Tom and I cycled into Barts to meet the fertility team. On arrival, there was some hassle about letting Tom into the clinic as he had been working on a Covid ward within the past two weeks, even though he had been specifically asked to attend the appointment. There had also been some ambiguity over the phone when the bookings team rang up to ask us to come in. The woman on the other end of the phone had mumbled something to me about bringing my partner and that he would have to bring a urine sample pot with him. She did not specifically say what kind of sample to bring in, but as it was a fertility clinic, we took a risk and hoped that the nurse wasn’t horribly offended when Tom handed it over! I am baffled as to why the bookings woman found it difficult to say exactly what was required, as this surely must be a crucial part of her job. Luckily, the gamble paid off and now we know that Tom is fertile!!
The test to check my fertility wasn’t half as fun. Just another example of girls getting the rotten end of a deal! I felt slightly violated after the male doctor had performed the internal scan necessary to check how many follicles I had that were able to produce eggs. Thankfully it was a positive outcome, I am also fertile!
After scans and tests completed, we went through to chat with an obs & gynae consultant. He spoke so timidly I could not hear a word he was saying and he seemed to shake with nervousness throughout the entire appointment. The majority of what he said went over my head. I tuned out so thank god Tom was listening. What I understood was that depending on what the oncology team says on Monday, we will be able to do either one or more rounds of egg harvesting. Obviously the more rounds I complete, more eggs collected to freeze, better chances of kids in the future. On the flip side, the more rounds I complete, the further this delays my chemotherapy and surgery dates. And the longer the cancer has to grow.
At the end of our appointment with the nervous man, we both had to have our blood taken. After what I had already been through, there was no way I was letting him near me with a needle before checking that he was actually capable of the task, so I let Tom go first. After a lot of faffing, he took blood from Tom. Success! That must have been his one lucky shot though, because by the time he got to me, he couldn’t find my vein. I wasn’t prepared to let him have a second painful attempt at stabbing me. I held out my other arm to Tom, who quickly and painlessly took my blood then handed the bottles back to the consultant, who had retreated to back behind his desk. We left with the consultant thanking Tom for doing his job for him.
That afternoon at home, I had a telephone consultation with a geneticist, Munaza, from Great Ormand Street Hospital. We talked through my family history of disease. The most notable being my mum, who also had breast cancer. My mum was diagnosed at the age of 52 (weird since we have never celebrated a birthday over 40 for her!) Mum had a slightly different diagnosis to mine. With this in mind, Munaza said that she wasn’t seeing a strong genetic link.
I am, however, going to undergo some genetic testing that may help dictate future treatments. The genes they are testing for include:
- TP53: a hereditary cancer condition that gives rise to young onset breast cancer and brain tumours. It is very rare.
- BRCA 1 and 2: these are the more well known genes related to breast cancer. They are linked to breast cancer in women usually in their 30-60s. It is less common for women in their 20s. If found, it also means there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer, onset usually in 40s.
- PALB2 – another gene linked to breast cancer that comes with a mild increased risk of ovarian cancer.
It will take a couple of months for the gene testing results to come back.
I have had to tell work that I will not be returning for the foreseeable future. I have been advised to shield and therefore it is not safe for me to be going into the dental hospital where I might come into contact with someone carrying coronavirus, which is the last thing I want to catch before starting chemotherapy.
It sounds stupid but not being able to go to work is one of the things I have been worrying about the most. I am currently in dental core training, a year which is just one of the hoops that I have to jump through to be able to apply for specialty training in the future. In my head, if I don’t “complete” this year – I may have to retake. Not the worst thing in the world to be set back one year, but it would mean going through another round of National Recruitment – a system whereby you are allocated a training post anywhere in the country. I really hate this system and I can’t face moving house again. Especially when Tom’s jobs are allocated using a similar system whereby he may also be allocated a job anywhere in the country. Our systems are not linked and this means we have to hope that we both get jobs in an area close to each other.
Apart from not completing my training, I am sad about not being able to go back to work. I really loved the job I was working in prior to coronavirus. I worked with a great team of people who I looked forward to seeing every day and so I will miss them. I am going to try and enjoy this time off as much as possible, as I’m sure that as soon as I am back at work (whenever that may be) I will be thinking about nothing but my next holiday!!
Thankfully, everyone at work has been very kind and supportive in response to the news. I have been told that as long as I meet all of the portfolio requirements, which I am close to doing and should be able to complete, then I should successfully “pass” the year. That’s one weight off my mind.
Thursday was a day with no hospital appointments, and only one phone call from the hospital confirming an appointment for next week. Friday I had just one short appointment in the morning for a CT scan. I was so thankful to have these two days where I could forget about the cancer and get back to “normal life”.
I am feeling very loved. Thank you to everyone who has sent messages/delicious baked goods/flowers or offered to help out whilst I am shielding (the best offer so far coming from Katie Cotterill who offered to deliver emergency wine in the middle of the night!) I would like to congratulate everyone who has sent flowers on no two people picking the same bunch so far!! Also would like to request that if you are thinking of sending flowers, that you also send a vase to put them in as I have run out!
So after a week where I and my closest family and friends have been challenged to levels previously unknown (emotional rollercoaster doesn’t even begin to describe it) we are definitely all thinking straight and decided that it would be a good idea to get a puppy! I’m going to start taking bets on how long it takes for my dad to claim that “he never thought this was a good idea.”
I am picking up Frank next weekend – if anyone has any great advice on puppy training then I would love to hear it! For now, the excitement of his arrival will have to keep me going through what could be a tough week. For anyone who would like more Frank-related pupdates, Philippa has set up an instagram page (@frank.thetank21)
- Monday: meeting with oncology team then echo scan
- Wednesday: bone scan with nuclear medicine
- Saturday: PICK UP FRANK!