Mastectomy #3 – It’s all in the timing?

Hamster

How I felt in the lead-up to the mastectomy (image credit: http://www.isaiahhankel.com)

 

Updated 1 January 2014 re. Bad Press about Hospital and Bad Timing for surgery

Once I signed on the surgical dotted-line, I found myself on a treadmill in the days leading up to the mastectomy.  It wasn’t just a matter of turning up and hoping for the best, there was a list of things I had to complete before The Day.  It was all designed to keep me distracted and nervous as I ran around like a hamster on a wheel, trying to complete the mastectomy obstacle course.

To show you how stressful it was, a tooth abcess (a health condition that always flares up when I’m under undue pressure) developed the week before surgery.  My cheeks even started resembling the proverbial hamster’s.  I was hoping the bacterial infection would mean I could postpone surgery, but alas, no such luck – it cleared up a few days before surgery.

1.  Pre-assessment visit

Before you go into hospital for any surgery, there is a pre-assessment visit which involves a blood type test in case you need a transfusion, a urine test, and a test for MRSA.  Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans.  If the test is positive for MRSA, it is too dangerous for surgery, you are sent away with industrial-strength antibiotics for several weeks and surgery is rescheduled.

Urine test

When I went in for my pre-assessment, I was both hopeful and yet dreading that I would test positive for MRSA, because that would mean a delay to surgery.  No such luck.

To show you how nervous and apprehensive I was about everything, when it came to the urine test, I was given the container for the sample, and told to drink loads of water and then go to the loo to collect the sample.  I obediently drank loads of water and went to the loo … phew, what a relief!  Only to realise … doh, I hadn’t collected the sample!

2.  Pre-surgery shopping list

Bring two sports bras (without underwiring), the list from the hospital read.  I dutifully went out and bought two new bras.  In the end I never used them.  If you don’t use bras, don’t bother getting any for post-mastectomy wear.

I also bought cough sweets for any sore throats after surgery.  Wet wipes in case I couldn’t wash.  I never used any of them.

I got my underarms waxed.  I don’t know why I bothered – I don’t think the surgeon would have stopped operating if he’d seen a hairy underarm.  It must be a girly thing.

3.  Bad Press about the Hospital – I tempt Fate

I almost forgot … the week when the surgery was due, a damning article turned up in the press about mistakes (chaotic and dangerous care) that had been made in the hospital.

I didn’t know what to do:  pull out of surgery?

I read the article and it didn’t have anything to do with mastectomies.  I’d also spoken to 5 people about my surgeon and they all praised him and said he was one of the best in South-East England.  So I decided that the bad press was a blip.  If only I’d listened to my misgivings!

It didn’t help that a friend of mine who’s an astrologer pointed out that there was an eclipse a few days after surgery, and the eclipse’s Mars was on my Ascendant, which is not a good thing as Mars is a malefic.

I threw my hands up in despair – if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had to have the surgery within six weeks of the trans-arterial chemoembolisation, I may well have rescheduled surgery for a more propitious time.  But I made the decision to go ahead.

You probably think I’m bonkers and supersititious, but in view of the disaster that happened, my recommendation to anyone with eclipse Mars on natal Ascendant, and shown an article on problems in the hospital, is don’t.  Don’t tempt fate.  The Universe may be trying to tell you something.

[you’re probably thinking:  but loads of people had surgery on that day, how come it was OK for them?  Answer:  because Mars wasn’t on their Ascendant, and an eclipse Mars at that]

I was beginning to feel as if the cards were stacked against me, but having spent two years trying to get rid of the tumour and not succeeding, I felt I didn’t have any choice in what to do next.  I was on a roller-coaster and couldn’t get off.  Maybe it just goes to show: we try to control our futures, but in the end we are in the hand of Fate.

[I’m not even sure if this post  comes under the heading of TMI, reading this must be like watching a car accident about to happen.  For those who are about to have a mastectomy, don’t worry, most people get through it without any problems – mine was a very rare case.  For those who don’t have cancer, I hope reading this blog has been informative.  I guess for you it’s a case of: there but for the Grace of God … .]

compressionstockings

Compression stockings worn two sizes too small – the height of fashion!

