About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer and an artist who was made in Soho and thereafter born in the heart of London. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children and grandchildren whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life, has a degree in Film and Television, and has exhibited her artwork in several exhibition.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Op - By Holly Searle

So, I still have cancer, only it's bigger, 5 x bigger than they initially thought.

My doctor, a lovely human being, interrupted the already planned pre op tests and scheduled operation, by sending me off to have a Breast MRI.

I am ridiculously claustrophobic. If you are looking for an additional member for your pot holing team, please don't ask me. I hate small confined places as much as I hate the way this cancer has caused chaos in my life.

Before the MRI, I asked my GP to prescribe me something to help me get through it. But then I think about the night that follows this MRI and how I have a piece of artwork in a group exhibition in London opening that evening. I want to go, but I don't want to be off my face when I attend. So I decide to do the MRI cold turkey and it's just awful. After 20 minutes in there laying face down with my boobs in a cage, I get them to pull me out. The lady tells me not to worry as not everyone can do MRI's. I say what happens next, she says that they need to inject me with radioactive liquid and take images to see if the dye flags up any additional cancer. How long will it take I ask, my claustrophobia is manageable as long as I know EXACTLY what is happening, why and how long it will take.

I strike a deal with the guy in charge of the MRI. I ask him to let me know when there is 5 minutes left. He agrees. So with the canular inserted in my arm and pumping radioactive dye (which I taste as it passes through my body), I lay there hyperventilating with my eyes tightly shut, until he calls time.

When it's over, I cry, as I hate MRI's and the fact that having cancer has made me endure this one.

I try to brave it at the gallery that evening, but I am exhausted. When I get home, I worry that I am trying to do too much: work, be an artist, deal with cancer.

I sleep well that night and silently pat myself on the back.

The MRI reveals that the cancer is much bigger and this changes everything.

So instead of having my intended op, I have a further biopsies to determine the parameter of the newly discovered super size cancer. This involves having my left breast numbed and then having a long needle inserted and a staple gun snap when they take the sample. Five of these I don't feel, one I do and nearly pass and or throw up due to the pain.

I feel violated even though I know all these nice people are doing all of this to help me battle this nasty mutation in my body.

You're being so brave the lady tells me.

I don't feel brave, I feel like running away. I feel like screaming PLEASE STOP THIS MADNESS.

So today is the first of many High Noon days I am sure I will have to face over the coming months.

My surgeon tells me that after all these additional tests, it is bigger and that this means I will have to have a mastectomy. My oldest friend has accompanied to this appointment and I hear her sharp intake of breath from the other side of the examination curtain that divides us.

My brain swirls. Reconstruction I ask? Yes he says, we can actually do both at the same time. We discuss an implant option against the benefits of a living tissue one. With the living tissue, they take the fat off of your belly. Win win I think. New boob AND a flatter tummy. How lucky am I?

Ironically the fat on my belly is a result of the HRT, which could also have caused my cancer.

But this is a 10 hour operation. Prior to this I will have to attend a kind of lecture at Charing Cross Hospital to explain the entire cancer journey, options and out come.

I may change my mind after I have attended this. I won't know until I do.

It's all been an emotional roller coaster, one that I can only deal with by focusing on the fact that all rides must end at some point.

Everyone has been amazing. Everyday I get support and love (and tears) from family and friends.

PLEASE keep that coming. It's making this all so much easier to bare knowing that you all are.

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