A stroke is not enough.

As Amanda’s stroke recovery continues, life goes on.  Her ongoing challenges with reading, using the phone and the internet means I look after general household admin. This include dealing with the mail and organising hair, dental and doctor’s appointments.

Back in October the appointment letter arrived for her regular 2 yearly mammogram. A few days after the visit to the clinic we received a phone call to say they needed to see her again.

Not the call anyone wants to receive.

After another mammogram we were immediately taken to a small room where a doctor performed a biopsy.

Then we waited for the result.

The doctor (the same one who never expected to see Amanda again when word reached  the practice she had been flown to Wellington following a massive stroke), confirmed the biopsy had revealed cancerous cells. The doctor  left us alone for a few minutes to take it in. She later admitted she had to leave the room to shed a few of her own tears at this latest news.

The doctor informed us that Amanda was fortunate that Nelson has one of the best breast surgeons in the country, and we were both encouraged by the no- nonsense practicality of the amazing Dr Roz Pochin who explained everything carefully and clearly, fully aware that Amanda was coping with the whole situation while also recovering from her stroke.

A week later, Dr Roz called me from the theatre as soon as she had finished to say the surgery had gone well and she had removed a golf ball-sized piece of tissue to be sent away for analysis.

A few days later we received a call.

Firstly the surgeon emphasised the tissue was pre-cancerous, but that the bad tissue went all the way to edge of the extracted sample, so she wanted to go in again to take some more, just to be certain.

By now it was just before Christmas. Dr Roz was due to go on long term leave and wanted to see the job through. So she  decided to make the surgery urgent by noting it as cancerous and put Amanda on the non-elective surgery list for New Years Eve.

The sample was rushed through and  2 days later the surgeon was able to confirm she had removed all the pre- cancerous tissue which had been detected.

To make absolutely sure Amanda was then booked in for radiotherapy at the nearest available unit; Christchurch Hospital, 400kms away.

30 minutes of high intensity radiation is carefully targeted to kill any remaining cancer- causing cells, using 2 minute ‘blasts’ over 15 days.

So now, in March here we are, in the Cancer Society lodge in Christchurch (funded by the charity), taking a daily bus (funded by the charity) to the nearby hospital, for non-invasive, painless and preventative radiation treatment.

To most people this whole ongoing episode would be calamitous, life-changing and emotional. But Amanda has already been there and done that.

She wasn’t able to read the vast amount of supportive booklets, leaflets and web pages we were offered.

She could not remember from one visit to the next, what information she had been given, what the prognosis along each step might be, or what the risks of radiotherapy might be.

For both of us, this was merely a blip on her stroke recovery journey.

As you would hope, and expect, every medical expert we have encountered has been incredibly empathetic towards the additional complications as a result of the stroke.

So, here we are,  halfway through our ‘radioactive mini- break’.

I’m making sure Amanda is walking more each day than she has in the previous few months, getting her regular nap, and trying to see a few of the sights of Christchurch.




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