My three peaks…finishing work, anaesthetic assessment and charity walk

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“A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye

and gives it a wink”

Gina Carey

Oh my word, what a week this has been. From the lows of Tuesday when I felt at the depths of despair, hit by the reality of the situation and all that was facing me; to finishing work on Thursday, and feeling the love of those around me; my anaesthetic assessment on Friday and the amazing clinical team that will support me and Saturday’s midnight walk, raising funds for the breast care unit where I will be treated in three days and a local hospice (though I have no plans on checking in there any time soon!).

Finishing Work

On Wednesday morning, I’d wondered if I would be able to go into work, I felt so emotional, but as with every day, going in has been a valuable distraction, something to focus on.  I am not ill, I am still the same person I was before I was diagnosed, I simply need surgery.  That said,  I do feel frustrated at the inconvenience it will cause, at the plans we can’t make both short and long term but like all things, I will get over it.  I am learning to surrender and for someone who likes to be in control of everything, adapting to my state of powerlessness is challenging some days more than others.

I had in mind that my last day in work would be peaceful and relaxing and I’d get off early but instead, it was full on and fast paced, just as I like it.  It was nearly 5pm when I pulled off the car park and I smiled, delighted that even on my last day, my day had been full and felt like I’d contributed and been valued. Honestly, it had been a perfect day. I was speechless – and that’s pretty rare! It started with the delivery of a seven tier chocolate cake with the aim to help me put on a little bit more weight in these final few days, I must be honest, that’s not going too well but God knows I’ve tried!

Chocolates, flowers; a goodie bag for hospital; a lavender plant and Phalaenopsis orchid; a Pandora’s box full of beautiful goodies which will all accompany me to hospital, that’s if the Lavender biscuits last that long; oil burner and ornaments; beautiful scripture verses which I will take into hospital and a bag of presents with very detailed instructions of when to open them from someone who I know would want to remain anonymous. Thank you all for your thoughtful gifts and the time you have taken to make my last day so special. You made me feel like a million dollars. I am a very, very lucky girl with so many wonderful people around me who have made the last few weeks much easier.

My Anaesthetic Assessment

We had been advised to allow four hours and naively, I thought we’d be away after two, I am after all, fit and healthy.   I had the following tests:

  • Bloods including Group and Save incase I need a blood transfusion which will be repeated on Wednesday (the day before my op)
  • ECG
  • Spirometer (because I am asthmatic)
  • Height / weight (for the umpteenth time

I am pleased to report that:

  • a), I am the same height (I am not sure why there is an expectation this will change)
  • b) after eating absolute rubbish, at my consultant’s request, to try and add extra pounds before the op for much needed boobie flesh,  I managed to weigh in an astounding 1lb more!!
  • How can it be that for the last ten years, I have tried so hard to shed those pounds  which have clung on to me in desperation and here I am,  trying to put it on to no avail!

I also met a member of the surgical team who went through my drug history and answered any questions I had.  As I was considered low risk, I did not need to see the anaesthetist which given how long we were there was probably a blessing.

What took up most time was meeting Tina, the Breast Reconstruction Nurse.  I cannot thank her enough for the time she spent with Mark and I on Friday.  I felt like we were her only patient, I wasn’t rushed or hurried at any point.  Instead we were actively encouraged to ask questions.  It was during this meeting that Tina set out in detail exactly what will happen from the moment I arrive in hospital on Wednesday until I leave, I cannot tell you as a patient how reassuring it is to be given this level of detail and in contrast to my mum’s experience who was diagnosed on Friday and went in on Monday and had no before or aftercare, breast care has moved on exponentially.

Midnight Charity Walk

I told my good friend and colleague, Jeanette my news.  She was devastated.  The following Monday at work she phoned and told me that she’s been chatting to Louise and they’d decided to do a charity walk wearing t-shirts with my name on the back.  I burst out crying, I was speechless that anyone would want to do that for me.  Now some how or other, Chris got involved but I don’t know how that came about.

The 10 mile walk was taking place five days before my operation and at midnight, but I couldn’t help but see it as an opportunity to raise money, so I signed up and bought myself a t-shirt with a pledge to raise £500, funds for the breast cancer unit where I am being treated and a local hospice.

I set about getting in touch with everyone in my phone list and asked them to sponsor me.  I am very grateful to those who were able to, especially when we all have so many competing priorities right now.  I have been bowled over by generosity.  I know I keep saying it, but truly, we don’t know how lucky we are.  People sponsored me who I have never met, what a gift of human kindness and every penny does count.

Saturday night was a fabulous, balmy night.  We arrived along with around a thousand others celebrating loved ones who had conquered cancer, some who sadly had not.  Memories were shared, tears were shed.  T-shirts were decorated with names of why people were participating and there was my name engraved on the back.  It hit home, my eyes welled.  You don’t think this will be you or for you. In 1998, I took part in the New York Marathon, wearing a heavily decorated bra (and scantily clad bottoms!) for the fairly newly formed charity WalkTheWalk.org with Nina Barough and again in London a couple of years later raising money for Breast Cancer – it feels like it has come full circle, though the challenge was far less ambitious this time.

The atmosphere was electric as one thousand pink t-shirts decorated the streets in the middle of the night.  Cars tooted their horns; late night drinkers cheered and emptied their pockets of loose change; families stood on street corners and clapped; many, many volunteers ensured we were safe, guiding the way and of course St John’s Ambulance for those who were ill or unable to complete the race.

And my £500 total – I smashed it.  Money is still coming in this morning and as of now, with gift aid (which is a 20% top up from the government), the total stands at £1604.00 and counting!  THANK YOU VERY MUCH xxx

Most importantly, to Mark, Gracie, Ben, Ad and Dad who I love more than you will ever know, thank you for your unending love and support.

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