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Decisions, decisions

3 December 2015

Helping a patient decide whether to have a reconstruction following a mastectomy can be incredibly challenging, for a variety of reasons. There are things that the patient can control, and those she can't. As a breast surgeon, making a decision for myself was a particular challenge.
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Twas the night before surgery

9 December 2015

So chemo is over, and I've had a month to get ready for my surgery. It's a very strange place to be - wondering whether I've made the right decision about what operation to have, and still not believing that chemo is finally over. The side effects were slowly wearing off, and my taste was getting back to normal. Sadly, tea tasted awful, and I really missed the routine and ritual of making tea, and Dermot bringing me a cup of tea in the morning.
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Mastectomy time

10 December 2015

The time had come. After months of indecision about what type of mastectomy I wanted, it was time to go to hospital. The alarm went off at the crack of dawn and Dermot and I nervously got up and got dressed. We were both ready for the bike leg of my breast cancer triathlon.
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Waiting for the results

23 December 2015

It was now time to find out exactly what my patients go through after I've operated on them. I must admit to being a huge mixed bag of emotions. I had survived the anaesthetic, and the cancer was out, and all I had to do was get through the radiotherapy. But would it really be that simple? The after-effects of chemo had all but gone, apart from my poor nails, and the residual altered taste, which was slowly improving.
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Run and Done?

24 December 2015

Dermot and I were called in, and we sat down, nervous and excited, ready to hear the good news. And we did. We heard that the chemo had melted away the ductal cancer in my breast. If you remember, way back at the beginning, my initial biopsy showed both ductal and lobular cancers, which come from the breast milk ducts and lobules respectively. Great!

And then things suddenly got a whole lot worse.
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Here we go again

6 January 2015

So, where were we? Oh yes, I remember. It was 23rd December. I'd just told my family and friends that despite 5 months' of chemotherapy, the residual cancer in my breast was twice the size of that seen on the MRI, and it had spread to my lymph nodes. Happy Christmas.
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Recovering again

11 January 2015

I woke up from my second operation back on the ward, in the same side room as my last op, feeling a bit sore and a bit dopey, just like last time. My surgeon had put a drain in my armpit because I produced quite a lot of fluid (serum) after my mastectomy, and I had to keep remembering to take it with me when I went to the toilet.
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Knowledge is power...or is it?

7 February 2016

Throughout the majority of my treatment, I've not asked many questions about the choices I've been offered. NHS breast cancer treatment is fairly standardised, regardless of where you live or who you see, and every patient is discussed at an MDT to ensure that nothing is missed out when discussing treatment options. I'd heard about a trial, Create-X, whose preliminary results had just been published at a major international conference in December of last year, showing some benefit from further chemotherapy for patients, a bit like me, who hadn't responded to their first chemotherapy.
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How long have I got?

5 March 2016

Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn't really think about my own mortality. I dealt with the mortality of others on an almost daily basis at work, and it takes a lot of tact and patience to talk about this with patients. With a lot of my patients, "How long have I got?" is the first thing they ask me when I tell them they have breast cancer.
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