Thursday, 26 January 2012

It's The Final Countdown...?...

So, today I attended the Outpatients for what will hopefully be my last ever Mammogram as part of my screening! Last night was a terrible night sleep wise... emotions were running high as I seemed to have read a few stories lately of women who have had a Breast Cancer diagnosis following their last screening prior to prophylactic surgery. I don't even think I will feel confident that everything is clear until I have the little ladies operated on! Luckily I have fantastic support from my Mum, who came with me. So how is it that I have had moments of utter despair and have felt the need to hold back the tears today on more than one occasion? I know this doesn't come from being unsure of the decision I have made, of this I am 100% sure! I'm sure it isn't that I will miss the Mammograms! (Who would?  Bloody uncomfortable procedure that it is!) So what is it? Why do I feel so God damn emotional?!! Is it because I have actually started on the road to what will hopefully be the beginning of the end for me and my BRCA friend? Is it because I have started the final countdown to ridding myself of this high risk of the disease which has affected my family and so many of my BRCA friends?  I just don’t know?
Maybe it’s because today has been all about my little ladies, with which I kind of feel I’m distancing myself from, emotionally, just lately.  Now, this, coming from me who once (not so long) said, and I quote, “One of the reasons I don’t want surgery is because I love my boobs”!  You see, along with the Mammogram, I have had 2 phonecalls from my GP’s secretary to tell me that they have heard from the surgeon I chose, and that he is moving to London (This I already knew but didn’t mention it to the Dr as I thought she may be reluctant to refer me), so if I still wanted to be referred, would I be prepared to travel to London for the surgery? ...Hell yeah!  Then she called me back to tell me that they had relayed this information to the surgeon’s secretary and she will deal with it tomorrow, and sort a date out. 
Gosh, I hope it doesn’t move this quick for surgery!  Although I’m sure of my decision, I’ve too many things to do before I combat that!  The major one being I don’t want it just yet!  Is that wrong?  I imagine alot of women, once they have made up their mind to undergo this huge operation, just want it over and done with?!  Not me, I’m kind of hoping that I can choose to have it done later in the year. 
And so, this brings the end of the day...tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that, until I receive that little brown envelope taped at the flap, I shall await the results of my Mammogram, while also waiting in anticipation for an appointment with the surgeon. And so, let the waiting game commence...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Finding my new "friend"...

Well then, here it blog! I have no idea of the format this will take, who will read it, if indeed anyone. All I do know is, I feel compelled to write, compelled to keep a record of how I'm feeling, the decisions I make, the decisions I don’t make, the effects of the aforementioned decisions on my life, that of my family, friends and work colleagues. 
So, if you are reading this, I guess I better keep my promise and actually give you something to read!
As you can see from the title, this blog is about me and my “friend” BRCA.  The title does have an air of sarcasm about it you must understand.  For BRCA is NOT a friend at all, nor an ally, associate or even co-conspirator.  It is in fact a foe of the highest accolade; my arch enemy, my nemesis and literally, a mutant.  Being BRCA 1 positive means I have a faulty gene.
We all have the BRCA gene, but in people like myself the stupid fault, which I inherited from my Granddad (completely NOT to blame!) it doesn’t work properly, which as a result of said fault puts me at a higher risk of developing Breast and Ovarian Cancer.  (To put it into figures for you, my risk of developing Breast Cancer is 85% and Ovarian Cancer 40-60% - Nice odds hey?!) And it’s as simple as that.  Just like the genes we inherit determine such things as eye colour, hair colour and height, so BRCA determines our risk of developing the disease.
So how did I find out such news?  There was a strong family history of female related cancers in the family. (I won’t bore with too many details), more recently, my maternal Aunt.  She developed Breast Cancer aged 42, and again 18 months later.  She was the first in our family to be tested for the faulty gene...positive.
Fast forward 10 years to when I was 30.  I had this niggling thing at the back of my mind; it really was like an itch I couldn’t scratch.  Only one solution, I needed to have the test, I wanted to find out if I was also at risk.  Again, I won’t bore you with all the details but as you may have gathered by now, I tested positive, and so did my mum.
So to deal with the news...What’s a girl to do? So many options - preventative surgeries? No way, I didn’t need it or want it!  Do nothing?  Nope.  To me personally, what was the point of having the test if I wasn’t going to do anything with the information? Annual screening? Yes please, that will do me!
So the plan was to be screened using MRI annually for Breast Cancer and a scan and blood test for Ovarian Cancer.  I learned quickly how to be breast aware.  If there was any change, I wanted to be one step ahead of this sucker!
Mum was also being screened and had been for the previous 10 years.  Then – BANG!! 6 months after we had our BRCA results, in October 2005 mum was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  This was a massive shock, of which we were not at all prepared!  But we had to concentrate on ridding mum of this invasive, unwelcome parasite.  Lumpectomy, Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy along with hair loss, tiredness and a stalwart determination to beat it, all helped a successful victory over Breast Cancer.    
For me, that was enough to make one of the biggest (yet not toughest) decisions of my life.  I had to try and eliminate my risk of Ovarian Cancer.  So, at the age of 31 on April 16th 2007, I endured a lengthy operation to remove my ovaries and womb.  I was lucky enough to be blessed with a beautiful boy, Dylan, aged 7 at the time.  I knew I didn’t want any more children.  I can’t even remember being in turmoil over having made such a big decision. 
So that was that, I was relieved that the risk of developing one of the hardest cancers to detect had now been extinguished.  Ok, so I couldn’t have any more children, but I would be around for the one I did have, and to me, that was far more important.
I am conscious that this is turning more into an autobiography than a blog, but at the risk of boring you out of here, this is stuff you need to know to understand where I’m currently at.
In 2010, just a few months prior to mums 5 year anniversary of being diagnosed, we discovered the Breast Cancer had returned.  I’m so very glad to say that again, she was successful in defeating the disease.
Until recently I have declined the option of radical Breast scared the hell out of me!  However, I have now changed my mind.  I hope to undergo surgery (Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy with Immediate Reconstruction) later this year.  I am currently awaiting an appointment with a great surgeon based in Manchester.  I have chosen to travel away from my locality for this procedure as the surgeon in Manchester performs the type of procedure I would like.  So there you have it, and that, believe it or not, is a long story cut short!
My aim for this blog is to have an avenue to pour my feelings into during the next few months as my operation approaches.  And to give anyone reading this, an understanding of some of the options, hurdles, and sometimes ignorance we BRCA’ers face.  If just one person has a better understanding of what being BRCA positive means, then it will all be worth it.  xx