Sally’s story.

As my fiftieth birthday approached last May, I decided to get in contact with the breast screening unit about the procedures for breast screening.  The receptionist told me that it was a little early, but she would send me a medical form to complete anyway.  After completing the form and returning it to the unit, an appointment was made for me, on the 24 May.

On arriving at the breast -screening unit for my appointment, I was made very welcome. I had the screening, and they told me that I should get the results within two weeks.  The letter arrived which told me that I had been recalled for some further test as something abnormal had shown up on the screening, but I was told that recalls were quite common and not to worry unduly.

After the second visit, I was advised that a Biopsy would be required.

After enduring a rather painful biopsy, I had to wait a further eight days for the results of the test. 

On Friday 18 June I had an appointment to see the specialist to find out the results of the Biopsy.

 The specialist confirmed that there was an area that had cancerous cells. This area was extremely hard to see and it was only due to the first class interpretative skills of the Radiologists that these cancerous cells were detected at all. The specialist admitted to me that even he had trouble in locating the area in question.  He reassured me by saying “ if you have to have a cancer, then this is the cancer to have as we have an excellent chance of getting  rid of it” which helped slightly in dealing with what he had just told me.

I was also advised that an operation would normally be followed by 5-6 weeks of Radiotherapy in Southampton.

I left the surgery in a shocked state thinking to myself, “Why me?”

During the consultation with the surgeon he had told me that he wanted to operate to remove the cancerous area within two weeks. Luckily I only had to wait 5 days. The following Wednesday I was admitted into hospital in preparation for my surgery the following morning.

On the morning of the operation it meant another trip to the breast screening unit in order for them to locate the cancerous area again.  This meant having a wire put into the area that needed to be removed so that the surgeon could easily locate it.

Before I knew it I was on the trolley having my anaesthetic. Night Night.

I woke up a few hours later back in my room in Victoria wing. greeted by my husband and my daughter. I remember feeling very tired and stiff.  I still had a drip and because of the procedure they had performed I also needed to have a drain to drain any fluid from the area they had operated on.  I was not in a lot of pain considering the operation I had just had, which made it easy for me to sleep off the anaesthetic.

I woke up on Friday morning, still unable to move a great deal but with the pain under control things didn’t seem that bad. I continued to tell myself throughout the day that the cancer had gone and it was time to look to the future.  I feel extremely lucky for the fact that all I have to show for the operation is two scars. On the morning of the fifth day in hospital the surgeon arrived to remove the drain.  He was also able to tell me that the lymph gland that they had checked underneath my arm was clear from cancer and that it had not spread further than the breast area.

 I was then able to go home. This was a huge relief and I was looking forward to getting home and recovering in my own surroundings.

When I arrived home I was still sore from the operation, and, had limited use of my arm due to the operation on the lymph glands.

 I was as determined as ever to get on with my life once again.  I was not offered any Physiotherapy to help regain the use of my arm, but if it was painful to do a particular task, then I would stop doing it.   I began to go out and about, walking and used the bus, which helped me to keep my independence even though I was not permitted to drive.  I still had to go to the surgery to have the area under my arm drained, but after a couple of weeks, things began to heal and I didn’t have to go back to see the nurse.

Five weeks after my operation I had an appointment with the specialist who had come over from Southampton to find out what happened next.   During the consultation I was told that I would have to go away to Southampton for a course of Radiotherapy.

 Being a home bird, being away from home for a six week period seemed very daunting.

However, I was fortunate that my husband had, prior to my problem being diagnosed, already decided to retire early from his job, and would be free to stay with me in Southampton, and give me some welcome support.

 We were hoping to make the most of the time away and explore Southampton and its surrounding areas.

September came and it was time to make the first trip to Southampton for my planning. This meant I would spend the day in Southampton with a visit to Southampton General Hospital for my consultation. I would then return back to Guernsey to await the dates in which the treatment would begin. 

We decided to travel a day early, get a feel for the area, stay overnight and try out the Hotel, attend the planning session and return to Guernsey at the end of the second day.

The States of Guernsey paid for my fare, and we were very grateful for the help given by the Guernsey Society for Cancer Relief at Bulstrode House for my husband’s travel costs.

Shortly after return, the letter came stating that I would begin my treatment in ten days time.  We then had to book the flights to enable us to return each weekend.

The States of Guernsey would pay for my first outward journey, a weekend in Guernsey in mid-treatment, and the final return at the end of the treatment.

Once again we were grateful to receive help from the Guernsey Society for Cancer Relief at Bulstrode House, who paid for me to fly home for an additional weekend.

Some years earlier, we had taken out Critical Illness Insurance, hoping of course, like all insurances, that we would never need to claim.

 Once diagnosed, and after receiving written confirmation from the surgeon, the insurance company did settle the claim promptly.

