Thursday, 11 March 2021

Cancer Wars: Episode 2021 - The Oestrogen Strikes Back

After nine years of relative good health and prosperity, there has been an ominous disturbance in the life-force ...

Well, hello again. I’d rather hoped that I wouldn’t ever need to revisit this blog but it is the easiest way to keep everyone up-to-date. So apologies that this is a long post and apologies too to those hearing this news for the first time.

Firstly, let me be clear. I don’t have breast cancer again ... but my oestrogen has been trying very hard to ‘pursue other opportunities’. It has been a long and protracted journey but I’ll try to recap as succinctly as I can.

I won’t share the gore of my symptoms but late in 2017 I visited Queen Charlotte’s hospital and a large polyp was removed from my womb. It was a tense few weeks waiting for the biopsy results but thankfully it was benign. I was told that, while it could’ve happened anyway, it was most likely caused by the Tamoxifen that I had taken for five years following my diagnosis with invasive oestrogen responsive breast cancer.

Now the next bit is my stupid fault but also, I feel, partly the fault of the Royal Marsden for not having regular check-in touch points with ‘survivors’. Once your treatment ends, you do not have annual consultations to discuss progress or concerns, you are merely dispatched with a leaflet and an answerphone number.

Now, Tamoxifen does a good job of preventing breast cancer but it has other side effects. Yes, the worst of those is its potential to cause womb cancer but it affects your mood and physical responses in other ways. I was also frankly sick of taking it and being reminded every-single-bloody-day that my tit had tried to kill me. So I stopped taking it.

If I’d been having regular consultations with someone they would’ve told me that this was a stupid thing to do. However, I’d been left to my own devices. I couldn’t even tell you when I stopped. I think it was during 2019 ... I’d come back from India with what turned out to be dreadful whooping cough that lasted over six months and - combined with all that - I fell out the habit of taking it ...
 

** COMFORT BREAK: maybe get yourself a cup of tea ... there’s quite a bit more to explain. **


Roll forward to 2020, the year that we will all remember for all the wrong and terrible reasons. Locked down in our homes for months on end, days and weeks became as one and we lost all sense of time.

So when my symptoms started and for how long I’d had them before I finally contacted my GP in early December, I really couldn’t say.

[And, on the subject of contacting the GP, that deserves a separate little side rant of its own. Why - when you are forced to submit your ‘request’ via an online portal - does it only allow you to type and submit said request in core working hours? It’s not a ‘live chat’ function, it’s an email. The internet works 24 hours a day! FFS ... #shakesfist]

Anyway, fast forward a few weeks to New Years’ Eve. My symptoms by this point were horrendous. I’d been to my Mum’s for Christmas (support bubble, before I am judged!) and I’d been very unwell. I came back to London and found myself awaiting an internal scan at Ealing Hospital (ugh).

Previous readers of this blog will know that I am not a fan of Ealing Hospital. It’s where I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The staff seem very nice but it’s a depressing, under-resourced shithole and my visit on NYE offered nothing to reverse this opinion.

Upshot is they found another enormous lump in my womb. A whopper. I was urgently referred at frightening speed back to Queen Charlotte’s rapid diagnostic unit for more scans and in the space of just a week found myself undergoing surgery (8 Jan).

Well not quite ... they did try to remove it but I was bleeding so heavily internally (sorry, TMI?) that they couldn’t complete the procedure or all the biopsies.

So the saga continued for several more weeks. I FINALLY had the lump removed on 3 February and then I had the tense wait for biopsy results.
  • The prognosis: complex atypical endometrial hyperplasia. The cells were not yet cancerous (thank god) but were definitely ‘on the turn’. In fact, my surgeon told me after the fact that the lump was so abnormal that he ‘definitely thought’ it was malignant, so was very pleased it wasn’t ... Me too, mate. Me too. :-/

Wow. Bet you weren’t expecting that, eh? I certainly wasn’t. :-(

What next?  

So, 2021 has clearly not been great for me. I’m now preparing for another major operation and trying to get my head around the wider implications of that surgery as well as the management of my hormone levels and the risk of potential breast cancer.

Oestrogen is clearly not my friend. In fact, she’s a spiteful little bitch. She’s already decimated one of my tits and clearly been wreaking havoc in my lady parts ... she needs to f*ck off.

So I’ll leave it there for now. I will post again about my operation which, having expedited it with my work health insurance, is scheduled for 23 March.

Finally, I know I appear to make light of these things (with ‘pragmatic resilience’ as one of my friends kindly observed) but these have been, and obviously continue to be, challenging and deeply upsetting times - especially when I can’t even get a hug!

So thank you to all of my lovely friends who continue to be so supportive: sending flowers, leaving cake on my doorstep and just listening to my concerns. While I still have some way to travel, I know I never take that journey alone.

Watch this space!

Kate xx

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