I have to say, I wasn't impressed. We got to the hospital at 7.30am as instructed, collected my ID badge and made our way down for my appointment where we were shown into a cubical to wait. And wait. It must have been nine o'clock before the consultant, emerged, checked my breast, and asked if anyone had explained my test results to me. When I said no, she informed me that I have cancer in my left breast. Great, thanks for that. I'd pretty much figured that much out myself.
And then she disappeared again.
I was beginning to despair for the Belgian bed-side manner when another white-coated lady appeared. Her name was Suzie, she told us, and she will be our cancer nurse. Then, with patience and understanding, she settled down to answer all our questions and take us through all the many possible routes that lie before us as we navigate this ugly maze.
I got the gist. The best scenario, she told us, is that I have a small tumour, localised in one breast. That will mean an operation and radiotherapy. But if it is larger, or multi-focused, it may mean chemotherapy or a mastectomy. And if it is already in my lymph nodes, then it will mean chemo before anything else. And yes, I will lose my hair.
But not, it seems, my life. My husband, desperate for certainty, asked repeatedly if I was going to die. No, she told us. Even if it has gone to the lymph nodes - the stuff of my night terrors - it is still not life threatening.
I admit that I will not be totally reassured until I get all the results. After all, it has felt like a slippery slope so far, each stage I have been told that there is nothing to worry about but they should just check... So who knows when we will stop sliding down. But it was mighty good to hear all the same.
Now we work our way through the test: chest x-ray, blood tests, bone test, liver function test, MRI, biopsy. When the consultant finally reappeared, we realised that she had been busy fighting the system on my behalf to make sure I get all those test asap - by Wednesday evening I will have had them all. The official multi-discipline meeting to decide appropriate treatment won't be until the following Wednesday but she will call me, she promises, on Friday to tell me my results.
And she had good news - the tumour is well defined and has hormone receptors. I have no idea why this is good but it was enough to make my husband and me cheer delightedly. At last, some good news!
When we left it was almost lunch time and we still didn't have much more information about my cancer. But we did have a much better idea of what we can expect over the coming weeks as well as a detailed scheduled of all my tests.
And as Suzie gave me her card and direct number and told me I could come and see her any time without an appointment, I had to admit that the Belgian bed-side manner was not so bad after all.
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