The worst meltdown
There were lots of tears and various minor meltdowns throughout this whole experience. Honestly, they still happen.
But this was the worst meltdown.
And it was all triggered by a phone call and a nurse who was assertive and caught off guard.
Honestly, I feel a bit sick just thinking about it (still).
Note to self… Do some work on this!
Trigger warning ⚠️ discussion of anxiety and panic
If you do have an anxiety disorder or experience panic attacks, this may not be the post for you, if you find such things triggering.
The phone call catalyst for the worst meltdown.
3:02 pm Phone call on 03rd June to advise surgery booked for Wednesday 09th June – I didn’t even have the letter telling me that I was on the list.
In hindsight, lockdown meant that all elective surgeries were cancelled, so they could bump up all the category one procedures. As I had received my initial diagnosis on the 28th of April, and the ideal timeframe given was a month. I was a category one patient.
The Australian Health system is pretty good overall, and I got excellent care, my wellness team was terrific, this was, in hindsight, just a bump in the road.
Although I remember her as kind of the catalyst, the nurse in question was probably actually great, it’s just that I went into amygdala hijack. I say she is probably great because I honestly didn’t experience a single bad nurse.
I told the pre-admission nurse that I simply couldn’t do the surgery on Monday – which was really only three days away.
She was caught off guard, understandably, and explained to me that they had already lined up theatres and two surgical teams and it had taken up her whole day.
I told her that I understood that it was inconvenient for her, but that no one had spoken to me about that specific date. I explained that I was in the middle of moving house and that lockdown had completely thrown my plans as well.
She explained to me that if I passed up this date, she couldn’t tell me when my surgery could be scheduled. I assured her I understood that.
Post phone call meltdown
I got off the phone and absolutely ugly cried. By ugly cried, I mean, full-body sobbing. I completely broke down. It’s one of, if not the worst meltdown I have ever had (excluding those involving death of people I love).
Then I went out to my housemate who was loading the truck with our neighbour for the first truckload and proceeded to have a full meltdown on the pair of them.
It caused me to hit a complete emotional overload. For the first time, I thought that perhaps I actually would die. The phrase “I can’t give you any kind of a timeframe on when we could reschedule this” kind of took on an ominous hue. I was so distressed, that I thought I was going to throw up. I was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t breathe properly.
Silent shout out to all the people who are uncomfortable with tears who unexpectedly get confronted by someone in tears – you have my sympathy.
Phone a friend (Meltdown edition)
After losing my shit on my housemate and neighbour, I went and rang my sibling. They became the voice of reason. This helped de-esculate my meltdown.
We revisited and affirmed the decision to delay the surgery. There was some mouthing off about the nurse together (apologies to the nurse in question, but it did help at the time). The reality of the impact of lockdown and cancelled elective surgeries was revisited. We reevaluated the available information to date on the fact that my breast cancers were early stage. My checklist of everything that had to be done to ensure I was well set up and equipped to recover was reviewed.
Follow up conversation with Cancer Surgeon
It helped me navigate the evening conversation with my cancer surgeon.
He was concerned about the delay. I had been diagnosed in the first instance on April 28th, and the first diagnosing surgeon had recommended surgery within a month. That surgeon had also said I probably had a margin of three months before I was placing myself at more risk.
Phone a friend (again)
I think I was back on the phone to my sibling about that phone call too. I cannot emphasise enough how much support I had from my sibling and my housemate, and how fundamental that has been to my well being. My sibling filled the role that I am calling Advocate Companion and this was another instance that I needed that support and consistency.
I felt incredibly pressured – in part due to my sense of vulnerability. There was the diagnosis of bilateral breast cancers. I was emotionally unsteady. There was so much pain from my fibromyalgia flare (massively exacerbated by the cancers in hindsight). And I had to move from my home of 17 years, and I wasn’t ready for it. Truthfully, I wasn’t ready for any of it. Additionally, we had to do it all under lockdown conditions.
Preliminary discussion regarding scheduling and priorities
It would not have occurred to me to decline surgery at that time if not for a preliminary discussion with my younger sibling. They asked me “what would you do if they called tomorrow and said they could get you in the day after?
My initial response was “say yes, of course.”
