Well as anyone who has dealt with cancer reading will know, once things get started, it can all move along very fast.
For mum, or us as I usually refer to the situation as, things were indeed quite rapid. From seeing the GP on the 13th-14th, and being referred to the breast clinic, to receiving the appointment was a total of 3 days. On the 17th we received and urgent referral to the unit for the 27th Feb. Naturally it was pleasing to experience such swift treatment at this stage.
On the days running up to the appointment there were many conversations, mostly filled with doom and gloom, and mum expressing how she just wanted to let it run it's course and be done with life. Quite a normal reaction for someone of 70 years of age to have I am told. But never the less this is my mum we are talking about, and I was not about to give up on her quite that easily. Not applying any pressure to her, but instead relying on logic and common sense,I took the time to research all kinds of treatments, just to at least arm her with the facts about what happens, and not the Hollywood version that so many are familiar with.
Trawling the internet I found info on all sorts of common used drugs and treatments, and got her to discuss them if nothing else.
By the day of the appointment she had managed to absorb almost every myth and bad fact about cancer treatment, and prepared herself to reject anything the threw at her.
Now the journey was really about to begin. We arrived at Lewisham Hospital with plenty of time to spare, and found our way to the clinic. Knowing how much technology and new building there is at the hospital, I was shocked to see that the clinic was just a pokey little side room with a few offices off the main reception. But hey, this is not about looks it's about treatment right! We booked in, and the first thing that struck me was, oh my god, all these people sitting here in this one hospital, at this one time of day are all coming to see if they have breast cancer, or to be treated for it. This is not a screening clinic, this is a referral clinic. To say I was dumbstruck by the number of people there is an understatement.. Reality check..... Cancer is rampant in mankind, and this was my first exposure to just how seriously it affects people. Young, old, women and men, I just could not stop my mind going mad about how many people really live with cancer day to day.
So after a short wait it was our turn. Mums name was called, and she rose to her feet and walked towards her new consultants office, Mr Hamed.
Now it's only right to say at this point that mum is hard of hearing,, aka deaf, and has for years chosen not to wear a hearing aid, so communication, especially listening is a struggle for her. About ten minutes passed and she was still in there. All the while I sat waiting, for the first time having a conversation with myself that my own mother was in speaking to a consultant because she actually had cancer! Eventually the door opened and out walked a nurse. This nurse since today's introduction has been instrumental in mums care and well being, and is a testament to the service the much complained about NHS provides. Joan Travers you are a wonderful woman!
So, out she came, and walked towards me, speaking to me by first name, she said "Michael would you care to join us in the office please". Oh god I thought, how serious is this! I walked in the office and was greeted by Mr Hamed who introduced himself, and asked me to sit. I sat, and he very calmly and gently began to speak. Telling me who he was, what he does, and what his impressions were of mums situation. I have to admit I was expecting REALLY bad news. However he explained the examination, and what he had found. Immediately stating that on examination he had indeed found not one, but two cancers. One on either side. The one mum had noticed and told me about was large and pressing out of the breast, but he had found a smaller lump on the other side. Biopsies were done and sent away.
The discussion then turned to the possible treatments, and the outcomes of the conversations he had already had with mum. Options being surgery, point blank refused... Radiotherapy, again point blank refused, and chemo.. To my surprise mum had actually not completely stonewalled this just yet, but had declined for the time being. At this stage it was impossible to really discuss in full what chemo would do, as it was not yet known what kind of cancer she had. There are positive and negative receptors which affect the way the cancer can be treated. Before leaving the room Mr Hamed reiterated his wishes regarding surgery, and wanting to get it considered and done asap, however mum was very sure that she didn't want this done.
We left the consultation on an ok note, no hard feelings towards the staff which was a good start, but pretty sure that she wanted nothing doing.the next job wad to let my sister know what was happening. I took the chickens way out and sent her a text saying the rough details and that we should talk soon. Main reason being was I needed to drive and get mum home, and was focused already on getting her in a better frame of mind.
From this day onwards a divide began to appear between the way people were treated by mum. My sister remained in her role as daughter. Willing to help but mum preferred not to impose on her. Instead the bulk of the conversations, morbid ones, factual ones, and anything relating to the cancer, were handled by me. I'm not sure if this was me taking control, or mum making her own decision on who would be the shoulders in this journey. Either way I am more than happy to have been there for her through this.
The downside at this stage was, now that she knew 100% that she had cancer, she had still chosen not to tell anyone about it, and was trying her best to swear us to silence about it. But this is me we are talking about, and silence is not one of my strongest points. From this point in, the blog I was already writing took a beating, and the previously mentioned forum thread also went into overdrive. From this day forth,conversation about cancer and treatments would become common place,I would begin to start thinking of ways to make sure mum enjoyed life to the full, and the only thing in my mind was to see how I could suggest treatment to mum and make it her own idea.
Details of where my mind went at this point can be found on my old blog from Feb 2008. Feel free to read through my comments and thoughts at the time on the following link.
Obviously there are many more entries on the matter from that point on, so feel free to browse.
Well once again that just about brings another "early days" entry to an end. I will try and get more added as soon as possible. If my mind can create readable passages, will write them.
Again, please feel free to share this via twitter, facebook, your own blog or any other medium you feel it may reach people who could benefit from reading it.
Thank you for reading.