4.  What’s in fashion for surgical wear

I was kitted out with a pair of compression socks in fetching dark green, designed to prevent blood clots.  They were so tight I thought my eyes would pop.  And they were put on me by one of the male nurses.

I was told I could keep my knickers on for the surgery.  You mean some people don’t?  Perhaps they were Scottish?

5.  The anaesthesia

The anaesthetist visited me the morning of the surgery.  I told him that I was a nervous patient with some bad experiences of minor surgical procedures and that I had BAD VEINS and was slightly needle-phobic.  He assured me he knew what he was doing.

When it came to the time for surgery, they wanted to pop me down in the wheelchair, but I refused being made to feel an invalid anymore than I was, and walked down to the theatre.

Just in front of the operating theatre was a small receiving room, with a trolley.  By everyone’s pointed glances, I was supposed to lie down on it.  I shot a look at the exit and gauged how far I could run before I was rugby-tackled, and decided there was no escaping the mastectomy.  The moment had come.

The anaesthetist took one look at my veins, and even though I protested, chose a little one that had never been used before, on the back of my hand.  Now, the back of the hand is a very sensitive place for needles.  The best practitioners with needles have been nurses or phlebotomists, not doctors, because doctors just don’t have the experience, so I dithered on the verge of asking for a nurse to do the deed. The needle he held was the size of a drinking straw.  Before I could pull away, he had the needle in, in one smooth gesture, and it was almost painless.  I realised then I was in the hands of a genius with needles.

“What’s that you’re injecting?” I asked, breathing again.

“A painkiller.  And this is the anaesthetic to knock you out,” he said, pressing down on a syringe filled with milky fluid (the sort they use in movies to knock out elephants).  “You might feel a little discomfort and heat.”

“Ah.  If that’s the anaesthetic, how come I’m still talking to you?”  I asked nervously, after most of the white fluid had emptied itself into me.  

What if I was the rare individual who didn’t succumb to the anaesthetic?

“That’s because it takes about two circulations around the body before it works.”

“Oh, really?  Ah, I s … .”

Best of Breast: news for week ending 27 December 2013

A round-up of this week’s latest medical developments for the week ending 27 December 2013, culled from Google Alerts.

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2013 still rules the waves, and I’ve included two summaries and interviews at the bottom of this post, courtesy of Medscape.  They are short interviews – about 15 minutes long each, and surprisingly understandable despite being given by oncologists.  They will give you something to impress your surgeon/oncologist when you next meet!

Also note the articles on real and sham acupuncture being effective – I’ve had acupuncture and it’s worked for me.  Also, new research on triple-negative breast cancer.

It being Christmas, I couldn’t resist and led with research on Frankincense as a treatment for tumours – in this case it’s ovarian cancer.

However, frankincense has already been tested for breast cancer as early as 2011 and possibly earlier (e.g “Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells“).

The active cancer-fighting ingredient in frankincense is boswellia and my understanding is that it is an anti-inflammatory, 5-LOX enzyme inhibitor.  However, all the boswellia supplements I’ve come across so far use boswellia carterii, and not boswellia sacra (though I’ve come an active extract, ApresFlex, by Life Extension Foundation) and the issue with boswellia is absorption and bioavailability.

Frankincense

1.  Frankincense ‘fights cancer’: Aromatic substance from the Nativity story could help treat ovarian tumours

Continue reading

Fulda 2013 conference #3: Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP) and its special use in cancer (Prof. Dr. Maurizio Luca-Moretti)

ChristmasMarket7

The Christmas Market at Fulda

If this post has helped you, please would you help me?  I am now fundraising for cancer treatments at GoFundMe http://www.gofundme.com/78jh2w or at JustGiving:  https://www.justgiving.com/goBananasforRona

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

[This was the keynote speaker and the first presentation on the morning of the conference, on a subject that would be a recurring theme in other presentations.  Unfortunately, Peter and I  were driving from Frankfurt, and because of traffic congestion, arrived about 30 minutes from the end of the lecture.

