Breast Cancer Blog - Episode 20: Buy One Get One Free

So I have now been diagnosed with cervical cancer as well as breast cancer. Why have one cancer when you can have two, right? Sorry for the brash intro, but I’m so utterly wall-punchingly pissed off with this now. I'm a medical miracle, whoopdifuckingdoop.


Here’s the fact check:


It’s currently assessed at stage 2, which means it’s just started to go beyond the wall of the cervix, so hysterectomy isn’t an option. I now have to have a CT scan to see if it’s gone any further, via lymph nodes (not the armpit/breast ones, a whole new set), after which the stage might change (i.e. get worse). Then they’ll decide what the treatment is, but it’ll almost certainly be radiotherapy and chemotherapy, or radiochemotherapy, or chemoradiation, which are all slightly different, fuck knows.


Here’s how it played out:


We go into the appointment and there’s a doctor, a nurse and some other woman who is never introduced or mentioned. The nurse introduces herself, and it turns out she’s the one I had the difficult conversation with the other day. Great vibe so far, huh?


The doctor asks me how I am. The irony is so immense that I let out a laugh. I tell him I’m feeling anxious, anxious to hear what he has to tell me. He does this thing where he looks at his notes like he’s a bit part actor checking his lines, then fixes his face into a ‘concerned’ frown. He says “it’s not good news at all”. There’s this pause where I think I’m supposed to gasp or something, but I don’t, so he carries on. “It is cancer”. Again, the dramatic pause. The three of them look at me like the doof doofs are sounding at the end of Eastenders, but instead of falling to the floor weeping, I say “OK”, and nod encouragingly. I hold his eye contact. He wrinkles his brow.


He looks a little baffled by this change to the expected play-out, but he rallies. He says they don’t have all the information yet, so I will need to have an CT scan to tell them more. He says they will book one in and then they’ll be in touch. And I think that’s it. I think I’m actually expected to take that pathetic excuse for a consultation and just get up and go home. It’s been three minutes. Three minutes.


Plot Twist

The script probably says that at this point, the nurse gently takes the hand of the sobbing woman and leads her to the room with the flowers, where she gives her some leaflets and tissues and sends her on her way to let it ‘sink in’. But this crew seem to have forgotten to read the memo which tells them that I’ve seen this episode before, and, if it’s okay, I’ve got a couple of questions about the plot line.


I say I’m a little confused, as I thought the MRI was going to determine the size and spread of any tumour, and the pathology report would determine the grade of cancer. He flinches and turns to his screen:


“Ah, well, the MRI told us some things, but we need to know more”

“What did it tell you?

“It showed some cancer, but not enough detail”

“But doesn't the MRI give you the details that the biopsy and ultrasound didn’t?”

“It is very complicated and whilst it showed some evidence'...I interrupt

“So did the pathology show the grade of cancer?

He checks his notes, he hasn’t a clue. He looks to the nurse for help.

She says “um, the pathology report hasn’t come back yet, and we only got the results of the MRI scan yesterday”

I say “so okay, but if the results had come back earlier would they have given more information?”

“No”, I swear she actually sighs, “but we now need to do the CT scan as soon as possible and the team will then review it and decide on a treatment plan”. She’s trying to wrap the conversation up now, we all know it, but I’m not quite done yet.

“So what are the likely treatment options?” I ask, trying to look as wide eyed and innocent as I can, which probably isn't very. I’m not sure who to address the question to, as the Doc seems to have given up and the nurse is giving me a very tense smile.


The Doc decides to pick up the baton, he has a pre-prep