Mum – April 1987

Following the cancer in my right breast I attended the cancer clinic on a regular basis for checks. Early in 1987 I began to notice an irregularity in my left breast. At first I dismissed it because of my regular checks. During the school Easter holidays ‘lazing’ in bed one morning I made up my mind to see my GP ‘in case’.

He was reassuring and said that in view of my previous history I’d better see my surgeon from before – but he was sure it was OK.

I opted to see the surgeon privately as we would be back at school and I wanted to be able to decide ‘time and place’.

On Monday 27th April I saw the surgeon who said it was almost certainly another cancer and should be dealt with at once. I was not in a position to go ‘private’ for an operation but my surgeon was most understanding and arranged for me to enter hospital the following Monday for the operation on the Tuesday.

I did not feel guilty about this as the timing was exactly as it had been previously when I had seen the surgeon on the NHS initially.

The Monday appointment coincided with Bank Holiday and when I arrived at the hospital ward they were not expecting me! They were very pleasant and did not tell me to ‘go away’ from which I guessed the surgeon did this on a regular basis.

During the week before my entering hospital I made haste to do the third year juniors tests and took them all into hospital with me, remembering what a ‘drag’ the first 24 hours can be while waiting for the op.

A young doctor came in and did all the usual precautionary preliminaries – I told him I was boringly healthy and at the end of his questionnaire he had to agree!

Tuesday morning was very early. At 1:00am the girl they had brought from Southend seafront decided to smash the place up. The poor night staff were thoroughly bruised and battered, the girl ended the night in a single room with nothing in it except a mattress. The other ‘sick’ people on the ward were all very frightened and distressed by the incident (two dayus earlier a man had gone berserk in the day room and smashed the TV etc)

Who’d be a nurse!

At 8:00am one of my ex pupils came on duty and wished me good morning, no breakfast! Nice to see the results of one’s labours, she’s a super girl. My surgeon’s registrar, Dr Chan, came to see me – he knew nothing about me either at that time. He expained that it was a largish tumour attached to the nipple and they would have to remove that area. When I remarked that I didn’t really need it any more he said it was a pity as it wouldn’t look so pretty – which made us all laugh.

Nurse came and sent me for an X ray, chest and an ECG (apparently my pulse was all over the place – no doubt my outward calm was even fooling me!) The ward cleaner / tea lady who was quite a character, was by the lift when I wandered off with my files. “You can’t go on your own” quoth she “Well I am” said I ” You shouldn’t be sent off like thaty, you won’t be back for your op!”

Under an hour later, to everybody’s surprise, I was back on the ward – the mere sight of an unaccompanied white haired female in a dressing gown unlocked all doors in out patients!

I was then told I was first on the list that afternoon so would be ‘going down’ at 1:30. “Go and have a bath”. By 12:30 I was fitted with the undignified white flapping back opening tent and revolting unmatched, hot, elastic stockings and threatened with a short life if I got off the bed and disappeared anywhere except the ‘loo’. I got on with my marking until they appeared with the pre med.

As usual the pre med did very little for me as I am very ‘sales resistant’ on going to sleep, terrified of missing something interesting. The ride down in the lift with the cheery porters and a minute pretty staff nurse was quite entertaining – they were highly amused because I kept saying to the nurse “don’t you try to lift me – I’m deceptively heavy”.

The senior anesthetist, who I had seen earlier on the ward and who had also said “You’re not on the list”, was waiting by the theatre and after a brief chat with the surgeon came and gave me the needle that ———————–

I first remember after that being shaken and shouted at “Breathe” “Come on breathe” and thinking “why should I, it’s all very comfortable and floaty” – I looked round the recovery room and aimlessly removed the oxygen mask several times – the first time I noticed the clock was about 5:00 pm when two or three were holding a discussion about my pulse which was apparently as reluctant as my breathing – they decided to ‘give me a  shot’ and I heard someone say “That’s better” and apart from being disture=bed every few minutes for blood pressure readings I was then ‘floaty’ again until about 7:00 pm when I realised I was in my bed still in the recovery room and decided to sit up for a chat. They then took me back to the ward.