My apologies therefore, that my notes are incomplete, and this post therefore does not do justice to Prof Luca-Moretti’s fascinating lecture.  If anyone has a recording of the lecture, please send it to me and I will be more than happy to fill in the gaps.  This post is an amalgamation of several information handouts to give the background to the MAP and to place the talk in its context.]

The Speaker:  Professor Doctor Luca-Moretti has a doctoral degree in medicine, and is former professor for clinical nutritionat St. Thomas University in Florida.  He was also scientific director, president and CEO of the International Nutritional Research Centre (INRC) in Coral Gables, Florida.  He is the discover of Master Amino Acid Pattern (“MAP”), and has published numerous scientific publications and received international awards for his discovery relating to MAP.

Continue reading

Best of Breast: news for week ending 20 December 2013

Updated March 2016 – For more information on GcMAF, please join the GcMAF and GcMAF Cancer forums on Facebook – they are closed groups, so you have to wait for your membership to be confirmed.  They contain up-to-date information on sources of GcMAF, and also feedback and contributions  by people who are using GcMAF.

A round-up of this week’s latest medical developments, culled from Google Alerts.  Again, there’s a glut from the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, which is no bad thing.

At long last, and about time too:  cancer immunotherapy has been voted breakthrough of the year by Science magazine.  I’m looking forward to the day when all cancers can be prevented and cured by immune-boosting treatments, and cancer vaccines, and not surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Immunotherapy

image credit:  sciencemagazine.org

Scientists now prove that chemo-brain exists, a fact that people on chemo have known for ages.  Maybe this will mean chemo-brain will be taken seriously and more importantly, some cures will be in the pipeline.

Some interesting research on sugar and its role in cancer – the theory used to be that cancer cells were able to survive without oxygen, by converting sugar directly into energy.  New research has shown that increasing sugar metabolism in cells may be directly responsible for fuelling the growth of cancer cells.

A trial into the use of chemotherapy drug, 5FU (fluorouracil) shows that it did not add to the efficacy of treatment protocols using epirubicin and cyclophosphamide and paclitaxel (FEC +T).  I find this especially relevant because FECT is standard treatment for lymph-node positive breast cancer in the UK.  Does this mean the protocol will change?

Don’t forget to eat your tomatoes – not only is lycopene (the phytochemical contained in them) good for prostate cancer, it has now been shown to have a positive effect on the level of hormones that play a role in regulating fat and sugar metabolism in a trial involving post-menopausal women.

Continue reading

Mastectomy #2 – Breast envy

twomelons

The days before and after I opted for a mastectomy and an implant, I developed boob envy.

That is, every time I saw a woman with large breasts I would think: “you lucky so-and-so.  Because of the size of your breasts you won’t have to have a mastectomy if you get breast cancer.  You’ll probably be all right with a lumpectomy.  You’ll get to keep your breast.”  It made going to the gym an exercise in surreptitious peeking.

The irony is, when I was first diagnosed, 1.5 years’ ago, my boobs were larger.  That’s because I’d been on the Pill for 15 years and the hormones put flesh on where I never had abt.  After my diagnosis I came off the Pill and the flesh (about 5kg) fell off, including, alas, my boobs.

Continue reading

Medicinal Mushrooms #3 – Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) for nerve repair

HericumErinaceus

Hericium erinaceus (also called Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Bearded Tooth Mushroom, Hedgehog Mushroom, Satyr’s Beard, Bearded Hedgehog Mushroom, pom pom mushroom, monkey-head mushroom, Yamabushitake or Bearded Tooth Fungus)

I stumbled across Lion’s Mane mushroom when I was researching supplements that would repair the nerve injury I sustained after my mastectomy.

[For those readers who have not been following my blog:  I woke up from my mastectomy only to discover that my left arm was paralysed and numb.  I had a brachial plexus C5/C6/C7 nerve injury.  Yep, bummer.]

