The hospital rang and they had my results. A bit quicker than I had thought to be honest. Or maybe I just did not want to know. Anyway, Nurse Norma rang and as they never give results out over the phone, good nor bad, could I come up at 12 midday on Tuesday the 19th of July. How did I feel??? Nervous, scared, I felt like I already knew and that this would just confirm everything. It was a strange feeling. I wanted to know, but I did not want to know either. Now that I look back, I wore a black bloody trouser suit. It was July for God sake and I was dressed like I was going to a funeral! Subconsciously, that must have been how I felt.
Thomas stayed in Castletownbere with Mom and Dad. And Joshua went to his Auntie Mary's house in Bantry. Dave's sister Bernadette was over on holidays from Sweden with her son Sean, and they were staying in Bantry. And, so, with the children all taken care of, Dave and I headed for CUH.
It was a strange journey to Cork I remember. We discussed various things and agreed to disagree on certain issues. On hindsight, we were just like any other couple going about our normal life. If I knew then what I knew now, I would not have wasted our time almost arguing about things that really did not matter. Stupid, trivial stuff.
We parked and waited for my appointment. Shortly after 12, we were called into a room. Nurse Norma, lovely as ever, but giving nothing away, seated us and asked us to wait for Professor Paul Redmond and Dr. Norma Relihan. I was relaxed enough considering everything and thought nothing of all 3 health professionals wanting to be in the room with us. I think Dave was anxious. And we waited.
In they came. This was my first time meeting Professor Paul Redmond. I was hoping that he would be as nice as everyone else, and I was not disappointed. He was an absolute gentleman. He was impeccably dressed in a beautiful suit and he was the kindest, most compassionate, sympathetic man that I could have wished for. I had this impression that they would all come in and get down to business. But it was a gentle, calm affair and there seemed to be no rush with the results. As it was my first time meeting The Prof, as I now affectionately call him, he asked if he could examine the lump. So I sat up on the examination table and he examined it. I still did not have the results. He said they were very concerned about the lump and that it would be best if it came out. I remember sitting upright at this time with my legs criss crossed over each other. And I said "Is it cancer so, the lump?". I remember thinking, why won't they just tell me, I want to know now! And The Prof said so gently "It is". And I said "I have Breast Cancer". And he said "You do. I am so sorry".
And that was it. My life as I knew it was over forever. I had Breast Cancer. Me, Isabel, aged 35 had Cancer. I started crying. Soft, sad tears. Not hysterical. Just sorrowful and lonely.
Then, back to business. I wanted to know what would happen next. All they knew at that stage was that the lump had to come out. So there would definitely be an operation. And it was going to be a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. This was a fact. The results of the lump under my arm were not in yet. So I may also need a Sentinel Node Biopsy and or an Axillary Node Clearance. Whatever that was!!! The cancer I had was Invasive Ductal Cancer and it was Grade 3. Sure I did not know the difference between Grades, Stages and Types! In many ways, I am glad I was so innocent to it all. I didn't have a clue what was ahead of me. And the doctors drip fed me, so to speak, which was great. And I am eternally gratefully that they did. I could not have coped if I was told everything on that fateful day.
I also had widespread Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, DCIS. Basically, that is Breast Cancer but it is confined to the ducts in your breast. It has not broken out or spread. Lovely. So I had a tumor and lots of other bits cancer practically all over my right breast. How could you have all of that and feel fine??? I was never fitter or healthier that I was that day. The one thing I specifically do remember them saying is that it was an early stage. I now know how bloody lucky I was.
The Prof asked me if I had children. Ah, he's so sweet I thought, he's worried about the children. I told him that I had two gorgeous boys. Fantastic he said, because you probably will not be able to have any more children. The treatment will make you infertile. I remember him telling me that he often has to tell childless women of my age that they cannot have children. Can you imagine that! You focus on your career and wait to have your children. And then you get Breast Cancer and cannot have them. Heartbreaking. This news did not upset me. I am so thrilled with my two boys now, knowing that they are the only children that I will ever have.
Once The Prof felt that I understood everything, he politely excused himself and left. He shook my hands and he was genuinely so sorry to have had to deliver this news to me. Dr. Norma stayed on. She sat with me and we went through it all again. She was an angel. She wrote everything down for me and went to great lengths to make sure I understood as much as I could. I was glad of her presence and I had full confidence in her professional abilities.
Presently, she left. Nurse Norma left Dave and I alone in the room. It was an emotional moment. I cried and he consoled me. Obviously, I was upset. It is a lot to take in. And there was still so much I did not know or understand. I had no experience of cancer. I suppose I was in shock. Dave was a rock. He was there with me and that's all I needed.
Nurse Norma returned with tea and biscuits. She asked if she could do anything. She was very comforting. They gave us as much time as we needed in the room together alone.
And eventually, we departed. What do you do after getting news like that. We needed nourishment. So we walked across to the Wilton Bar. I sat down and I knew that my parents and brother were at home waiting for some news. I was so traumatised that I knew that I could not tell me parents. I wanted to be strong for them and I knew I would cry if I rang Mom, so I rang Diarmuid, my brother. Nobody really believed that I had cancer so I was dreading telling them all. So, I rang Diarmuid and actually managed to hold myself together for the duration of the call. I told him that I, his only sister, had Breast Cancer. Shocking would be an understatement. He couldn't believe it. Neither could I really. I told him that I was too upset to tell Mom and Dad and asked him if he would tell them. What a blow for any parents to get. Their only daughter had Breast Cancer.
Dave and I ate in a silent shock. I remember thinking that everyone was looking at me. But they weren't really, it was just my imagination. I called into the Late Night Pharmacy next to the Wilton Bar to see Jennifer my cousin. I was delighted to see her. She genuinely did not believe that I was sick. We went into a tiny consultation room and I just burst out crying and said that I had Breast Cancer. She started bawling too. We hugged and cried together. I was so sad. She couldn't believe it.
And then, Dave and I headed to Bantry. I felt that there was so many people we had to tell. All the family needed to know. We told Dave's family in Bantry. And then we drove home to Castletownbere. I was never so happy to be home.
I did not realise the impact this cancer would have on my life. I did not understand how it would change everything. I did not understand the implications of the operation and follow up treatment.
I am glad that I was so stupid and naive in July 2011.
Me in July with Franklyn and Spud, my horsey friends.