Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lympathic freak

The lympathic freak in question is not this lovely man. This lovely man is my breast surgeon, Professor Mokbel.

Saw the Professor Monday evening. It feels odd saying "I saw the Professor". Like I'm back at University and this is a degree course. But that's how everyone seems to refer to him.

He was his normal chirpy self. As he examined my breast a slow satisfied smile spread over his face. It was weird. I'd never had anyone smile at my boob like that before.

He was clearly pleased with his own handiwork as he'd had to rebuild the area where he'd removed the lump and frankly he's done a brilliant job. I've looked at it from every angle and other than the scar itself, you cannot tell. And the scar will be hidden to all but an intimate few as I'm not in the habit of going topless, so I have little to worry about there.

The armpit is another thing. It was swollen and still felt like I was carrying a newspaper under one arm. So he 'aspirated' it for me quickly. Which means he stuck me with another needle and drew back on a big syringe. drawing out a massive half a litre or so of clear, yellowish liquid. All the stuff my lymph nodes usually drain away. Thankfully I still have some lymph nodes left there and they should start compensating for the ones which have been removed so I won't have to be 'aspirated' on a regular basis. But it was pretty disgusting.

Anyway, to the point.

The good news? The lab results show that the tumour was 15 mm across, rather than the clinical prognosis of 21-25 mm, which means I definitely discovered this early on. He reckoned it's only been 'developing' for the last six months or so. Plus the margin of tissue was clear all the way round so they definitely got it all out. And the lymph nodes were all confirmed (for the third and now 100% accurate time) as clear of cancer so it ain't got anywhere else in my body either. The blood tests and chest/lung x-rays also back this up.

Incidentally, once he'd 'opened me up', he was apparently concerned that my lymph nodes might still be a problem so this is really good news. Apparently, not only do I have around 40-50 lymph nodes in my armpit area (where most people have around 20) but 5-6 of them looked, in his experience, like they might be a bit dodgy on the cancer front. Hence chopping out so many.

"Well, at least if I have 40-50 to start with, losing 6 doesn't matter as much" I responded to this news.

He then explained that lymph nodes can clump together and be quite deceptive, and that one node can often turn out to be five or six clumped together. When the lab tested my nodes, they discovered he'd actually removed 17 in total. So no wonder things have been a bit swollen.

Mind you, it's only now that I realise that if he estimated 40-50 lymph nodes on sighting my armpit, but actually counted 17 when he thought he'd removed 6, then maybe I actually have 100+ and not 40-50 at all! Which would make me truly freakish.

Here's a picture of a boob showing you where to find the lymph nodes. My tumour was actually centrally below the nipple. Maybe that gave me a headstart on catching it before the cancer mestatised to the lymph nodes? Who knows...

And the bad news? It's grade 3 on a scale of 1 to 3 where 1 is less agressive and 3 is more agressive. But they had me expecting this as, for 'one so young' (I love being referred to in this way), it would have to be pretty agressive to take hold in the first place anyway. This grading result means I definitely need chemo. Despite the fact that it should not have left behind any cancerous cells, in my breast or elsewhere, they reckon chemo followed by radiotherapy will give me an extra 5-6% chance of it never returning.

Plus, hormone and protein receptor tests not back until my appointment next week so won't know until then whether I will get the joys of either hormone treatment or herceptin in addition to chemo as well. I had previously thought it was either chemo or hormone or herceptin. It seems it is definitely chemo, plus either hormones, or herceptin, or nothing.

Please sir, can I have nothing?

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