I admit it. This one took me by surprise. Unexpectedly, this mum of three casually offered her story to me. It’s one of challenge, of family and a much appreciated glimpse into the life of such a strong, calm and kind person. Here’s Amanda’s story.
Two of us ‘soccer mums’ sat at Sunday morning training. Me- possibly avoiding six girls I’d left at home and Amanda- with her beautiful beagle Watson.
(SO) admiringly, Amanda told me about her current confrontation with this terrible and often silent disease.
I say ‘admiringly’ because to look at and listen to Amanda you would NEVER guess what she is going through. She spoke as though she was relaying a recipe. Calm, structured and open.
The fact that she is mum of three children aged 11, 13 and 18 AND an intensive care nurse, I think, is what helps her to keep it all together- in front of most of the world anyway!
For two years, Amanda had a small lump under her upper arm. She responsibly had it checked and monitored by a specialist.
Ultrasound, mammogram, biopsy. All normal and ‘non-conclusive’ according to the breast surgeon. It was a subcutaneous cyst.
Last October amongst an aerobics competition for her daughter in Amsterdam (as you do), Amanda noticed a 2nd palpable lump in the same area, this one with some associated stabbing pain.
Intuitively she went for further investigation.
Again, she had a ‘mammo’ and ultrasound with biopsy.
She was at work when at 11:00 she received ‘the phone call’.
“We need you to come back to see the doctor for your results. NOW.”
Most of us would drop everything and drive like madwomen to the doctor right there and then. Not Amanda!
She worked with her patients until 4pm. Didn’t even go home. She knew there was obviously something to be discussed in person by the doctor and intelligent folk realise it’s probably not good news. Amanda’s mind raced and formulated all the different scenarios she might encounter .
It’s funny/ not funny how many horrible scenes we mums can imagine within a matter of seconds when something ‘isn’t right’. And here Amanda is, putting her patients first-for the rest of the day, knowing she needed to know the answer from her doctor.
BRAVO to YOU Amanda- you kind soul !
The second biopsy presented a report mentioning ‘cancerous cells’.
We like to sometimes think of medicine as such a definitive realm but often it is not so precise. It takes time and tests. Waiting and patience. And that’s often the worst part. The waiting.
To try and find some more definite answers and direction for treatment, Amanda’s doctor ordered ‘the works’.
Was it possibly a primary (the only) site or secondary (resulting from cancer elsewhere in the body) ?
A breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging scan) , a CT (cat scan) of the thyroid, lungs, abdomen and pelvis with contrast (a dye highlighting the vascular system) AND a nuclear medicine bone scan (when radioactive tracers highlight bony abnormalities).
AND HERE’S THE KICKER.
All the tests were normal.
AND HERE’S THE OTHER KICKER.
Amanda leads such a balanced and healthy lifestyle. She’s lean, she runs, she eats healthily and she’s just gorgeous inside and out.
She went in for surgery.
Complete resection of both lumps.
While Amanda works within the medical field and is au fait with procedures and protocols performed in the system, it certainly doesn’t diminish the active mind of a mum.
How would the children cope without me? How would my husband cope? How would my husband cope with the children?
Times of trial and tough decision making is what challenges our thinking and self worth. We realise we are NOT invincible. We don’t have ‘all the time’ in the world. We ARE fragile and breakable and we need to nourish and flourish with our family EVERY day.
Upon recovering, Amanda’s surgeon explained that the resulting tissue ‘just didn’t look right’ and she wanted to ‘go back in’. So instead of going home to the family and knowing all was well, Amanda went home with questions still unanswered, half the surgery done and Christmas to get through!
Four days before Christmas, the shadow over Amanda’s mind got bigger. Pathology results gave her the answer.
She spent two weeks at a holiday house over the break- though always knowing she had to go through more surgery and ‘what ifs’ . It was a great way to ‘get away’. Surrounded my family and creating precious memories is cathartic and calming and something we all need to do more of- amongst challenging times or not. Let’s all slow down !
Here is where I pause to say there was SOME good in all of this. It was Peaky Blinders the tv show and Amanda binged it. All those in favour say ‘aye’!
The second surgery was performed and 8 lymph nodes were removed.
So two ‘subcutaneous cysts’ in Amanda’s armpit had actually presented as breast cancer.
Having recovered from the second surgery, amongst the beginning of the school year with three children, renovating her home AND working in intensive care, Amanda is about to start six weeks of radiotherapy.
She has also been prescribed Tamoxefin for the next five years.
(Tamoxifen is currently used for the treatment of both early and advanced oestrogen-positive (ER-positive or ER+) breast cancer in and women.)
It’s Amanda’s calm and clinical recount of her story I admire so much! Not to say that in the comfort of home, she doesn’t take stock of what is happening and what could eventuate- all the ‘what ifs’ and cry a little, be scared a little or get angry a little.
When you see her and talk to her, she is Amanda.
Mum, wife, soccer mum, runner, nurse, home maker.
Friendly, kind, considerate, happy and strong.
….and now? Cancer survivor.
We should all realise and edit our judgement of folk before we naturally presume all is OK in their world.
Be kind no matter what.
I thank you Amanda for sharing your story.
I wish you the best for your coming treatment and may life spoil you rotten during the process!
Please contact me for more bingeworthy tv programmes…..I’m down with that !