Amongst the nerve repair and peripheral neuropathy supplements I researched were:  earthworm extract (lumbricus), Acetyl-L-Carnitine, St. John’s Wort, Benfotiamine, Vitamin B12, and Lion’s Mane mushroom.

Continue reading

Best of Breast: news for week ending 13 December 2013

A weekly round-up of Google Alerts on the latest medical developments in Breast Cancer.  I was puzzled as to why there was such a surge this week, and realised that it was due to studies being released at the San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium 2013 (http://www.sabcs.org/PressReleases/Documents/2013/b3c6acef3fe26baa.pdf)

There’s fantastic news that the aromatase inhibitor, anastrazole (aka Arimidex), can cut the risk of breast cancer in women by 50% and with fewer side-effects than drugs like tamoxifen.  But please note (and this is not being made clear in newspaper headlines), anastrozole is usually only used in post-menopausal women (because the ovaries in premenopausal women produce too much aromatase for the inhibitors to block effectively).  There’s also little discussion on the side-effects which may make it difficult for women to comply with taking the medication.

The FDA has issued a warning about nipple aspirate tests being used as a substitute for mammograms.  The message is:  they’re not reliable, and don’t.  They sound awfully like thermograms to me – I had a thermogram done about 3 days’ after my initial diagnosis, and the practitioner who conducted the test told me that without the mammogram, he wouldn’t have diagnosed breast cancer from my thermogram. (part of the issue is that the thermogram machines in the UK are not sophisticated enough to give the detailed results required for such diagnosis).

smart-bra

404 error … Windows cannot recognise the software … one or both servers is not working … please reinstall drivers … image credit: nytimes.com

1A.  Microsoft working on a smart bra that detects breast cancer and measures moods

Continue reading

Fulda 2013 conference #2: GcMAF (Professor Ruggiero)

ChristmasMarket2

The Christmas Market at Fulda

 

Updated March 2016 – For more information on GcMAF, please join the GcMAF and GcMAF Cancer forums on Facebook – they are closed groups, so you have to wait for your membership to be confirmed.  They contain up-to-date information on sources of GcMAF, and also feedback and contributions  by people who are using GcMAF.

Updated 16 Mar 2014 re. vortex mixer

I’d previously written on GcMAF:

Supplement:  GcMAF and Supplement:  GcMAF yoghurt and my latest post, a talk given by Professor Ruggiero at the GcMAF clinic in February 2014.

Well, at the Fulda Integrative Cancer Conference 2013, I finally got to meet the famous Professor Ruggiero, who is the scientist behind the latest research on GcMAF.

(Professor Ruggiero is that rare beast, the research scientist who has also practiced as a radiologist, so he understands cancer in a way that very few pure research scientists do, having been at the coal face of cancer treatment.)

GcMAF1

image credit: copyright Prof. Ruggiero

Continue reading

Best of Breast: news for week ending 6 December 2013

A summary of Google Alerts for the latest medical developments in breast cancer for the week ending 6 December 2013.

There are two articles this week on Vitamin D.  I’ve posted previously on Vitamin D, and originally assumed (based on the research) that deficiency in Vitamin D led to the disease – French scientists now posit that it’s the contrary – that the disease leads to the deficiency, so supplementing may not lower the risk of cancer.

I know the first article isn’t a medical development, but it’s a feel-good story.  It’s not always such a happy ending of course, pregnancy hormones can fuel cancer and there are mothers who face cancer and the cruel dilemma of having to go through cancer treatment during pregnancy.

Further down the list, a study proving that women who have abortions face a higher risk of cancer – the irony of the juxtaposition in this weeks’ round-up is not lost on me!  And finally, there are women who are using their bras as pockets for their cell phones – with obvious results.

Pregnant belly

image credit: thenakedscientists.com

1.  Mother who didn’t even know she was expecting, discovers pregnancy hormones had destroyed cancerous tumour

Continue reading