Back at Bart’s

Today I was back at Bart’s for my radiotherapy follow-up appointment, to check how I coped with the treatment and any problems I have had since. The appointment can be summarised thus: Hi. How are you? Show us your boob. Oh, that looks great. See you in December. Bye. (I may have had encounters like this in the past, although not with doctors.)

Please do not infer from this summary any dismissiveness or rush on the part of the doc. Rather, feel free to infer the splendid news that I am heading at a rapid rate towards the light at the end of cancer’s tunnel. The marvellous oncologist Doctor Wolstenholme checked me over, reassured me that everything was healing just as it should and that the oedema is on its way out. She was mightily impressed with my tales of my randomly-leaking nipple and squirting antics. I have the feeling that oedema does not usually happen this way. Once again, my breasts function in a very different dimension to the average mammary.

I don’t need to use medicinal cream on my underboobs any more. The regular moisturising stuff will do. With pretty much all soreness gone, my skin’s appearance – in particular its darker and lighter patches – will fade to normal over the next few months. There are still lumps and bumps around my scar, but that is to be expected. Some of it is the remnants of the oedema – which may actually by lymphoedema of the boob – and some of it is scar tissue. The remaining swelling will go away of its own accord, but the boob will always have its own unique post-surgical lumpy landscape.

I will have a check-up appointment in six months time, open-access follow-up and annual mammograms. I feel safer than if I had never had breast cancer, in which case I would have mammorgrams only every three years. And with that, I am done.

Next month, I have an appointment with the surgeon at Homerton Hopsital, and from then on, I am an ex-cancer patient – monitored from a healthy distance but with cancer placed firmly in my past.

From the hospital, I went straight to a yoga class – my first since before my surgery. I was looking forward to it but unsure how I would manage. The opening five minutes were great: lying flat on my back, relaxing any tense muscle I might have, breathing slowly to the soothing tones of the instructor’s voice.

Then it got tougher. A yoga instructor will always ask at the start of a class if anyone has any injuries, so I was fully excused when I spent rather more of the following hour in child than in dog. The grey-bearded pensioner with the knackered knee doing yoga for the first time did more of the poses than I did. Honestly, he did. But I don’t care. I’m back. Strength and flexibility will return with time. In the meantime, I can hold the corpse pose for hours.

Brave warrior, me.

Download Page Content (.pdf)