I visited my GP who referred me to the breast cancer unit at my local hospital. Something told me that they were wrong and that is wasn't breast cancer as they suspected. I remember not being too concerned about the appointment. My mum came with me on the day and after a brief examination with the consultant, he confirmed that it wasn't in my breast tissue. The GP told me it was most likely to be Costochondritis - an inflammation of the joints between the cartilages that join the ribs to the breastbone. Although painful, not a serious condition. So I put it down to this and carried on. My boyfriend was still concerned especially as the inflammation didn't seem to be easing and spent the following weeks nagging me to go back to the GP. After about 6 weeks when it still hadn't gone, I returned to the GP. I was then sent for a chest X-Ray to find out if it was anything more serious but my GP assured me that everything would be fine and this was just a precaution. The chest X-Ray was taken on Wednesday 30th October 2013 and by the Friday I received a phone call from the hospital saying that there was an abnormal boney mass in my chest and they wanted me to go for a CT scan to investigate further. I can remember getting this news vividly. I was stood in the kitchen of my friend's new house in Cambridge while she was putting her little boy down for his lunchtime sleep. It's one of those events that you don't forget. The CT scan was completed first thing in the morning on Monday 4th October and after I returned to work.
Towards the end of the week I was driving home from work on a horribly wet day and received a phone call from the GP, I pulled over into the nearest bus stop of take the call, to be told that she was referring me for further investigation again under two-week cancer referral system, I can't remember much more now of what she told me at this time but I remember her telling me not to worry and that in most of these cases it turns out to be nothing serious. I remember thinking 'how can I not worry?' and the first thing I did was to call my mum and boyfriend to tell them the news.
I next received a call from Stanmore Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital informing me I had an appointment to see a consultant. I was also to have a biopsy and MRI scan on Thursday 14th November. My boyfriend and I had tickets to see Vampire Weekend at the O2 on the Wednesday night and I was determined still to go if only to take my mind off the events of the following day. I remember standing there at the O2 with all the people and the music playing and saying to my boyfriend that "I had so much left that I wanted to do and what if I never got to do any of it?'.
The next morning I sat with my mum in the out-patients department at Stanmore Hospital for the first time, somewhere I have since become very familiar with, and waited over an hour to see the consultant. During the appointment he showed me the results of my chest X-Ray and CT scan and confirmed I had a large mass on my 6th rib. The resounding thing that I remember from this appointment was he expected that when I returned for the results from the biopsy he would be confirming that I had cancer. I don't really think what he said hit me then, my mum burst into tears but I wasn't too bad, I just remember thinking I still have the biopsy to get through and I was really worried about that. It was such a long day all in all but everyone was so nice to me and explained exactly what they were doing. I didn't mind the MRI scan at all but it gave me too long to think and the biopsy, once completed, made my rib ache terribly. By that evening I just felt numb, I had been told I would feel tearful however at this stage I just didn't really feel anything, just shock I suppose. Nothing prepares you to be told at 34 years old that it's very likely you have cancer. How I got through the next two weeks until the results are still a mystery to me. Apart from the day after the hospital I went into work every day and just went on to auto pilot. I won't try and pretend this time was easy or even ok, it wasn't - I was in floods of tears at times and very angry at others, why this was happening to me seemed very unfair. I returned to Stanmore on the 28th November to be given the news that I had chondrosarcoma.
The following week I had a whole body radionuclide scan to check whether the cancer had spread to any other bones in my body, although unlikely this was still a risk. The results showed that it hadn't which was good news. I was also referred to Consultant Emma Beddow at Harefield Hospital for surgery. I met with Emma on the 6th December and then went into hospital the following Tuesday for surgery on the Wednesday.
Never having been in hospital before, the surgery was a daunting experience but not one that I had any choice about. The wait to be called on the morning of the surgery was interminable and once I was called I couldn't stop shaking. The surgery removed a section of 4 of my ribs in my right front chest wall and also the cancerous tumour. We had been told that I may have to have a maximum of three ribs removed but unfortunately the tumour had come into contact with more than they thought. I was in hospital for just under 2 weeks while we waited to ensure that there was no infection in the prosthetic that had been put in place of my ribs and was discharged the weekend before Christmas.
It has seemed a long and at times frustrating road to recovery mainly due to my impatience and my drive to get back to a normal life as soon as I could. Now nine months later I am generally back to normal in most aspects of my life and the pain from the operation has lessened gradually. I know in reality that nine months isn't that long a recovery time and I am very lucky that I have not had to have the chemotherapy and radiotherapy that many cancer sufferers have. I have had so much support throughout this whole experience and know that I really couldn't have got through this without some very special people and can't ever thank those people enough. At present I have three monthly checks for the return of the cancer and in the future this will change to six-monthly then yearly. So far so good and keeping my fingers crossed for the future.