By 3:00am on Wednesday I was well awake and ambling round to the loo, having a drink with the night staff and fighting fit.

Dr Chan visited me at 10:00 am, looked at the wound – fdeclared me fit and said “Home after lunch”. Lovely!

Gill, my daughter who lives in London had come down to see me but took me home as a bonus.

Very long cut across the centre of the breast (side to side) with eight stitches well spread out making it look a bit like a grinning mouth.

Went back to school on Friday, only missed two working days – school was closed on Thursday for the local elections.

A week after the operation I attended my surgeon’s clinic at the hospital, arrived at 10:00 am – saw the surgeon for approximately 5 minutes at 12:30! He was pleased with the wound but instructed sister on;y to remove alternate stitches and leave the rest for 4 more days. Sister said she would arrange for a District Nurse to call, when I pulled a face she very kindly said – come in early on Friday morning then.

They made arrangements for me to see my Doctor at the cancer clinic the following Tuesday.  He was upset that he had not noticed it at the previous check and made immediate arrangements for me to start radiotherapy. The radiotherapists then took me over and measured where the doctor had marked the areas – then they fed various data into a computer and came up with my formula for treatment.

I was to have 10 treatments on a machine called a mobaltrone – I thought they called it cobalt – followed by 5 on a different machine. They arranged my programme so I could still do my job – all sessions to be at 4:00, school finished at 3:20. They had arranged my first session for Thursday and very guiltily I had to explain that I couldn’t possibly because I was interviewing for a new Deputy Head that afternoon – so they made it Wednesday!  It was the Bank Holiday weekend and we were to be away for a week but had to return early to fit in a Tuesday treatment.

The previous cancer had been pretty painless and the treatment did not affect me at all – this time I was not quite so lucky – it was a different doctor who gave me more radiation and covered a wider area (good precaution) The wound itself was bigger and did not heal so well and the more sensitive areas had been cut so the skin was more easily burned by the treatment. By the third session the whole breast was sore and they sent me along to see the nurse who painted the breast with Gentian Violet – it made me look like a punk but the relief was magical.

During the holiday week ‘Gary’ the Malaysian therapist, made the arrangements for me to have a bone scan. This was, to me, an unknown quantity and I must admit to a little apprehension which turned out to be quite unfounded. At 9:30 am, I had an injection which was radio active – then I went away until 1:30 pm when I was put on a metal bed and a revolving camera took images of all my bones – this took about 13 shots of 2 to 3 minutes and took roughly an hour. From this I went straight for my radiotherapy treatment to be greeted by Gary with whoops of delight as he ran his Geiger Counter all over me buzzing like mad!

Friday 5th June – 6 treatments done now, the end of the wound is still leaking and is a nuisance but apart from feeling ‘tired’ at times – all is going well.

The treatments all went smoothly, helped by the terrific staff that were always helpful and friendly. The soreness was a nuisance, not helped by the fact that I was allergic to the cream that was supposed to heal and soothe.

The wound was reluctant to heal but finally closed with what Dr T described as ‘witchcraft’ ie the use of caustic sticks.

I returned to the radiotherapy clinic in October – healed and relaxed and once more disgustingly healthy.

I shall be sixty next year and wonder if I should retire – however I still enjoy my job and think Dr T was right when he said “You’ll have more trouble with retirement than with cancer!”

These aren’t great photos, I’ll try and find some better ones for when I write the ending to this story, I’m afriad this is the end of what she wrote 😦

Mum1                               mum3

6 responses to “Mum – April 1987”

  1. found these difficult at first but then re read….. I can’t think of the words I want really xx

    Do you realise you write in the same style as your mum xxxx

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