horse has bolted’ mindset about alcohol and diet while on my non-holiday holiday, it’s time to give up alcohol and start a health kick. Anyway, it’s something I normally do at this time of year to make good on the weeks of rosé, champagne and holiday excess. Plus, it’s something to control. A mission… so I enjoy my last few glasses of fizz. And dream of mung beans, tofu and peppermint and licorice Pukka teas. Cue reading a gazillion articles on healthy living, meditation and the evils of sugar.