2nd OCTOBER: The phone rang, it was my surgeon’s secretary. I was expecting a call as the tumour committee, a delightful name I know, had met the day before to discuss my case - but just not a call the following day. Invariably when you are contacted quickly it means there is urgent news and generally not positive. I was asked to come in the following morning for my results.
My surgeon cut to the chase and said she was sorry to have to tell me that the news was not good. I had grade three cancer and that my breast was proliferated with micro tumours, all malignant, which had not been detected by the mammogram. The upshot was that they were going to have to get me back in for another operation; a mastectomy. This was going to be the only way to ensure the cancer didn’t spread to other parts of my body.
Just starting to feel better again and back onto the operating table. Oh well, I thought, what can you do? I felt that my breast was unhealthy and so although I was not looking forward to another operation I knew it was necessary, and the sooner the better. I focused on my main objective, eradicate the cancer. So plan B, a deep breath, and wait for a surgery date.
I didn’t have too much time to dwell as I had an appointment the same day to take my stitches out and the staples under my arm, which were becoming decidedly uncomfortable. The staples do not hurt when they are removed at all but the stitches are a little trickier as they are just like fishing line so cutting them is difficult. Once done, I came home. I was feeling tired and jaded. Thank goodness my good friend Bertie was coming to visit me… her timing could not have been better!
As the day went on my son noticed that the scar under my arm was starting to open. It seemed fine when the staples had been taken out in the morning but it was looking pretty bad now and I suspected that if it were left it would become infected. In the end my son insisted I went to Urgencias or A&E.
It was late at night and my friend was about to arrive but I had no choice, I couldn’t risk an infection. So off I went and had it dealt with. Dosed up with antibiotics and patched up, I came home.
I felt quite weak the following day and was told to rest. Just as well Bertie was with me or I would have tried to cook, wash up, sweep and a host of other things. She strong armed me onto the sofa and did absolutely everything around the house!
She even gave my children a yoga class and a relaxation session for me, along with anti-inflammatory exercises. Bertie is not to be argued with and I love her for it.
The next day I bounced back and we managed a lunch out, which lifted my spirits no end. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of having the support of friends and loved ones. You have to get used to accepting help if you want a quick recovery.
While I waited for my operation date I couldn’t help worrying about the possibility that my left breast might also have tumours. If the mammogram hadn’t detected some of the tumours in the right breast, what guarantee did I have that the same scenario wasn’t the case for the other side?
So instead of fretting I rang the doctor’s secretary and asked if I could see my surgeon to talk to her about my concerns. She tracked her down and was back on the phone within 10 minutes with an appointment for the following day to coincide with my meeting with the anesthetist.
This is not very common in the National Health System. Normally you would have to go via your GP or Médico de Cabecera to get appointments but I had somehow managed to fast track everything, which was very fortunate because I believe every second counts.
I discussed my concerns with my surgeon and she agreed that we could not take any chances with my “unpredictable breasts”. She sent me for an MRI scan the following day, to be on the safe side. If it was bad news then I would have a double mastectomy.
It was an uncomfortable process. I had the line put in my arm through which they inject a dye to provide a contrast in order to show up any abnormalities more clearly. I had to lie face down and found it hard to breath with the most difficult thing being that I was unable to move at all.
I was still smarting from the embarrassment of having slapped the male nurse administering the scan in the face with my unruly right boob!
Anyway it was over and I went for breakfast with my lovely friend Conchi, whom I regard as my adopted aunt!
Just two days after the MRI scan, my surgeon called me at home. She spoke in Spanish:
“Hi darling, good news, the left breast is clear! So have a good weekend and I will see you on the operating table on October 22.”
Great news! Now I had to prepare for the operation the following week.
The article you wrote about your hospital procedure sounded almost like a happy holiday spa you went to... where all the staff were absolute caring professionals from the nurses to the surgeons. In fact you did compare it with hospitals in films. Certainly a lot more attractive than I have heard from the Murcian area of Spain. For whatever reason... you failed to mention the hospital you spoke of so fluently and I must admit to being curious... possibly because I am contemplating taking out Residencia. I would like you please to answer just one question... was your procedure with the Spanish National Health or did you go PRIVATE?
Eva Taylor (Mrs)
Many thanks for your email. In response to your question my treatment is with the Spanish National Health System. I am a resident and self-employed and therefore am entitled to use the public health system. To be able to use the system, naturally you need to pay taxes. British nationals who draw a pension are also entitled to use the system.
The hospital where I had my operations and screening is called Hospital Comarcal de la Axarquía in Vélez-Málaga.
When I start chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment I will be moved to Carlos Haya in Málaga, another very well known public hospital.
I hope that answers your questions.
What an inspiration this woman is... and so brave. Good for you, dear. Hope everything went well for you - with those wonderful people looking after you.
Ena Amengual Mallorca
Thank you so much for taking the time to put pen to paper and for your good wishes. I am a very lucky lady to have so much support. Thank you once again.