I did know there would be a chapter two to my story but I thought it would be about how amazing the next five years since my post in January 2015 had been. I didn’t expect to update it so soon but here I am barely 3 months since my 5th year cancer anniversary starting another chapter in my life.
I had been having a persistent cough for a few months and my voice had become very hoarse either as a consequence of the cough or completely unrelated but with my history, we had to figure out what the cause was. You recall our move to Canada in July 2014? That meant I had a new oncologist who I have to say has been amazing. At my first appointment in October 2014, he picked up on the cough and thought a chest X-ray was in order. The chest X-ray showed my left diaphragm wasn’t working and that there was a mass in my chest. He requested a CT scan for further investigation and also as a baseline for his records. The results from the CT scan showed some pleural effusion. He recommended a repeat CT scan in three months to reassess the fluid.The repeat scan was scheduled for March 31st and it came and went with no ceremony.
My appointment with the oncologist to discuss the results from the new scan was scheduled for April 9th. My husband always accompanies me to these sorts of appointments and April 9th wasn’t any different. As we didn’t have anywhere to put our little one, she came along for the ride. I remember thinking about how happy and blessed we are as we waited at the reception to be called in for my appointment. I had no idea life as we knew it was about to change.
The oncologist’s nurse called us into the consultation room and she was pleasant as usual giving nothing away. She asked some routine questions and said the oncologist would be with us shortly. He came in a few minutes later and after a few chats about how I’d been, he broke the news no cancer survivor wants to hear – “I think the cancer is back”
I immediately broke down into tears; I felt my world crashing all around me at that moment. A million thoughts went through my head but the over riding emotion I felt was numbness. I couldn’t deal with a lot of the information I was given and I could barely keep up with the discussion. As hard as the news was on me, it was even harder on my husband. He’s always done everything he could to ensure I was comfortable and happy. Seeing me break down at the devastating news broke his heart into a million tiny pieces.
The oncologist explained the next course of action. The CT scan showed a few lesions on my spine and pelvic bone. He explained that I didn’t have bone cancer, what the scan showed was potential breast cancer in the bone. As a result, the treatment plan would be one for breast cancer and not one for bone cancer as they are completely different things. Since the initial diagnosis showed the breast cancer to be hormone receptive, in layman’s terms, the best thing to do would be to shut the production down. He explained that my ovaries would need to be suppressed with the help of an injection called Zoladex. I would need to have an injection to my tummy once every three months. Once my ovaries were suppressed, I would be switched from Tamoxifen to an aromatase inhibitor (letrozole), which would block Oestrogen production. He suggested i started the treatment that day and my husband and I agreed it was our best bet. After the consultation and more tears, I took the injection (Zoladex) and we left the hospital. The journey home was surreal; we still couldn’t believe the news we had been told. My husband kept telling me how we were going to beat this again and how we would be fine. His strength and support as always gave me something to hold on to.
Dealing with potentially stage IV cancer is completely different to dealing with an early stage diagnosis. Stage IV cancer is considered incurable but treatable. I was faced with fears, tears and the stark reality of my mortality. There was nothing I wanted more than to be alive and well. I wanted to watch our beautiful daughter grow up. I promised to be by my husband’s side every step of the way when we got married and I wanted that more than anything else in the world. We make such a great team and I had no doubt we would be the best parents we could be; I need to be alive for this dream to become a reality.