15 September 2017
With Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, one patient tells her story about acting quickly when things aren’t quite right.
"My journey began with a GP appointment to check out what I thought was a blocked milk duct. I was referred for further investigation, which I took through my company healthcare scheme at Spire South Bank Hospital (to speed up the process); one fax from the surgery and I saw the consultant within the week. With no family history and having had clear mammograms through my company healthcare programme, a breast cancer diagnosis was a complete shock.
"At the first appointment I had a number of diagnostic tests (ultrasounds, biopsies and mammogram) and received the lab results three working days later. At my second appointment following diagnosis I had further tests to establish the extent of any spread, including biopsies, a CT and MRI scan. Waiting for results was the worst part, and therefore I was really thankful that the Breast Care Nurse phoned me the next day to say the CT scan did not indicate any secondary tumours.
"After around ten days from my initial referral I had a treatment plan in place which consisted of a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. The treatment plan took into account all the discussions with my consultant around the treatment options, factoring in the results from the various tests so that I understood the pros and cons of each, and having had time to read the literature I was given.
"A week later I underwent surgery and was released back home the following day after my consultant said he was really happy with how the surgery had gone. I also met with the physio to talk through the exercises which would aid my recovery. While the hospital room was comfortable, I was keen to get home quickly, which was assisted by the 24 hour support network provided by Spire South Bank Hospital. I was also hugely appreciative of the heart shaped cushion and drain dolly provided through hospital links with local charitable organisations which made life a little more comfortable.
"Recovery from surgery was swift with regular checks to make sure it was all progressing to plan. During this time I had initial consultations with the oncology team (explaining the proposed treatment and all of the potential side effects) so I could prepare and plan ahead. While the chemotherapy was not pleasant, I was made as comfortable as possible in the dedicated Oncology Suite and medication was adjusted to deal with the side effects I encountered. I took the option of cold capping and was successful in retaining a good amount of hair through the treatment.
"By following the advice given, I managed to maintain healthy blood levels and was able to keep to the three weekly schedule for chemotherapy treatments. Looking back, it seems to have gone quickly and in no time I began my last active treatment, radiotherapy, five months after the first visit to my GP.
"As the radiotherapy treatment was being delivered to my left side I was advised to undertake a breath holding technique radiotherapy which was not widely available in my local area, therefore Spire Healthcare organised a car service to take me for the daily three hour round trip to another of their hospitals.
"I returned full time work after six months of more or less continuous treatment. Having completed the active phase of treatment I am now into the long term hormone treatment (for the next ten years) and am now on a cycle of six monthly check ups with my consultants. Coming up to the first year milestone since diagnosis, I have another check due shortly and while I have some apprehension, I take comfort in the fact that the monitoring checks continue to be proactive and I know I have a team I trust to provide positive guidance whatever future results may bring.
"Having reflected on the last twelve months there are a few elements that stand out for me, being:
- That through my healthcare scheme I had access to the most beneficial and high quality treatment, which was proactive and therefore I felt side effects were lessened
- It was provided by a team of dedicated individuals for whom nothing was too much trouble, with regular discussions with the consultants. The team remained consistent, providing support and advice to both me and my family
- The services provided at Spire South Bank Hospital facilitated the speed at which appointments, tests and results were available. This minimised the waiting time and therefore the fear of uncertainty which everyone encounters as they go through treatment
- All of this was provided in a very comfortable environment with dedicated facilities, which I would not hesitate to recommend based upon the treatment I have received."