Last week, I had my annual check-up. I had a mammogram in February and this appointment was to go over the results of that, have a breast check up and talk through any issues.
I planned a few points to discuss. I keep a notebook just for medical appointments so everything is in one place. A week or two before the major or annual appointments, I jot down things I’d like to discuss (it is really hard to remember everything on the day). I also take notes during the appointments. I sometimes take people with me to these appointments; it depends on how I feel and whether I feel that I need support or not.
On my agenda
My agenda items were:
- Results of the mammogram
- The nipple reconstruction – it has flattened out a little
- Some soreness in my breast and surrounding areas
- Hair loss – any advice or links from the breast cancer treatment
- Having a period – any risks from the elevated estrogen
- Pre-diabetes – any advice or links from the breast cancer treatment
- Where to from here
There was a student present. In principle, I am happy for students to sit in at most of my appointments. However, on reflection, it does change the dynamic of the appointment somewhat and usually feels more formal. I have been seeing Dr Mouat for six years but with the student, I didn’t feel too relaxed.
- Firstly, the mammogram was completely clear. That is great.
- Apparently, a nipple reconstructions can flatten out and there wasn’t any concern.
- Dr Mouat did a breast examination including an ultrasound and said there was nothing abnormal in either breasts. I have had some pain in my left breast but there was no issue there. In between my breasts, there is a slight thickening but it is nothing to worry about (and we wouldn’t want to do more surgery there as it would interfere with the blood flow to the right breast). I said that the reconstructed breast sometimes felt itchy inside (hard to explain) and she said that this could be phantom paid or crossed connections in the breast.
- With the hairloss, there is no magic cure and no link with the breast cancer treatment. It should be treated on its own merits (there is a medication to help with this but I wasn’t interested. I was more interested in the cause but it still seems to be generic stress).
- On the recent period, Dr Mouat said it was called a post-menopausal bleed. It could genuinely be a period but may be something else and needed investigation with a probable ultrasound. Dr Mouat did not think there were any risks from the elevated estrogen levels from having a period.
- With the pre-diabetes, Dr Mouat said it should be treated on its own merits and had no link with the breast cancer treatments.
It is interesting that there is no direct link between these things and the breast cancer treatment as intuitively I feel that they are all connected. Even though overall, the appointment went well, I came away feeling a bit confused and upset. These types of appointments bring back lots of different emotions and even though it might be just a check up to a specialist, it takes up lots of emotional energy.
Where to from here
I will continue with annual check-ups and have met with my GP to discuss the post-menopausal bleed. She did a smear test and has referred me for a pelvic ultrasound which I’ll have next week. It is also interesting to note that taking tamoxifen can cause endometriosis type issues down the track.
Life is a little daunting at the moment but not on the scale of breast cancer. Just more steps on the road. Outside all the medical stuff, life is going well and I am feeling overall healthy. I still have headaches from time to time but am feeling quite good mentally and physically. Working three days per week seems to be a good fit for my health and recovery (though financially, it’s hard to take the reduced income).
What is helping in my recovery
- Weekly acupuncture
- Having medical specialists that I genuinely like and feel comfortable with
- Having one notebook for all my medical appointments (agenda items and noting the discussion)
- Support including from friends and family
- Working part time – not too many hours but I’m enjoying the challenge of work and the social side of working
- Talking to specialists at the Cancer Society including their Nurses
- Exercise every day, eating really well and lots of rest time
- Losing weight is making me feel better
- Having hope for the future and plans for enjoyable things to look forward to e.g. a holiday
- Writing my journals for BC Nirvana