“Paula?” called a very slim lady in a blue suit, clutching a clipboard. “Apologies for keeping you waiting but you are next to see Dr Jordan", she said in response to my upheld hand. "Which unfortunately means you are last” she admitted, as she turned on her heels to face the patient sitting opposite me. On hearing this news the woman grunted and retorted “Every time I have been here I have had to wait.” “I am sorry about that, but it is a very sensitive clinic”, replied Miss Clipboard diplomatically.
I thought back to a conversation that I had with my friend Bubbles, just after I had my ultrasound. “Until you got this I have never really appreciated what it is like to have cancer and what people have to go through” she said. “You know one of the things that has struck me is the waiting.” “I know”, I replied. “Waiting at all levels. Waiting to be referred; waiting for tests; waiting for results; waiting for treatment ... waiting to be seen ...”
My appointment to see Dr Jordan was at mid-day on Friday. Aware that the clinic commenced at half eight I knew that it could now be running over quite substantially and that I might be kicking my heels and twiddling my thumbs for at least an hour. And although the hanging around can be a pain, especially when you are there for news or results, I appreciate that there is good reason for this. It is because like my oncologist, Dr Oh-so-luv-ver-ly (I am sure you remember him), Dr Jordan, my breast surgeon, treats every patient as an individual. It really matters to him that you understand what is going on, what the recommendations are, and that you are totally happy with proposals. He gives you all the time you need.
“Did someone explain the ultrasound scans to you?” asked Dr Jordan, after he had greeted me warmly and offered me a chair. “Yes. The ultrasound chap got the scans out and put them up on the light board and he gave me the new dimensions of the lump.” “Are you OK with the results?” he enquired. “Well ... yes”, I replied. “I know that sounds odd, but now we know there is a small lump remaining I am hoping that you are going to be able to offer me the surgery I want?”
He grinned at me. “Yes. I can now offer you breast conserving surgery.” “A lumpectomy?” I asked. “No” he replied. “No?” I repeated looking at him wide eyed. “No, I am going to suggest a breast reduction.” “A breast reduction?” I looked at him quizzically. “Yes. We will reduce the breast as we would with cosmetic surgery and take the lump at the same time. It will mean the breast will look much better and we can do the same to the other breast to match them.”
“Sounds good to me”, I smiled. “You know how I feel about surgery, could you do them both in one go?” “I can do, but I would much prefer to wait and do the other one at a later date, as that will give the first breast the opportunity to settle down after surgery and radiotherapy. For the sake of waiting six months I would rather you had something that you are happy with for the rest of your life ... but it is up to you. You have right up to the moment that we sedate you to decide.” Mmmm ... one or two. Do I get it all over and done with all in one go ... tempting ... but am I putting all my eggs in one basket ...
“What about your nipple?” he asked in a matter of fact manner. "Do you want to keep it, or not? And do you want chips with it?” OK ... so he didn’t ask about the chips but it wouldn’t have sounded out of place. “I would like to keep the nipple. Thanks.”
Dr Jordan pulled a form from a file. “Now I will go through some potential risks of surgery and then I will ask you to sign the consent form. One of things that I need to forewarn you about is that if we go in and find more mischief than expected then we would need to make a decision there and then to do a mastectomy. Are you alright with that?” I smiled at he him wryly ... he knows that I desperately didn't want a mastectomy. “Yes”, I replied honestly. “We would have given the lesser surgery a go. If at the end of the day there is more cancer than we think then I would respect your clinical judgement to remove the breast.” And with that I signed the form ...
“When are you looking to do the surgery?” I enquired tentatively ... after all he had previously indicated that it wouldn't take place until April. "What about Wednesday? Are you free on Wednesday?" I gulped and nodded my head. Oh God, it sounded as if he was just inviting me out to dinner. “No. Wednesday is good for me”, I stuttered. “OK. I will get them to check theatre availability." Or should that be table availability? "If it is not possible to fit you in this Wednesday then it will be a fortnight Wednesday.”
So I am sat here ... in anticipation of a telephone call telling me which day the surgery is to take place. Maybe in a few days ... or within the next couple of weeks ... either way ... I ain’t going to be waiting long.