This meant that my Husband would be able to travel with me, and we would be able to stay in a hotel together during the weeks in Southampton, and travel home every weekend.

Once the appointments in Southampton had been confirmed, a trip to the travel agents was required to make all the Hotel and travel bookings in one go.

The dreaded day came and we departed Guernsey on the red eye flight.  My first treatment was booked in for lunchtime, which gave us a bit of time to find our way around.

I was told that virtually all appointments had been made for 1.30 pm,

The first treatment was very frightening as I didn’t really know what to expect. 

Luckily I only had three treatments in the first week which gave me a chance to get used to it.

We were very surprised at how long the treatment actually lasted.  We spent longer in the waiting room than I did having the radiotherapy.  I would have one zap of about thirty five seconds and then another of about twenty five seconds once I had moved positions. Things really didn’t seem so bad.  Before I knew it I was back on the plane going home for the first weekend.

Monday soon came again, which meant up again at five, in order for us to catch the red eye flight.  This was going to be the first full week of treatment.  All the appointments were at one thirty, which meant we could go out for the morning. We visited places such as Winchester, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, every week.  We would return to Southampton at 1pm every day, in time for my appointment.  After the treatment, we would stroll back into West Quay Shopping centre, to grab a late lunch. In mid afternoon we would head back to the hotel so that I could rest.  We were lucky that we had a view of the river from our room, which enabled us to sit back and watch the big ships going up and down.

Although I had been offered a place in the Manor House, we had chosen to stay in a Hotel together, and I felt that this helped to keep my mind off the situation. 

Friday would soon come again and it would be time to pack the bags and head back home again for the weekend, and be with the family again.

After about four weeks of treatment, the treated area began getting pink and slightly sore, but this didn’t stop us making the most of our trip.  I knew that help and advice was available from the nurses at the hospital if it began getting me down.

I had also met others at the Hospital who were suffering far more than myself.

The fourth week that we took my mum with us to show her what we got up to.  We were able to show her some of the places we had visited which made the week more exciting, and also give her some reassurances that I was not suffering during the treatment.

The weeks passed quickly, and at last it was the final week. My daughter and her boyfriend joined us for this last week.

After so long in Southampton, we were able to show them around.

 I don’t think there were many places we hadn’t explored in Central Southampton.

We had been very lucky with the weather, and had managed to walk the two miles through the parks between the Hotel and The Royal South Hants Hospital, and back again, every day with only one or two exceptions. We showed them what we had been doing for the last six weeks.  The three days in the last week flew by very quickly and it was time to go to the hospital for the last treatment. We felt that we had finally reached the end of a very long journey.  I wasn’t sorry to leave Southampton.

That journey home was the best one, despite very uncomfortable flying conditions, because I knew I didn’t have to return on the Monday.  When we arrived home it was time to put the suitcases away for the last time.  Hurray!!

By this time the burns had become a lot worse. I had seen the nurse in Southampton in the last week but as soon as I returned to the island I made another appointment to see a nurse over here to get some help.

With a lot of support from the Nurse at the Medical Specialist Group and also the staff at the Breast Screening Unit I was supplied with dressing and medication to make me more comfortable until the burns began to heal.

  They reassured me that fourteen days after the Radiotherapy had stopped it would start healing and when it did it would heal very quickly.  This was hard to believe but sure enough once the two weeks had passed things began to change and they did very quickly.

By this point I was quite keen to get back to work, as a Mobile Hairdresser, most of my customers, have become friends over the years, and I did miss them.

When I asked the nurse when I could return to work she said it was entirely up to me. I returned from Southampton at the end of October and by the end of November I had returned to work for three days per week only, and under the close watch of my family.

Over the past twelve months I have been through the various emotions associated with Cancer ;

Shock Horror on diagnosis.

Panic to get the operation over with.

Fear of the unknown regarding the Radiotherapy and the time away from home,

Relief once these processes had started.

Determination to fight it.

Relief when arriving home after the Radiotherapy.

Feeling of well-being when being able to get back to normal life.

The desire to help and encourage others who are having to go through these processes.

I now know how lucky I am to have come out of this so well with both breasts still intact. Without the screening programme, and the early detection and treatment of my cancer, I dread to think what could have happened.

 I was very fortunate to have my Cancer detected and removed at such an early stage, and am very grateful for all the help and encouragement that I received from all the medical staff both here and in Southampton, and Cancer Support here in Guernsey.

I was also very lucky to receive much support and encouragement from my family and friends.

I have been a self-employed Mobile Hairdresser for the past fifteen years, and the encouragement, support and loyalty shown by my customers has been a terrific boost to me.

I now intend to live life to the full and make the best of every day.

I have joined the Pink Ladies group, and find it a great help to be able to discuss concerns and feelings with others.