t1-Tracey

This is my story of my journey with cancer.

My journey began back in 2005. I initially found a lump in my left breast and went along to the doctors. I was referred to the hospital and was diagnosed on 31st January 2005. I was just 36 years old. On 15th March I went into hospital and had a lumpectomy. After my surgery I had 6 weeks (30 sessions) of radiotherapy at St Luke’s Cancer centre in Guildford. I was then put on Tamoxifen. I was really lucky with this drug, as I had no side effects from it. Life soon returned to normal and I just had regular mammograms and check ups with Mr Ball —my consultant surgeon. I almost made 7 clear years but in January 2012 I found another lump again in my left breast. Once again I made a doctors appointment and went to see my GP on 13th Feb. He referred me back to the hospital and on 20th feb. I had my hospital appointment, this was the first of many. I then had an ultrasound scan on the 23rd and was invited back on the 1st March for my results. As soon as I walked into the room I knew, as there was Mr Ball and Sue Gattinesi (My Macmillan Nurse) sitting in the room. I was told the cancer had returned and Mr Ball booked me in there and then to under go a bilateral mastectomy on 3rd April 2012. Prior to my operation I had a bone scan, a CT scan, my bloods taken and a node scan. Thankfully these all came back clear.

On the 3rd April I was admitted to East Surrey hospital to undergo my mastectomy. I was a bit nervous to say the least. Went down to theatre and was back in my room by suppertime. Surprisingly I felt really good when I came round and was sitting up eating and having a coffee in no time at all. Rung my mates and they came down to spend the evening with me I had a big corset like bandage around my chest and drains in but to be honest I wasn’t in any pain which was surprising considering I’d just had my breasts removed. I was allowed to get up straight away to use the bathroom and the only problem I found was the limited mobility of my arms. I was allowed home after 7 days and had a district nurse come round to check my final drain. My last drain was finally removed on 15th April.

Returned to hospital on 19th April and the plastic dressing was gently – Ha! Ha! ripped off by Mr Ball that did make me laugh as the nurses were being really gentle and when Mr Ball came in the room he got hold of the edge and pulled really quickly – Ha job done!!!! I returned to the hospital again on 25th for a check up and Mr Ball decided to refer me to Dr Houston who’s a consultant medical oncologist. He put me back on tamoxifen again and referred me to a team of genetics to be tested for the BRCA 1 gene mutation the good news was NO chemotherapy and NO radiotherapy as apparently you can only have it once as it continues to work for years after which is why the left side is red!!!

Unfortunately I do have the BRCA 1 gene mutation. This was later found out to have been inherited from both my Mum and my Dad as they both carried the gene.

Mr Ball also referred me to The Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead so I could meet a plastic surgeon and have my new breasts reconstructed. I read up on this hospital and its got a really good reputation so that made me feel a little less nervous.

During May Sue my Macmillan nurse sorted me out with prosthetics I hated these with a passion – my life changed. Although a really strong willed person I really struggled with mastectomy bras and the silicone prosthetics I couldn’t wear a lot of my clothes as when I lent forward my ‘boobs’ came away from my chest. All I wanted were new breasts so I could have my old life back ……holidays…. Bikinis …..low cut tops ….and not having to keep worrying about my mates cats bursting my boobs with there claws. It’s hard to come to terms with and all I wanted to be was Normal again.

On 8th June 2012 I went to the Queen Victoria Hospital where I met Mr Jones. He referred me to Marc Pacifico who is a plastic surgeon who specialises in TUG flap reconstruction where they use your legs (inner thighs) to reconstruct your breasts. On 20th June 2012 I met Marc Pacifico for the first time. I was really nervous but within minutes of meeting him I felt totally at ease and as he began to explain the procedure I finally felt like I was going to get my life back. I walked away from our meeting feeling truly happy for the first time in ages ……now all I needed was my date for the operation!!!!

It was what felt like a life time waiting for a date for my reconstruction and I really found the waiting game hard to deal with but finally on 1st November 2012 I went into The Queen Victoria to have my reconstruction done. I didn’t sleep much the night before as was both nervous and excited. Had the operation and apparently had to go back down for a second time because I had a clot…..don’t really remember this ….. Woke up on the step down unit where the nurses were absolutely fantastic.

I had some breakfast and then about 10 am the nurses helped me get up and sit in a chair where I washed and cleaned my teeth. After that it all became a bit of a drama as my chest started to go a funny colour. The nurses called for my surgeon Mr Pacifico whom said I would have to go back to theatre …..at this point I got a bit upset and worried as I thought I was going to loose my new breasts …….3rd time back in theatre …….apparently the valves were to long and as I sat up they twisted and cut off the blood supply so Mr Pacifico shortened them and saved my new breasts. I spent the next 48 hrs laying flat on my back. When I finally got to sit up I was really nervous but thankfully everything was ok this time. My drain bottles came out and I was allowed to get up and walk around, by Monday afternoon I was walking up stairs and although a bit painful I managed it!! The staff were all absolutely fantastic and after a week I was allowed to go home.

The only problems I had was an infection in my leg which turned out to be a fungal infection but this cleared up after a couple of weeks

Finally returned to work the beginning of January 2013. It was really nice to get back to a bit of normality.

In February I went to meet Louise a lymphodema nurse as was getting a few problems with my left arm swelling, she sorted me out with exercises to do and some compression sleeves to wear. This definitely helped with the problem.

Finally normality and my life back …….went on holiday to Sharm El Shiekh ….Egypt …..was lovely and wore bikinis and summer dresses with no problems at all!

March 7th 2013 I went into the Queen Victoria to have my nipples reconstructed. Had to wear what they call donuts for 6 weeks but was really impressed with the end results, my bust is really starting to take shape and I can now truly say that I am really glad that I opted to have this surgery done. Not only has it given me new breasts it has also given me back my self confidence and the life style I enjoyed before my mastectomy …..I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this surgery to anyone whom finds themselves in the same position that I did.

June 13th 2013 I went into Queen Victoria to have a session of lypofilling where they removed fat from my stomach and injected it into my breast to add volume and to make them both the same size. This was done as a day patient and wasn’t too painful although I did end up with a lot of bruising but the day after the op my boobs looked fab!!!!!. I had a couple more sessions of Lypo sculpting and then my journey was complete.

I now take Anastrozole tablets daily and alendronic acid weekly. My life is pretty much back to normal and more importantly I am happy & healthy. I am also very proud to be a trustee of the charity Restore.

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