Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Family Fortunes

As usual when I hit bad news, a song (sometimes an inappropriate one) comes into my head. The theme tune from our '70s Saturday night favourite Family Fortunes is buzzing around it at the moment as a backdrop to yet another shocker. Last week we found out that one of my sisters has breast cancer. A lump the size of a marble, hidden behind the nipple, was found during routine breast screening. She rang me from where she lives in Australia: "Um, it's not like really terrible or anything, but um, I have breast cancer." 

She's having surgery tomorrow — or today, depending on your location. She's staring it in the face right now. I rang her a moment ago; it's 10.40 pm here but over there it's gone half past seven in the morning. She just went out of the front door to have a sentinel node biopsy and lumpectomy, and when she comes round, she will find out via OSNA if there is any disease in the lymph nodes. At least I think that's right — it's so hard for a patient to remember what the surgeon tells you when you're trying to process the news. We've had a few garbled conversations with both of us trying to understand it all. All I know at the moment is the doctors think they have found the disease early. But it doesn't matter what they say until the results are in. Nothing stokes anxiety like the unknown.

As it happens, OSNA has just come to the South West — Mr A did his first one last week to much fanfare on, um, Radio Cornwall (that's a story for another day). I asked him to clarify what OSNA is when I heard my sister's news and he emailed me: "It stands for one step nucleic acid amplification. Allows intra-operative analysis of the node and if it is positive all the nodes are cleared. If it's negative then the patient is told on recovering from anaesthesia. This prevents a second surgery for some patients (approximately 30%)." So when I wake up in the morning, we will find out if the cancer has begun to move.

P.S. If you've read more recent posts, you'll know now that we have had good news. I feel I can post this clip from Family Fortunes now, with Bob Monkhouse for you to enjoy. It's simply marvellous.

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