Your favourite pair of slippers, the comfort of your own home and a cup of tea in front of a fireplace... This is the setting in which you can discuss most things in life. This is the setting within Annet's home in which we discuss everything in life.
It's in this living room that I've told Annet things about me that only my close family members know. Annet's living room seems to have a way of feeling like a safe space. Maybe it's the living room and maybe... it's Annet :)
I love listening to Annet. Even though she talks about difficult things, the calmness in her voice makes me feel calm. The kindness in her eyes makes me want to understand. And what she talks about makes me want to listen.
It was in December 2014 that Annet first discovered a lump in her breast. Having had cysts on a regular basis she thought nothing of it. She didn't even rush off to see the doctor as there was a planned local screening in January 2015 which she was planning to go to. On 16 Jan 15, during the screening, Annet informed the person doing the check-up about her lump, but nothing came of it. A few weeks later, Annet received the results of her screening and that she was healthy. Even though relieved, she still kept monitoring the lump and later... realised that the lump was not only growing, but that her nipple was inverting... Annet knew something was not right...
In April, she had to actually force herself to go and see the doctor. Maybe it's the reality of facing the truth that makes us want to avoid it... but it's the avoidance that could be life threatening.
When she finally had the courage to contact her doctor, she had to wait a whole week for her appointment. Her doctor immediately knew that this was no cyst...
Annet was sent to the hospital for the next available appointment (which was only a few days later) for a breast ultrasound and a mammogram. Annet could tell that the radiologist was uneasy. A biopsy was made and Annet was told that she'd have the results a week later. Thanks to the doctor's fast actions, an appointment had made with a surgeon. It was only a few days after Annet's hospital appointment with the radiologist.
The surgeon had already received a part of the results from the biopsy and Annet was given the news...
It was on 21 May 2015, during her appointment with the surgeon, that Annet was told of the results from her appointment with the radiologist.
The lump was malignant.
In that one moment during which it felt that the surgeon was talking about someone else, Annet's whole life was changed.
She was told that this type of tumor is hidden from mammograms and that it was large.
Annet was also told that it was a slow growing tumor and that it must have been there for quite some time before it was detected.
An appointment was made for a MRI in order to see exactly how big it was and where exactly it was.
I asked Annet if she was expecting to hear from the surgeon that she had cancer... and she said yes.
From the reactions of her doctor and the radiologist, she knew immediately that something was wrong.
I asked Annet how she felt when she heard the news. She told me that she was in a daze... It was as if she didn't realise what was actually happening but she did know that her life was about to change...
Her first thoughts were to have an action plan!
What is the treatment plan?
What are they going to do?
How will she handle it all?
There was no question that chemo would be needed. The lymph nodes in her armpits would also need to be examined.
The medical team would have a discussion and the medical plan would be established, based on the results from the MRI and the lymph node examination.
Annet occupied her mind with 'what needs to be done next'!
The actual gravity of it all was not yet reality... She had to inform her son and his girlfriend... her parents... her sisters... her friends.
She knew that she'd need their support to get through this all.
It was only days later... that she started realising that all of this was happening to her. The it was real... But then... and still now... she gets the feeling that all of this is happening to someone else. Not to her...
The one thing that Annet realised right away, was that a positive attitude will not only help her but also her loved ones around her. Her naturally positive attitude had to continue! There was no other way!
Even though her doctor also said that it would be tough.... she was hopeful that it would not be so bad... Maybe she'd still be able to work... not loose her hair... not get sick from the chemo...
What Annet told me next is so true... And anyone who has ever had a loved one fight this battle, will know.
You don't fight cancer alone...
Your family and loved ones live through this with you and for them too... it's a battle.
Annet was most concerned about her parents. They are in their 80's and they will have to learn that their daughter is battling cancer.
Annet could imagine how tough it would be on her parents as she did not even want to imagine... just how she would feel if something like this had to happen to her son.
Annet's advice to ANYONE finding a lump... "DON'T WAIT!" Go see a doctor immediately... It could save your life...