My sibling then talked me through the category system and explained that I would be a category one patient. Due to their professional insights, they explained how during covid lockdowns, elective surgeries are cancelled and rescheduled. They also pointed out that once I had surgery, I was out of commission for at least 2 weeks, if not longer. I wouldn’t be able to drive or lift anything for 6 – 8 weeks. This was all a best-case scenario, not factoring in any complications.
They asked me to think about it. They suggested that I needed to be out of my old house, and have that all finalised. I also needed to have my bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen set up so that I could function in them and be comfortable. I discussed this with my housemate as well before the phone call on Thursday.
In retrospect – so much gratitude
In hindsight, if I did not have those discussions with my sibling and my housemate, with the time to consider all the demands of moving, I would have said yes to the surgery when that phone call came in. And given how much we had to sort, it would have been a disaster.
The owner of my old house was so supportive. Their spouse had died of breast cancer the year prior and they gave us so much extra time to move. In the end, we signed the lease for the new house on April 09th, my housemate moved across in mid-May, and I had my first night at the new house on 06th June. We handed the keys back to my old house at the end of June, which was when the new owner took possession. The new owner didn’t want active tenants. We were so lucky that we decided to move and finalised that before surgery.
June 2021 in summary
June overall was the worst month of the whole cancer experience (so far). It had my singular worst day with my worst meltdown. It also just pushed me to the edge. In terms of pain management, I didn’t have the medication regime in place to control such constant and heightened pain, so I was in pain constantly. I was probably in tears every other day. Emotionally, I was struggling to regulate, and I was having multiple panic attacks. I was anxious the whole time. Additionally, I felt so incredibly guilty that my housemate had to do everything. Lockdown made me feel completely isolated and cut off.
It was simply awful.
Moving house under lockdown
Facebook post from 30th May 2021: I was desperate for assistance, and I put out this call for help. Most people were not comfortable breaking the 5km radius travel restrictions, despite the advice received. There were a few people who were confident enough to assist, and I’m very grateful for their generosity. My housemate did about 98% all on his own with moving trolleys, a flatbed on loan from a friends’ business, and two rubbish skips.
MOVING – AS PER COVID HOTLINE
A friend spent 2.5 hrs on the phone yesterday to obtain this information.
I am permitted to have one person helping me on compassionate grounds for a medical condition and in this situation, I qualify.
Face masks + social distancing rules apply.
So… if you are well, and comfortable with this – message me 🙂
I totally get that a lot of people may not be comfortable, and trust me, I get that too!
No pressure whatsoever.
Not possible to delay the move
Delaying the move is not an option because with surgery + 3 weeks of recovery around the corner I need to be settled in and fully functional in the new house for the three weeks when I can’t bend, twist, stretch, lean, reach, or lift much more than a small cup of coffee.
Sadly, removalists are not really an option right now because I have so much packing to do.
🚫 just a reminder folx; I do have cancer, and I am vulnerable, so if you or yours have been sick in the last 7 – 14 days please don’t come near me: a cold wiped me out, like in bed sick, for 10 days at the start of April.
Ensure that you are vigilant around your self-examination. Train yourself to check your breasts/testicles routinely, and monitor your bowel habits and your urine output. These are our body’s early warning signs, and we don’t have a lot of awareness of them.
Related blog posts
- Sunday 30th May 2021: Cancer – telling your colleagues
- Friday 28th May 2021 (Cancer Journal 7)
- Friday 28th May 2021 Plastic Surgeon
- Wednesday 26th May 2021 Cancer Clinic
- Tuesday 25th May 2021 Left Breast Diagnosis
- Friday 21st May 2021: Biopsy, Left Breast
- Tuesday 18th May (Cancer Journal 6)
- Monday 17th May 2021 Arranging the biopsy
- Saturday 15th May 2021 (Cancer Journal 5)
- Wednesday 12th May 2021 (Cancer Journal 4)
- Friday 07th May 2021 (Cancer Journal 3)
- Cancer surgeon
- Sunday, 02nd May 2021 (Cancer Journal 2)
- Saturday May 01st 2021 ( Cancer Journal 1)
- Facebook post
- How to tell people you have cancer.
- Deciding strategies
- The Camus Question of Choice
- The Follow-up Tests
- The phone call.
- Check your breasts