And so it was that almost three years to the day of my original surgery, I found myself going under the knife again. This time it was to remove a cyst that emerged after my original operation in June 2012 and recently got infected. So, no biggie. However, as with anything in the world of boobs, hospitals and health, it was not without its fair share of drama.
It started a couple of months ago when I noticed that the cyst in my armpit, which had always been about the size of a sesame seed, had suddenly grown to marble size. It was also red, sore and painful, so naturally I thought “oh God, the cancer is back”. At the same time, I had been feeling exhausted and weepy, but had put this down to jet lag after returning from a trip to Asia, and certainly hadn’t related it to the lump.
My GP didn’t relate the two either. In fact, he put the tiredness down to a urinary tract infection and then took one look at the glowing lump in my armpit and gasped “gosh! Well you’re going to have to take that out! If anything, for aesthetic reasons. I mean, if this is what it’s like after three years, imagine after five!” Fortunately though, despite his barely concealed horror, he was fairly sure it didn’t look like cancer.
I managed to get an emergency appointment at my hospital a few days later, at which point the cyst had grown so red and sore and my exhaustion so pronounced that I realised it must be an infection. Even cancer doesn’t grow that fast, I reasoned.
Sure enough, the doctor agreed, and gave me two options: 1) we give you antibiotics, drain the cyst now and then wait a month or so until it’s gone down before removing it or 2) we put you into emergency surgery to remove the cyst now while it’s still infected, but be warned, the results will be “pretty ghastly”. Er, I’ll take option 1, thank you very much doc.
So they drained the cyst and I went around for a week or so with a large dressing under my arm, braless with unshaven armpits and no deodorant – a strong look for the start of summer. The cyst duly shrunk to its original size, the GP gave me a vitamin D prescription and I was my usual self just in time for my holiday.
When I was having chemo in the middle of summer three years ago and painfully watching all my friends’ holiday snaps appear in my Facebook feed, I used to write lists of all the places I would go to when I was better. Colombia was on that list and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I ate my weight in fresh fish and crispy fried patacón (see below), drank my way through the national coffee supply and partied like 2012 never happened.
Fast forward to last Wednesday and I’m all set for my operation with the lovely surgeon who did my original op three years ago. However, just as I’m about to leave the house, I get a call from Stepping Hill hospital (if the name sounds familiar, it’s because you read about it in the recent poisoning scandal), telling me the surgeon has cancelled due to unexplained ‘personal circumstances’.
After much waiting, umming and ahhing, I eventually agree to have the surgery the following day with a different but similarly qualified surgeon, since I’ve already made the trip up north, planned the days off work and prepared myself emotionally.
The next day, I’m just about to leave for the hospital again when I get another call. This time they ask me if I can come in sooner. You may notice that I am having a bad hair day in the picture at the top of this screen. This is, firstly, because I washed and dried it the day before, in preparation for my weeks-in-the-planning operation with surgeon No.1, and secondly because on day two I rushed out of the house without brushing it when the hospital asked if I could come in earlier than planned.
It turns out I was lucky to get my operation at all, because the entire Stepping Hill computer system had gone down, and the hospital was in complete chaos, with surgeries being cancelled left, right and centre.
“Everything’s broken, nothing’s working, it’s an absolute nightmare” were the last words the nurse said to me before she took me in. Not exactly what you want to hear before you’re wheeled into the operating theatre.
Anyway, all went well and I was taken to a recovery ward and given a couple of slices of buttery toast with sugary tea. (One of the tiny joys in life is having a sugary tea after a hospital procedure – see photo below of me and Linders enjoying proper teapot tea in my luxurious private hospital after the 2012 op)
Unfortunately, just as I took a bite into my buttery toast, the poor woman across the ward looked over at me with puppy dog eyes and started to make conversation. It turns out she had been nil-by-mouth since 6:45am, waiting for a general anaesthetic that kept getting put back due to the technical outage. And all around her were post-op people drooling over their buttered toast…
Anyway, the operation went smoothly and I have to go back for my results in two weeks, just in time for the three-year anniversary of the Big Scary ‘C’ Word. Life has thrown up rather a lot of other great material for me to write about lately, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for that. In the mean time, the major news is that my hair is finally long enough to go into a pony tail. Give it another year and I might be back to pre-cancer hair length.