Unlikely, but true. I have been referred to in a BBC News Story. This one.
Its an awfully oblique reference. I am one of the 100,000 subjects (half of the total in this scientific trial) that had had cancer, but I'd pretty much forgotten I'd agreed to be part of it until I read the article.
It began in 2007, I think, the year after I had surgery and radiotherapy for Breast Cancer, and then embarked on five years' adjuvant therapy. I got a letter from a research scientist at Cambridge (Hertfordshire, where were were at the time, is pretty much a next-door county, so local GPs had been asked for suitable patients) inviting me to be part of a genetic research trial.
I filled out the medical and family questionnaire (which greatly served to underpin the disquietingly large number people I am closely related to who have had cancers of various types - all of them, before the late C20th, quickly fatal) and then a few weeks later I got a phial and attendant paperwork to take with me to have a blood test, which I did. Then it was posted off, and I forgot about it, pretty much, but for a letter thanking me for my help a few months down the line.
Since then I have passed the five-year mark still alive (delightedly) and with no detectable tumours lurking anywhere (reassuringly) and have been discharged. Later this year it will be seven years since diagnosis. Most days I don't give the matter a single thought, although I self-examine a couple of times a month, to keep my hand in, as it were. Breast Cancer is technically only ever in remission, not cured. It's just one of those things.
I hope YOU check those puppies as well, girls AND boys. And also please learn the symptom checklist (below) off by heart...
But today I am remembering very clearly and gratefully the facts of the case. In 2006, aged 49, I had a malignancy. I detected the changes, saw a GP, was carefully examined, and referred to a specialist. I was scanned and x-rayed and tested, diagnosed, treated and kept a careful eye on for five years. I met a superb NHS team of surgeons, anaesthetists, oncologists, doctors, radiologist, radiotherapists, and breast care nurses.
Thank you St Albans Breast Care Clinic! You were all stars.
So today I am glad to have been reminded of what turned out to be a surprisingly happy time. Once the initial anxieties were assuaged and the treatment embarked upon I - we, the entire family - had a lot of fun. Staff were friendly and jokey, with an enviable lightness of touch alongside always commendable levels of compassion (what WAS that guff about nurses needing compassion training on Newsnight last night? NHS managers need six months as nursing auxiliaries on the wards before they can embark on training or are put in post, not the nurses! Pah! A bed-pan-emptying Health Minister, as was even suggested might happen by the very man himself, that I DO want to see. I'd pay good money for a ticket to that).
I gave a bit back, and today I found out what it was all about. I was also part of a trial of new surgical and diagnostic techniques, all to do with testing the efficacy of sentinel node biopsies, as well, whilst I was having the surgery. I was happy to volunteer for that as well.
Happy, happy, HAPPY to do so.
- Swelling in or around the breast.
- Irritation of the skin or dimpling.
- Pain in the breast or nipple area.
- Changes in the appearance of the nipple or surrounding skin.
- Discharge from the nipple, not associated with breast milk.
- Lump in the underarm area.
PS, now Sky has got hold of it, like Topsy it has growed; the sample was 250,000, they say But I was still part of it. I did my bit....