PUBLISHED ON: 20 June 2019

Gwen kept a diary during her first few months after her diagnosis. She shares how she dealt with the whirlwind of appointments and information.

Gwen in new Jersey

7 March

So, breast cancer doesn’t just happen to other people.

When I got back from a trip with my friends there was a letter waiting for me. It was the only letter on the mat, just begging me to open it.

It was not a thin letter. That’s always a bad sign. I had been called back to a breast clinic.

How do I feel about all this? Calm, mostly. It’s only later that other feelings begin to surface. When I was in the shower, I thought maybe I should have a little feel to see if I could find a lump.

That is when it all got a lot more real. What if there is a lump? What if I do have breast cancer? Is my breast a funny shape? Does that bit feel harder? Honestly, I could have convinced myself of anything at that moment.

It’s strange what this situation can do to your mind. And your body.  If I’m a bit tired, is it breast cancer? Or is it just that my cat wakes me up four times a night and my husband snores, and, and, and... It could drive you crazy.

14 March

It’s been a strange week. I have been bouncing between thinking I should adopt a totally healthy lifestyle – fresh food, no booze, daily runs, the whole deal. But then I think, you might have cancer, so enjoy yourself while you can.

When we arrived at breast clinic, I was taken to have a chat with one of the nurses. She went through how the day would work.

I returned to the coldest waiting room I’ve ever been in before having a mammogram. Then back to the waiting room to wait to see the doctor. I had my book and was trying to read, but quite honestly, I have no idea what I was reading.

Later, a doctor came to collect me to talk through what they had found. I then had an ultrasound on both of my breasts and a core biopsy.

After my biopsy, I had to stay there while one of the nurses pressed down firmly on my breast to stop it bleeding. It felt very surreal.

22 March

On the 19 March we went to see the doctor who did the biopsy last week. As soon as I walked in and saw her face, I knew it was bad news. She told me that I had breast cancer.

She then gave me a box of tissues. Strangely I didn’t want to cry at all. I just got hot and thought I might faint.

She then started to tell me all the details, none of which I took in the first time. Officially, my cancer is a grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma.

The next thing is to see a surgeon with a view to having it taken out. It should just be a lumpectomy as it’s small.

27 March

We went to the Royal Marsden last Wednesday to meet my surgeon. He explained the procedure and that I would be having a node biopsy. If this is clear, then chemotherapy might not be on the cards.

I also met my breast care nurse, who went through a bit more of the nitty gritty and asked some personal questions to get a feel of who I am. I think we will be seeing a lot of each other over the next few months.

Yesterday, I went to the pre-op assessment. It all took about an hour and was fine. The only thing is that I now feel like a patient. I think it also struck me for the first time today that this is my life now – it’s not a quick fix. I will live with my diagnosis once this is all over.

I’ll be glad to get the surgery over with. I can only keep everything crossed and hope..

4 April

Today was my meeting with the surgeon after the operation. The good news is that the lump came out well and there was no evidence of cancer in the lymph nodes.

However, the pathology report shows that the lump was a grade 3 rather than grade 2. I started to feel faint again when I was told this.

The surgeon suggested having the Oncotype DX test done to confirm if I need chemotherapy. It takes two weeks for the results, and in the meantime, he’ll start planning my radiotherapy.

On leaving, my husband and I went for lunch. I got the closest I've been to having a cry when we sat down. I was expecting a clear answer – good or bad – and what I got was good with some bad. It’s quite hard to get my head round it.

17 April

It’s been quiet recently. I think I haven’t really had time to think about the diagnosis in any depth, as so much has happened in such a short space of time.

When I do, it’s mostly to worry about the next stage. It’s hard to make plans too, because I just don’t know what is going to happen next.

In some ways I feel like I’m getting used to the whole thing. I feel OK, just a bit swollen and bruised, and I can do most of what I was doing before. The flowers have stopped coming now and it sort of feels like normal life is resuming.

25 April

I met with my doctor yesterday. Annoyingly, the first thing she said was that the result of the Oncotype DX test hadn’t come back.

It was quite hard to take. So far everything has been positive – the cancer is small, we caught it early – but now it feels like my cancer is out to get me.

We decided that the best thing to do was to carry on and get measured up for radiotherapy. It was a strange experience. They position you on the plinth, arms above head, breasts out, and then they write on you in black ink before leaving and letting the CT scanner do its work. Very strange!

Then it was over. I was exhausted. I told my husband I felt like the woman with cancer again today, rather than feeling like myself. All I can do now is wait.


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