New words for a new world

The following weeks after diagnosis was a whirlwind of appointments. Firstly with the breast surgeon, anesthetist,lymphodoemia clinic and my general practitioner. The breast surgeon discussed the pathology report of the core biopsies, examined my breasts and lymph nodes, drew on my right breast with a marker, announced my weight and height and recommended a lumpectomy followed by 6 weeks of radiation treatment. He indicated that presence of cancer in the lymph nodes would dictate if chemotherapy would be required.
In order to ascertain this, I would need a lymphocentragram, the injection of blue dye into my nipple and this would travel through my lymph system firstly into the sentinel node, which cancer cells may have migrated to. In addition as the tumour lay deeply in the breast and had been difficult to locate in my large breast, a hook wire was required to be inserted prior to the proposed operation. We paid, gathered the plethora of instructions and paperwork for the upcoming day surgery admission and when downstairs for a blood test. I had heard about 25% of various strands of information and fixated on trying to remember the new words like lymphodoemia and lymphocentragram.
I attended the anaesthetist’s rooms, whose opening comment was to determine if there would a gap in my private health insurance. He checked my weigh and measured my height. I noted the lack of personal photographs and a ringless finger. His parting words were that it was not my fault that I had cancer. I consoled myself that I needed only his expertise not his compassion and limited conversation occurred between ‘hello’ and the application of an anaesthetic.
I attended the lymphodoema clinic at Solaris Care along with a room full of women, some with husbands, friends and daughters. I had given Greg the day off hoping in the normal course of his job that he would find some relief from the tsunami of diagnosis. The delivery of information was presented in a sequential manner with opportunity for interaction between waiting for individual lymphodema test. One woman in her fifties in the third cycle of chemo, recounted her current state along with medications for anal, vaginal and oral ulcerations from diarrhoea and thrush and her lack of appetite and nausea. She wore her baldness without shame in this forum demonstrating that the community based resource created a safe space for individuals undergoing cancer treatment. She managed to freak both myself and another patient under the care of my surgeon.


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