Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Breast Care Fight: The Diagnosis with Dr Mikael Hartman, Head, NUH Breast Care Centre

Dr Celene Ng was apparently pregnant and went on maternity leave. I didn't even notice! She didn't bring it up during our appointment either so was quite surprised when the nurse called to tell me that my case was going to be taken over by another Breast Care Centre doctor.

At first they assigned me to a young lady doctor, but I wanted a more experienced, senior doctor and did not mind a male doctor, so they recommended Dr Mikael Hartman, who is actually the head of NUH Breast Care Centre.

Can't get any more experienced than that, I suppose! hehe

First impression of Dr Mikael when I met him on Tue 20 Sep is that he seemed quite tired and a little solemn. I suppose when you have to keep telling patients bad news, it does wear you down...

And yes, I did receive bad news.

Dr Mikael told me that I had early stage cancer. 

At that time, he can't say for sure what stage as further testing was required but it was early stage and likely Stage 1. However, 3 out of the 4 sites from the biopsy were malignant and because it was at multiple sites, I would have to have a mastectomy to remove my left breast tissue completely and it would not be possible to just do a lumpectomy to conserve the breast. Dr Mikael would of course try to conserve the nipple and skin so that I can have breast reconstruction to restore the size and shape of my breast after mastectomy.  

As I was HER2-positive, it meant that my breast cancer was more aggressive than other types of breast cancer and I needed to have chemotherapy too. 

And that meant that if the boy and I wanted to have more children, I would need to consider freezing my eggs as chemotherapy would affect my childbearing abilities. 

Even though I was mentally prepared for bad news, my heart still sank and I couldn't help but cry from the shock and sadness. My life was about to change, and not in a good way.

There was a lot to take in and everything seemed like a blur. I think Dr Mikael didn't want to bombard me with information either so he did not go through my biopsy results in detail nor explain much about why it was considered an aggressive cancer. He did say that I should do a Colour-Enhanced Mammogram to see if other areas were affected by the cancer, and a genetic testing to determine if I have mutations in my DNA that increase the risk of breast cancer. 

I did manage to ask some questions in the midst of my crying and shock like how long would my cancer treatment be {ans: probably about 1 year}, would I lose my hair during chemotherapy {ans: yes}, could it reoccur {ans: yes, but treatable}... 

There really was a lot to take in and there certainly was a sense of lost at what to do... and the heavy decisions to make.

For one, even though the boy and I have basically decided to stop at one with Lil Pumpkin, I did want to have an option for more if we wanted. To be told that maybe we might never be able to again just seemed a bit harsh. Even more so than being told that I will lose one boob.. maybe even two depending on how the additional tests are. 

Dr Mikael was solemn but not cold. He even offered me to take his tissue box when I left his room haha...

After seeing Dr Mikael, I met a Nurse Joanna who was from NUH Cancer Centre who counselled me on what to expect from chemotherapy and other resources I could look into, as well as try to get me an early appointment with my oncologist, Dr Samuel Ow. 

That day after my diagnosis, I mourned but I still decided to go for training as I was determined not to let cancer get me down and stop me from living my life. 

Having cancer is a lot to process. For the few days after my diagnosis, it felt so surreal and I couldn't believe it. I'm young and fit. How could I have cancer?? And an aggressive type?? Physically, I feel strong and healthy. It just seemed so impossible.

And yet, it is. 

That day, I told my close gal friends about my diagnosis. My friends since young and sisters in Christ, their reminders of our faith and God's protection helped me through the darkness. 

Didn't want to tell my parents or sisters yet as mummy's birthday was coming up and didn't want to mar the event or worry them as yet. 

Others who know have also been praying and sharing about God's faithfulness with me.

With time came some sort of peace and understanding. No time is a good time to have cancer, but it is precisely because I am young and healthy that I know that I can get through this and win the cancer fight. 

God planned for this and God will provide. 

Dr Mikael Hartman first consultation cost: S$167.99

Follow my breast cancer fight on the blog, Facebook or Instagram {#AiFightsCancer}

Before mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgeries

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