Unanswered questions

Before I knew it, it was time for me to go and collect the girls from school. I don’t remember doing it that day. I was just robotically going through the motions. When we got home, my eldest daughter Rochelle asked me what was wrong and enquired as to how I got the big blue and purple laceration on my forehead. I just told her that I bumped my head by accident, which she accepted on the surface, but I could see in her face that she sensed something else was wrong. When my husband arrived home later that day he found me sitting in the living room staring straight ahead. I only realized that he’d walked through the door when he sat down next to me and put his hand on my shoulder. All I needed to do was just look at him and he said, ‘You looked at the scans didn’t you?’


At that point I didn’t know how to feel…it was just this overwhelming state of complete shock. How could this be happening? The following day when we walked into the doctors room, I was the first one to speak . ‘How can this be…my tumor marker blood tests have been putting me in the clear this whole time!’

Rak photo

The girls and I shortly before my first relapse.

My husband and I were waiting for a response. I could see the doctors mind racing to come up with some sort of explanation. He was on the hot coals now and he had no idea what to do…and so the back peddling began.  ‘Well, this can happen in rare instances with primitive forms of breast cancer.’

Primitive!? What is that…I don’t know about anybody else out there, but I’ve never heard of primitive breast cancer. I never said this out loud but I was screaming it in my head. What a cop out! It was just his way of telling me that scientists have been so embroiled in finding better treatments and a cure for breast cancer, that they’re overlooking something vital…making tumor marker blood tests more sensitive. How many women have fallen through the net and died of breast cancer because this blood test and the entire system let them down? I went from one day thinking that I was completely healthy and fine, to fighting for my life the next. After taking a closer look at the scans my doctor confirmed that I had progressed to stage 4. The cancer had spread to the back of my skull but luckily hadn’t penetrated my brain, my spine, the back of my ribs, the top of my kidneys, my lungs, the sternum, the right pelvis and hip and my thigh bone. I obviously have no idea what protocol other doctors follow, but being in this truly unbelievable situation questions started flying through my head. I hadn’t been for a scan for 3 long years. Do other oncologists fail to send their patients for regular CT scans or was it just my doctor? Then I remembered that I hadn’t taken my Tamoxifen for the full 5 years like I was supposed to, cutting off at 3 years. I had consulted my oncologist about it however and he’d agreed that it was safe to stop it. If I had taken it for longer it clearly would’ve been putting off the inevitable and I was willing to take the risk. This risk clearly hadn’t paid off, but it still didn’t explain how the tumor marker blood test results had let me down so catastrophically, and then there was the absence of CT scans. If I had been sent for regular scans, I would clearly not have been in that situation!

People can so easily sit and preach that things in life happen for a reason, but when you feel like you’re in a fragile boat that’s perilously being thrown about in rough waters threatening to snap in half like a twig, then it’s very hard to believe. I was utterly consumed with paralyzing fear and anger that was almost too much to bear. I was angry at God for allowing this to happen to me, angry at my body for letting me down and determined that one way or another, I was going to get myself another doctor. I was no longer going to put my life in the hands of someone I could no longer trust. That was the least of my problems however…how on earth was I going to deliver this heartbreaking news to the girls?

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