Monday 30th September
OK, so this wasn’t the news I was hoping for. The melanoma has in fact spread to the lymph nodes in my groin. I found this out when I visited the hospital in Exeter. My consultant was great, very caring and concerned, and we talked for ages. I also spoke with another Macmillan nurse who took me through the next steps.
Within a month I am due to have a groin dissection, when all the lymph nodes will be removed. It’s a much bigger operation, usually in hospital for up to a week, and left with a drain in my leg for up to two weeks. A minimum of two months without driving.
Crap, crap, crap news.
But I know the consultant will look after me, and it’s just something I have to go through.
I also have an appointment on Friday in Camborne/Redruth, to see the consultant dermatologist for a check-up ~ she was the one who removed the mole from my back, right at the very beginning (no evidence of disease). And on Monday I have another CT scan at West Cornwall.
Not feeling very brave at the moment.
Tuesday 24th September
So, three things affect me today; rollercoaster doesn’t come close to describing my feelings.
First: The postman brings me a letter from Exeter hospital, bringing forward my appointment with the surgeon who carried out the SLNB, by one week. Is this a good thing? Do they have my results? What will he tell me? I am worried. I am scared. My mind works overtime, wondering.
Second: When the telephone rings in the afternoon, I am surprised to hear the voice of the Macmillan nurse whom I dislike. She has rung “to touch base”. I don’t know, but I have this paranoid image of her, sitting at a desk, clutching my results, having just discussed my case at the MDT meeting. I can almost feel her willing me to ask about the results. I don’t. I want to be face to face with someone, and that someone to be my surgeon. I was very much upset when she gave me the original diagnosis of malignant melanoma over the telephone. I thought it was very insensitive and certainly unprofessional. My consultant had not been best pleased at all. Anyway, that call shook me up. I hadn’t heard from her for weeks, and then up she pops.
Three: The doorbell rings as I’m slicing up peppers to throw into the wok ~ we’re having a stir fry. Standing at the front door is a lovely colleague from work, holding a beautiful bunch of roses for me. I’m sorry, but I become tearful: chopping onions, or feeling blessed that people care?
Thursday 19th September
My GP telephones me just before I am about to put dinner on the table!
He wants to know how I am, how I am coping, whether the pain and swelling are getting me down, and whether I am sleeping properly. He is genuinely concerned, and is sorry for all I am going through.
We discuss my return to work, and he is adamant that I must wait until at least I’ve had my appointment with the plastic surgeon in Exeter, on 4th October. In fact he says he will write a sick note for eight weeks, taking me into November. However, if I’m up to it, I can return to work sooner. He also agrees to prescribe me some sleeping pills.
Maybe at last I can sleep through the night without waking up only to stare at the dark ceiling, thinking dark thoughts about this dark disease.
Monday 16th September
We have to drive up to Exeter this morning. I thought I’d be seeing the consultant for results, but it was not to be ~ too soon for any reports to be back yet.
I meet with a nurse, who removes the dressings ~ Whoahhhh ~ felt a bit wobbly as she did it; quickly and without any fuss. Looking at the scar, it is really tidy, no stitches to be seen, no bruising, no redness at all. I have to keep taping it for the next five weeks, to make sure the skin knits together properly.
The scar area remains tender, and the inside of my left thigh is quite sore, and a little puffy-looking. Not that my inner thighs are normally toned, sleek and slender!!
Tuesday 10th September
Well, that was a long day!!
We arrived at the ward 8:15am. I was taken down to Nuclear Medicine for dye injections 9:30am using Teknesium; I am able to watch the trace on a screen, as the radioactive dye makes its way to the lymph nodes. Three of the little blighters are identified, A, B and C. I am duly marked with three black felt-tip crosses. I am made to wear a really bright yellow hospital bracelet indicating that I am radioactive, toxic, glowing nicely!!! This remains on for twenty four hours.
I walk down to theatre for my operation at 2:30pm; I remember the anaesthetist tapping the vein on the top of my left hand, inserting the cannula, then the cold fluid making its way through my system. The walls and the ceiling become fuzzy and out-of-focus. I’ve gone.
I come round in recovery, shivering and crying. This is not a comfortable feeling at all. More medication is needed to take the edge off my pain, then I’m back to ward at 5pm, and discharged a little after 7pm.
I had three nodes removed, and have a very small dressing. The nurse told me that because a plastic surgeon had carried out the op, I wouldn’t be able to see any stitches; all nice and tidy. Having had loads of pain relief I slept really well that night in the hotel.
I go back to the Plastics Clinic in Exeter on Monday, must wait about two weeks for results, and will be booked in at Plymouth for another CT scan. Have also been signed off work for two weeks.
Feeling not too bad at the moment.
Monday 9th September
I left school a bit earlier than I should, (I didn’t have any classes in the afternoon), drove home, quick wash and brush up, and then we’re on the way to Exeter, staying in a hotel overnight, ready for surgery tomorrow.
It’s almost four months since my Wide Local Excision, and tomorrow it’s down to nuclear medicine for radioactive dye injections, followed by Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy of the left groin.
I go to bed thinking, wondering, scared of the unknown.
Wednesday 4th September
Today I should be driving to school for the first day of the new Autumn term. Instead, my husband is taking me to Exeter for an appointment to fill in forms, take blood pressure (a little higher than normal), test urine and to listen to an explanation of what to expect on Monday.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a staging procedure to find out whether the melanoma from the primary site (the mole on my left foot), has spread any further. The first port of call being the lymph nodes in my left groin.
Reality is beginning to kick in.
Monday 2nd September
Plane, train, taxi, home; and relax . . . . .
Oh, hold on, unpacking to do, laundry to sort, post to open, finally shower, and bed ~ I feel as if I am still moving. I have now been up and awake for thirty five hours, and over the last five and a half weeks, I have slept in seven different hotel beds ~ my own now looks so, so inviting and welcoming. Sleep comes easily, the holiday melts away into dreams as my head hits the pillow.
Sunday 1st September
Oh my, the day is finally here, when we must pack up and leave America. Our hire car easily accommodates all of our luggage, and when we deliver it back to the airport, the odometer records our mileage as 3333 miles covered in almost three weeks! An outstanding journey from the very top of South Carolina through Georgia, and into Florida, all the way down to Key West, and back again. So many experiences, lots of excitement, and also much needed rest and relaxation.
We begin with a short flight to Charlotte, followed by the transatlantic leg into Heathrow the next morning. Smooth flight, no hitches, mediocre food, not quite enough leg-room, and a punctual touch-down.
There you go, another summer expedition comes to a safe close.