34. Oncology

The very word “Oncology” carries a range of emotions.  For those in the know it means treatment and hope and for those who aren’t in the know it can mean fear.  I don’t think I was frightened as Mr X had given me what  was good news but I was a tad anxious about the appointment on 29th December.  A new team of people to meet, a new area to visit…

The traffic was light as we made our way to Derriford and we parked near the back of the hospital in a car park close to the Oncology and as we were early went to the Mustard Tree for a cup of tea.  This was a good and calming move and it was just a short flight of stairs down to the Oncology Dept afterwards.

It wasn’t a school day so I didn’t have my “armour” of suit, name badge, school bag on but had dressed brightly with the POWER red lipstick applied.  Nick and I checked in and waited to be called.  It was very efficient and very busy.  When I was called it was to be weighed and have my height measured…. what…. get on those scales, here in the corridor, with those  people just over there…, but I’ve just eaten for Britain over Christmas…..  so I took my boots, cardi, scarf and anything else off which didn’t scare the other patients and made me weigh less.  It was ok – my BMI was under 25 despite that ton of turkey (cake, chocolate, sprouts, etc, etc).

Next we were invited into an office and Mr Y came in to meet us.  I don’t know how communication works in a big hospital but I think Mr X had written to Mr Y as he read through my file.  I didn’t get to see the letter but it may have started like this…

“Dear Mr Y,

I’m passing Mrs O on to you as we’ve had quite enough of her shenanigans here on floor 7.  On no account let her ask questions, get her folder out or share her treatment plan – she teaches Geography and has no medical expertise at all, apart from an expired first aid certificate.  When she says she is part of a multi-disciplinary team it is one made up of historians, geographers and sociologists not radiologists, oncologists and surgeons. If she insists on showing you her bionic boob do not be surprised if it has been dressed as some sort of animal… and she is quite impatient…”

I’ll never know as Mr Y, who had a very gentle and intent manner didn’t share the folder, he told us about the cancer which had been found and that the follow up treatment was to take a tablet once a day for the next 5 years.  No chemotherapy, no radiation treatment, instead hormone or endocrine therapy to ensure that my body did not produce oestrogen which would feed the cancer.  No high fives, no cartwheels – just HUGE smiles.  Then I had to be examined… that was a bit of a shock… no Paso Doble capes in oncology though – just a pillow slip and so it was the old routine, top off, bra off, lie back, arm up whilst Mr Y felt from my neck down to my tummy and around the bionic boob.  All appeared satisfactory and with my prescription for Letrozole we left Oncology.  There were some very poorly looking people there and I was extremely grateful that I’d got off so lightly.

I stepped off the NHS conveyor belt at least for now.

In a couple of days our friends from Italy would be arriving and we’d all be spending time with our gang of friends from Stoke for New Year.  After New Year I was allowed to start going back to the Life Centre for some exercise classes on the understanding that I’d take it easy.  In two weeks time I’d be going back to school for a phased return – lots to look forward to.


Prep for the oncology meeting and the Old Rectory branch of Holland and Barrett a la Rainbow Diet book – between oncology, growth mindset, Chris Woollams and Holland and Barrett the wretched cancer would not be coming back (touch wood).


Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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