Posted on 12/02/2020
I received some pretty shocking news last week that kind of threw me for a bit.
I’ve had a lump in my left breast for about two and a half years, which a biopsy in November 2017 showed as just hyperplasia (overgrowth of tissue).
In the last 3-5 months it has gotten harder, bigger and more lumpy, so I over the Christmas break, I rang Mercy Breast Clinic to organise an ultrasound and mammogram in the soonest appointment time I could coordinate once they reopened.
My beautiful friend Jen came to the appointment with me as support. As soon as I saw the ultrasound Doppler, I knew it was cancer. Tears started leaking down my face. They did a breast biopsy, and the radiologist looked grave. That first 48 hours was the hardest, an emotional roller coaster where I only told my mum and absolute closest circle.
When the results came in a couple of days later, all I initially felt was relief - it’s a low grade cancer, and seems to be relatively localised. I rode the wave of shock again when my hormone receptor results turned up unannounced via email - the cancer is sensitive to both estrogen and progesterone, so while it’s good that I have more options, it also means I’m likely to be given hormone suppression which can give me all the scary symptoms of menopause. I regularly use the O-Shot for women who have been thrown into early menopause thanks to breast cancer, which didn’t help my head much!
The anxiety, tears and emotion only really turned to calm once I saw the surgeon and had a plan! I will be going for surgery on the 28th February, and will take the week after that off work. It’s perfect timing, as my mum is already in NZ (she lives in Canada) for the scattering of my nana’s ashes, so she will fly up to be with me in the first few days.
I feel so blessed to have an incredible support network of friends who have rallied around me, and the most wonderful team who have stepped in and rolled their sleeves up to enable me to focus on getting well. I’ve also been humbled and delighted at the response from those patients who we had to give the ‘heads up’ to when rescheduling my appointments for the surgery. Thank you all so much, I feel very loved and supported!
I’ll be back at work the second week of March, will still do my London Clinic on the 30th March, and plan to attend AMWC Monaco - our industry’s largest and most prestigious conference - as planned. I’ll be back for a few days and then head to Brazil, for a friend’s wedding. Then I will have 3 weeks of radiotherapy over April/May (I’ll keep working, maybe just shorter hours), and then go to Bali for a few weeks to recover, pull myself together, and work on my Masters Of Aesthetic Medicine.
They will test my lymph nodes during surgery to decide whether I need chemotherapy or more extensive radiotherapy, and once they take the cancer and nodes out and understand exactly what we are dealing with, I will get to see the oncologist to decide about what level of hormone suppression is appropriate.
Short version - I will be OK. It will be a journey, and one that many of my friends and patients have already taken. Just about everyone I know has someone they know affected by breast cancer.
Because of this, I want to talk publicly about it, and share my story, as I plan to be a breast cancer success - I intend to get into the best shape of my life before and after surgery to maximise my recovery - and inspire people to get regular checks, so that they too can be a cancer success story.
So if you have been putting off your mammogram, smear or prostate check, please pick up the phone or tap out the email, and DO IT NOW. My dear friend Helena McAlpine was very vocal about how she delayed getting her checks, and didn’t properly follow the treatment recommendations, which led to her early death from breast cancer at the age of just 37. If I can save just one person and they become a success story, rather than follow H’s path, then sharing my story will be a success!
On that note – did you know the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ has created an app that makes it super easy to keep on top of your breast self-checks? This cool app guides you through all the visual and tactile cues of a self-exam, prompts you to “get to know your normal” and even sends you handy reminders to help you keep on top of regular checks. The Pre Check app is available for both Apple and Android – I’d love you to click and get it right now!
On an even more positive note, we have 9 (yes NINE) new team members starting in the first quarter of this year. We have 3 wonderful new nurses starting across both clinics, along with an absolutely incredible new skin therapist, Michelle, starting at the Takapuna clinic. Michelle came highly recommended to us by one of the top clinics in the UK, and we actually created a role for her, as we love to bring exceptional people onto the team!
Skylar is our new Mandarin-speaking receptionist at Britomart, while Lisa joins the reception team at Takapuna. I’m thrilled that we have well-known beauty editor and journalist, Melissa Williams-King joining our Comms team, and if you’ve been to visit us so far this year, you may have met our temps Tilly and Meerah - both in the final stages of studying law - doing a wonderful job helping out in the reception area!
With Valentines Day just around the corner, our team are excitedly gearing up for ‘Love Week’, where each person on the team is randomly allocated another team member to be their anonymous ‘love angel’ for the week! It brings so much fun and creativity to the team as each ‘love angel’ tries to figure out what will help their recipient feel loved, cherished and appreciated. Some of the surprises are sweet, some are hilarious, and some are downright naughty! If you are coming in this week, be warned! Last year it expanded from the team to many of us also doing it in our homes, with friends and family. Keep an eye on our social media to see what the team has been up to this year!
It’s an exciting week all round as we ‘go live’ with a brilliant new software system today! We implemented new CRM software about 2 years ago in preparation for the Takapuna clinic, and had high hopes for it, and then found it fell well short of our expectations, especially around areas like online booking, and ease of accessing notes across the two clinics. This time around we have done a LOT of research and preparation, and are delighted with the capacity of what we can achieve once the new system is fully integrated. Please be aware that there may be some clunkiness as we adjust to the new system, and that today is only the ‘go live’ of phase 1 of 5 phases, however we hope to have easier online booking, streamlined check in and check out ability, and a further up level of the service that we provide, over the next few months!
In last month’s newsletter, we committed to contributing to the Australian bush fires for every appointment we did in the week following, and I’m delighted that - thanks to you guys - we were able contribute nearly $5500 to the Red Cross and WIRES in Australia, to help support both people and animals affected by the blazes.
There’s a lot going on right now - in the world, at The Face Place, and in our lives. I see it as a wonderful reminder to be kind and nurturing to yourself, and others. In the spirit of Valentine’s Week, what could you do to show yourself and your loved ones how much you care for them? Now, more than ever, we all need it!
Thank you so much for being one of our beautiful patients, part of our extended TFP family, and for reading this blog right to the end! Know that whatever you see about yourself and say about yourself when you look in the mirror, you are beautiful, you are special, and you are unique. Find those things to celebrate and be grateful for. Smile at yourself in the mirror today, and then take it to the streets and smile at other people - your family, your team, and strangers.
We love you and appreciate you. Thank you for your support, we are so grateful that you choose us!
Have a wonderful ‘love week’, and please remember to book your health checks!
With so much love,
Dr Cat 😻😘 xxx
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