You might have seen on social media that I spent Valentine’s Day in hospital, having surgery.
How on earth did I end up in this position?!
Out of all my potential health concerns as I’m growing older, breast cancer was never one of them. There is no history of breast cancer in my family, so when I went for a routine mammogram in late November I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it.
Except … then I got a phone call in early December, asking me to come in for a follow up appointment.
At the time I was sick with Covid and really didn’t pay much attention; in fact I was so unwell that I had to postpone my initial appointment, and then the new date as well.
In the end I was re-booked for 11th January as everything pretty much closes down over Christmas; thankfully I was able to put it pretty much out of my mind in the meantime.
I’d been warned that my follow up appointment at the BreastScreen Qld clinic could last up to 6 hours or more, and to bring a good book … and they were right!
I fronted up at 8.30am along with numerous other women, and throughout the course of the morning I underwent a series of tests – a physical exam and chat with a doctor, an ultrasound and more mammograms. With each test, more women were given the all clear and sent home, however I was still waiting around at lunch time. Hmmm, maybe this wasn’t a good sign?!
Just before lunch I was told that they wanted to do a needle biopsy at 2pm. So off I went to have some lunch and report the latest to the husbear.
Biopsy over, I was finally free and arrived home about 5pm, feeling quite shattered after a long and eventful day!
I’d been told that they would ring me the following Wednesday with the results, so when they rang me on the Tuesday and said that the doctor wanted to see me the next morning, I knew it wasn’t going to be great news …
As bad news went, it was best case scenario really. The husbear and I learned that I had something called “lobular carcinoma in situ” or LCIS. Don’t be fooled by the “carcinoma” in the name – it’s NOT breast cancer. However it *could* potentially develop into breast cancer in the future.
There was also some concern that the needle biopsy hadn’t precisely targetted the right cells, and so I was referred to a breast surgeon for an open biopsy.
The next few days were a whirlwind of appointments with my GP and breast surgeon, and filling in a mountain of paperwork. We’d only taken out private health insurance last April, so in addition to the hospital admission forms etc, I had to get documentation from my doctor and specialist to prove that it wasn’t a pre-existing condition.
Organising all the paperwork and waiting for approval from the health fund slowed things down a bit – but before I knew it I was all booked in for day surgery at the local private hospital on Valentine’s Day.
By this stage I was getting a bit anxious. In a way I was lucky – if it *did* turn out to be breast cancer I knew they’d caught it very, very early. However I was also remembering the terrible time I’d had with my last surgery 10 years ago, a hysterectomy – one I very nearly didn’t wake up from. So you can understand why I was quite nervous in the lead up!
I was surprised to be told that I could eat up until 6.30 that morning – because surgery wasn’t until 2pm. That was good news, I got up at 5.30 for my usual coffee and cereal 🙂 .
I did wonder why on earth I had to arrive at the hospital so early, but was told that the time was necessary as I would need more mammograms, and have a consultation with the breast care nurse, etc.
Can I just say – this was my first time as a private patient, and it was a pleasant surprise. Going public had never really bothered me when I was younger; but I must admit that now I’ve in my fifties I was grateful to have those extra creature comforts.
Valentine’s Day: I was admitted at 7am and ushered straight away into my own room with ensuite bathroom! My breast care nurse arrived not longer after and took me through everything and answered any questions I’d had; then at 8.45am I was whisked off to Xray for more mammograms. This time I was given a local anaesthetic so a hookwire could be inserted, to show the surgeon the area of tissue that needed to be removed.
Then it was back to my room, where I curled up in the bed and had a lovely nap. When I woke my tummy was starting to rumble a little, but next thing the orderly and breast care nurse arrived to take me down to the operating theatre.
With my head I knew I had nothing to worry about (regarding the anaesthetic); at least this time they knew I’d had a previous problem and would watch me like a hawk. But with my heart, I still felt fearful. A couple of tears leaked from my eyes as I was wheeled away …
Can I just say all the staff were wonderful and really understanding and I was assured that they would look after me.
Once in theatre, I was moved across to the operating table and an oxygen mask placed over my nose and mouth. After a couple of minutes the anaesthetic was administered through the cannula and I felt it moving up my arm before drifting off …
I woke up gently this time, no tubes in my mouth and I wasn’t sick! Yay!
Back in my room I snoozed for a couple of hours before dinner was served and I had a bit of a nibble. The nursing staff were very happy with my progress and said I could be discharged that night!
Then the husbear arrived with a big smile, and a bouquet of red roses; what a sight for sore eyes. (We don’t normally do much for Valentine’s Day but I think he knew he’d better pull out the stops this time around, LOL.)
That night I was back home and grateful to be back in my own bed.
Day 1 Post Op: I felt great! Is there such a thing as a post-anaesthetic high?! The pain was minimal and easily managed with paracetamol and ice packs, and I was just SOOOOO happy to be home with hubby, and to have it all over and done with!
Day 2 Post Op: After feeling so good the previous day, I was a bit surprised to feel not just tired but also quite low. Although my wound wasn’t hurting, I did have a bad case of text neck because I spent most of yesterday playing on my phone! Whoops. And, my mind kept turning to the results …
Day 3 Post Op: The husbear had to go into work, so it was my first day solo. I actually felt quite shaky, so decided against driving to my specialist appointment at 1.45pm and booked an Uber instead.
As luck would have it, the pathology results hadn’t yet come in when I saw the surgeon. I was reassured to learn the wound was healing well, but still didn’t know if I had breast cancer, or if I would need further treatment. So I sat in the hospital cafe with a coffee and read the paper until the results finally came through and I was called back to the surgeon’s rooms.
The Results are Finally In!
At long last, some good news! They were satisfied they’d removed all the suspect tissue with plenty of margin. However, because it was identified as “florid LCIS” it does mean an increased risk of breast cancer – that means annual mammograms for me from now on.
Managed a load of washing, and even made lasagne for dinner, but that was about all I accomplished that day.
Day 4 Post Op: Saturday, so at least the husbear was home. I mostly rested but in the afternoon we made a quick visit to the op shop – I just felt like I had to get out of the house to start feeling semi-normal again, even though I was still really exhausted. It definitely helped, especially when I picked up a couple of books and a new jigsaw puzzle 🙂 , and we grabbed a mocha fusion on the way home.
Day 5 Post Op: Almost back to normal! Still taking it a bit easy – had a nanna nap after lunch – but think I’ll be right to return to work in the morning. Luckily I work from home so if I do feel unwell I can always have a bit of a rest.
Mentally and emotionally however, I must confess to not being quite back to my usual bubbly self.
I guess that’s partly the after effects of the general anaesthetic, plus my body has been working hard at a cellular level to repair and heal from the trauma of surgery. It’s also partly psychological – this has pretty much consumed my life this past month or two, so I haven’t really thought beyond it.
Now I guess it’s time for me to get on with the business of living – no, make that flourishing – in 2023!
So yeah, that’s my story. It might not be that interesting, but I feel like writing it has been good therapy for me. And if I can spur just one other person into booking their next mammogram, I’m happy. Imagine if I hadn’t found out until a couple of years’ down the track …
Do you feel like you’ve learned anything from my experiences here?!