“Your Lab Results Show A Complete Pathological Response”
WORDS: Corrine Barraclough PHOTOGRAPHY Corrine Barraclough
CB’s BC Journal
Make yourself a cuppa, I have a lot of news to tell you. Some good, some sad and some absolutely amazing.
The sad news is I had to make the awful decision to put my dear beloved little old dog to sleep the afternoon before I went into hospital for my surgery.
I’ve never owned a dog before; I’ve never felt that unconditional love from a pet. The overwhelming emotional whirlwind that came with the end of his life knocked me for six.
But, I didn’t have time to fall apart. I had my bag packed for hospital, went in, felt sick with dread, remember talking to my anaesthetist and then waking up with a very sore throat.
I’m told all went well while I was under, and I took a long time to come round. I was in theatre from 1:30pm to 7pm, so it was a long time, which was probably worse for everyone who cares about me than for me, as I was, obviously out for the count.
I was incredibly thankful to have my own room and bathroom in Robina Hospital. It felt like a softer wake up call to my new reality than having to share physical or emotional space with another human.
I didn’t look in the mirror.
By day two, I had several doctors around my bed assessing my wounds and telling me things were “looking good”. “I haven’t looked at my body yet,” I told one, knowing that it was time to peek. What I saw was not as bad as what I had imagined; there is a reason Dr Gault has such a good reputation here on the Gold Coast. The scar runs all the way along where the underside of my boobs would have been, and up to where the nipples would have sat.
Visitors distracted me, the food was surprisingly edible, the nurses were mostly lovely and the first few days passed in a painkiller fog. I was dreading the pain of having the drains removed but the first two weren’t too bad when they were carefully pulled out, and the second two hurt even less.
I was ready to go home by day six. When home, the first thing I did was make an appointment with my own GP so we could switch to a mutually agreed pain management plan, rather than a confusing cocktail of drugs which I didn’t completely understand. As an addict in recovery, the first two questions I ask about any medication are a) is it very effective and b) is it addictive. I don’t need more problems to worry about down the track than what’s already going to be a tricky journey.
So, switching to painkillers that are not addictive was a great sense of relief to me.
There’s something about weekends that feel confronting when you’re just home from hospital. Away from the bright lights, beeping machines, constant blood pressure and observation checks, it can feel like you’ve slipped off everyone medical’s radar.
So, of course, it was over the weekend when incredibly painful fluid build-up began in my chest, which ended up in a dash to emergency.
I have two seromas, which are, I’m told, a common complication to mastectomy surgery. It’s basically a build-up of fluid which sits in the area where tissue has been removed. I have one medium and one large. I can tell you that they’re both equally as painful! On the flip side, the fluid has created the illusion of two breasts which is making it easier for me to adjust to looking at the new me in the mirror!
Yesterday, I went back to Robina Hospital for a check-up with the possibility of having my seromas drained. We decided, after much discussion, to wait until next week so I can have just the one needle which will inject fluid into my expanders, and then drain some of the seroma fluid at the same time. Fewer needles, less chance of infection? Sold.
“Has anyone spoken to you about your lab results?” the doctor asked me.
“No, they haven’t!” I exclaimed, half excited, half absolutely sh*tting myself because I was completely mentally unprepared for this.
I need not have fretted. All the prayers that have been said across the world have been heard and answered.
I was told that my lab results are showing a complete pathological response, which means there are no living cancer cells detected. All cancer cells have been killed.
And that is how I found out I am now cancer free.
I floated out of that appointment, arms still not being able to rest down to my sides but walking on air.
It hasn’t sunk in yet, to be honest.
I’m mourning the loss of my four-legged best friend but now beginning to contemplate a brand-new life after cancer.
Yes, I’ll still be on hormone therapy and there will be preventative treatments, check-ups, scans and follow-ups. But, I am now cancer free; the chemo and surgery have done their job and today I can smile a little bit wider, breathe a little bit deeper, and contemplate a future that’s a hell of a lot brighter than I dared to imagine.
Thank God for answered prayers.
Thank God I’ve stayed sober throughout this challenging chapter and can now build a truly fulfilling life helping others to achieve sobriety.
Thank God for dark days, for tears, for intense crashing waves of helplessness because they now bring a fresh appreciation to a new reality of sunshine, hope and purpose.
Today, I am the personification of thankfulness!
Corrine was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, which has spread to her lymph nodes. Her medical oncologists are pursuing a “cure”, which will begin with a six-month course of chemotherapy at Gold Coast University Hospital, followed by surgery at Robina Hospital and then likely further treatment. Corrine will be writing a weekly blog journaling her personal journey for Ocean Road Magazine throughout her breast cancer.