Monthly Archives: October 2013

Counselling session #2

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Monday 28th October

Well, here we are again, one week on, is there anything else to talk about?

Actually, yes. Having been given the date for my upcoming surgery, I am both relieved and yet apprehensive. Scared stiff more like. Two weeks today we shall be staying overnight in an hotel, ready to go to the hospital at 7:30am the next morning.

Two weeks of waiting, and then the operation. My head is filled with all sorts of “What ifs?” Hard to explain, but the dark thoughts are there, nonetheless.

So, what am I doing about this state of mind? Trying to stay positive as much as possible; getting lots of fresh air; eating fruit and vegetables; working through some breathing and meditation exercises; taking cinnamon, turmeric, resveratrol and lycopene supplements;  cooking with organic, virgin coconut oil; and a teaspoon of Manuka honey every morning.

I’m hoping all these little things add up to a lot; enough to make a significant difference. I don’t want to be classed as having mild to moderate depression and anxiety. I have to do something about it. I’m not going to get on that downward spiral. I want to live my life.

Date for surgery

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Tuesday 22nd October

My surgeon’s secretary telephones to offer me a choice.

I could have surgery next week, with a consultant I don’t know, or wait until November 12th and have him carry out the groin dissection.

I chose to go with the surgeon who operated on me before. I have enormous faith and confidence in him. His secretary mentioned that the consultant had said this would probably be the decision I would make.

Have I done the right thing in waiting for another couple of weeks? I do hope so. But I think I am an impatient patient.

Counselling Session #1

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Monday 21st October

Speaking to a stranger, sharing private thoughts, unloading fears, describing crazy feelings. All this and more. I thought I wouldn’t be able to say too much, but I talked, and talked, and talked!

Today was the first in a series of counselling sessions.

It was strangely therapeutic to be in the company of someone I had never met, and yet be able to comfortably explain what I am thinking, feeling; what is scaring me; my doubts, fears and expectations. For almost an hour, I talked about me!

Going through a check-list of statements, I learn I am showing signs of depression and anxiety ~ ha! And my coping mechanism is to hide it from people. I think I do this very well.

Stage 3a ~ B-raf positive

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Tuesday 15th October

Today I learn from the Macmillan nurse that my biopsy has returned from the Royal Marsden, showing my gene mutation to be B-raf positive. This means I will be eligible for a drug trial on Vemurafenib. Not necessary right now, but the information is there, ready to be acted upon quickly.

I also find out my cancer is now Stage 3a. Meaning??  Well, firstly, the melanoma cells have now spread to the lymph nodes in my groin ~ at the top of my left leg. Secondly, the survival statistics now become reduced ~ a 57% – 73% of surviving the next five years, and to be here in ten years time, 50% – 67% chance.

Not the best of news, but I have enormous faith and confidence with the healthcare professionals looking after me, and the advances being made with drug therapy to treat melanoma is truly outstanding.

Positive all the way.

Unexpected Appointment

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Friday 11th October

Yesterday I had a phone call from the hospital in Plymouth, to tell me that my first plastic surgeon wanted to see me today, for an appointment in Truro.

I had a very worrying night’s sleep, thinking all sorts of crazy thoughts, not least of which was that my Monday’s scan results had come through extra quick……

I was however, very reassured by the visit. Firstly, the consultant wanted to know that everything was moving quickly, in the right direction for me. He had been in receipt of a number of emails from different healthcare professionals concerning me. He was worried that I was having too many appointments with different people at different hospitals, and sometimes receiving conflicting advice. He said as far as he is concerned I am under the medical care of his colleague in Exeter, and anyone else who wants to stick their nose in can “p*ss off”. He is great ~ a ‘top bloke’. He said he is a traditionalist, and fears that Cornwall can get precious about its patients. All he wants is the best, quickest outcome for me, and that is to have the groin dissection in a couple of weeks, carried out in Exeter.

Secondly, he was concerned that I should have another CT Scan; when I told him I had had that done on Monday, he went to check for the results on the system ~ ALL CLEAR!

I have not walked away from an appointment feeling so relieved!

CT Scan #2

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Monday 7th October

OK, so my appointment is at 3pm in Penzance. I’ve done this before, I know what to expect, but that doesn’t make it any easier!

When my turn comes, and I’m taken into the room with the big revolving doughnut, I soon realise I’ve got “Miss Trainee Cannula Inserter”. Under the direction of her boss she wraps a tourniquet around my upper right arm . . . . “I hope you’ve got good veins” . . . . . I knew it wasn’t going too well when she suddenly announced “Oh dear, I’ve made a mess”. Blood was dripping down my arm, onto the bed, then to the floor. Not conducive to a calm and stress-free patient. I couldn’t stop shaking and sobbing.

Trying to control my breathing and stopping my body from trembling took quite a lot of effort. Overcoming fears of the unknown, or irrational possibilities was difficult. But the sooner I calmed down, the quicker the procedure could take place, and then I could be out of there.

Back and forth through the doughnut shaped ring I went, breathing in, holding my breath for counts of fifteen. Both CT nurses were safely ensconced behind glass, in their little office. Tasting a weird metallic sensation in my mouth, and feeling a warm rush as the radioactive dye went in, was really strange.

Eventually it was all over, the nurse in charge apologised profusely for her colleague upsetting me and not making a clean job of going into my vein. I was still shaking and sobbing as I left, found my husband in the corridor, and hastily beat a retreat to the coffee shop for a welcome cappuccino.

All over, thank goodness, now I must play the waiting game.

Ever hopeful, always positive, smiling through.

Dermatology Check-up

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Friday 4th October

Every four months I will need to attend a routine check-up with my consultant dermatologist. Stripped to underwear, she checks the whole of my body for any strange or odd looking moles. None found today, thank goodness.

Next, she feels the lymph node/glands in my neck, my armpits, my tummy and then my groin. She is looking for hard little lumps she could roll through her fingers. None found today, thank goodness.

A further appointment is made for the end of January 2014.

Phone calls

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Wednesday 2nd October

My mobile phone rings whilst I am out this morning; the Macmillan nurse would like to talk to me when I am at home, later on this afternoon. Why? Should I ignore her call? What does she want?

So, how am I doing? how am I feeling? how am I bearing up? Fine, fine, and fine. I’m not ready to share my thoughts at all.

So, you have an appointment with the dermatologist on Friday, for your 4-month check-up. Yes, I know this.

And a CT Scan has been arranged for Monday. Yes, I know that, too.

The results from the scan will decide whether surgery will go ahead. Really?? I didn’t know that. The consultant told me on Monday that he is away for a couple of weeks, but he will get me on his theatre list, hopefully by the end of October, when he will carry out the groin dissection. He even asked for my preference of surgeons ~ himself, or his colleague in Plymouth.

We are also going to test your Braf gene mutation, to see if it is positive. Your original biopsy is being sent to The Royal Marsden in London. Oh?? I certainly didn’t know that. The results will inform my eligibility for any future drug trials.

Well, much to ponder and process.