Wow! What a programme. If you’ve had breast cancer or know someone who’s had breast cancer (let’s face it – who doesn’t know someone) then this was the programme to watch last night. The third episode of ‘Surgeons‘ (a 4-part series) covered the whole topic of breast cancer from diagnosis, through surgery to recovery and finally, to reconstruction of the breast. It was graphic stuff (not for the recently diagnosed or faint-hearted) and was hugely insightful into the emotional roller coaster that follows a diagnosis of breast cancer. You could not but be moved by the experiences of the women portrayed in the programme. I take my hat off to them for taking part in such intimate filming at such a difficult time in their lives. I also salute the two breast surgeons featured in the programme – Arnie Hill at Beaumont Hospital and Margaret O’Donnell at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Again, this programme allowed us behind the scenes of a surgeon’s personal life and gave us an insight into the dedication required to achieve a high level of skills. As a television viewer, I felt as if I was actually in the consulting room with the patient when news was given that her breast biopsy was malignant. I agonised with her as to what lay ahead. We were told that it is important when bad news is given to a patient that there is some positive slant to it – ‘hope’ is what keeps everyone going. As Arnie Hill said, “it’s not just the patient that you’re breaking this news to but their husband/partner, children and extended family as well”. It was also interesting to witness how this same young patient’s mother gradually came to terms with her daughter’s diagnosis by avoiding the use of the ‘C’ (cancer) word. She simply told people that that her daughter had a ‘tumour’ in the breast. When asked if the tumour was ‘benign’ (innocent) she would just reply “no” in an effort to avoid using the term ‘malignant’. She was so supportive of her daughter and it was very moving to watch them both receive good news following the surgery.
Anyone who would like further information and support can contact the Irish Cancer Society Action Breast Cancer. These services are free, confidential and accessible and include a national helpline, publications, one-to-one support, breast awareness talks, and advocacy.