October 27: BACK at home after my mastectomy and I was feeling surprisingly well. I think that my overall physical and mental state had a lot to do with being organised and well prepared for the hospital visit.
You need to free your mind of all worries if possible and allow yourself to relax and you will find you go through surgery and recover very well. Just knowing that my dear friend Emma was at home looking after my children was a huge comfort to me. She had flown over from England and cooked and cleaned and nurtured!
She came to visit me every day in the hospital and even tried to rescue a stray puppy outside the hospital one day!
Special thanks to her for all her love and the great chemo cookery book! It was time to get serious on the food front and start cooking meals to boost my immune system in preparation for chemotherapy.
The next few weeks were spent pottering about looking after myself and my stitches. People were most impressed by my mastectomy bra and ‘chicken fillet.’ “You look normal Erica. Normal is exactly how I felt! In reality I wasn’t upset about losing my breast and at times entirely forget that I only had one!
It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to changes. Reconstruction would be a thing for the future, I had to get better first and then I could think about bikinis!
The district nurse visited me at my home to check how my stitches were doing and was pleased. It was nice of him to come to my house as I still couldn’t drive and this way I avoided the germs of the doctor’s waiting room!
They looked dry and the wound had closed very well so he removed the stitches. Each little procedure that liberates your body from the vestiges of an operation feels like a mini triumph.
Life ticked on as normal despite still not being able to drive. I would soon be behind the wheel again though. You need to give yourself 15-20 days after the operation before driving but each person is different.
I started with short journeys and made sure I put my seat belt and the hand brake on with my ‘good’ arm.
Just before I could get back behind the wheel Marta, yes yet another friend from England, arrived. It was great to see her and catch up and we did the shopping and various tasks that are more difficult single-handed.
She had gone to a lot of effort to think of the things that would help me. For example, probiotics to boost my immune system and naturally an enormous amount of chocolate!
The phone rang and my appointment with the oncologist was confirmed first with the radiologist on November 13 and then the oncologist for November 19 in Malaga.
I went to the Carlos Haya Hospital to talk to the radiologist and they explained that I would be receiving chemo first, with the idea of eradicating any traces of cancer in my system and then radiotherapy a month after the end of the chemo.
The radiotherapy is concentrated in the area you have had your tumours removed from to try to ensure they don’t regrow. I was informed radiotherapy would not hurt but my skin would be very sensitive and that I would have to use special creams.
The sessions would be intensive and daily and could be up to 20 sessions with weekends off for a rest. This would be confirmed later down the line after a full body x-ray and to see what shape I was in after the chemo in terms of weight loss and the like.
Now just to wait for my appointment with the oncologist to find out how many sessions of chemo I would have and to ask about all the side effects and to cover any doubts I had.
I was very keen to get started. Roll on November 19 was all I could think.
November 19 and I went to the ‘Materno’ Hospital in Malaga for my appointment with the oncologist. It was a long wait. As I looked around the waiting room it started to hit home what the side effects of chemo would be. Apart from the obvious signs like hair loss, I caught snippets of conversations about many other side effects such as nausea.
Some people seemed cheerful and others were very low indeed. Mental note to self; try and be one of the cheerful people Erica! Then finally I was called in.
The oncologist went over my operation results, examined me and asked me how I felt. To be honest I felt fine apart from having headaches. He decided to send me for scans for my head, torso and bones as a precautionary measure.
This was a positive move because if the cancer had spread to another part of my body I would rather know about it!
My chemotherapy would start very soon and I was told to come back to the hospital on November 26 for blood tests and depending on the results I would then be given a start date for treatment.
Not long to go now. The sooner I started, the sooner I would finish.