Cancer. The word you never want to hear. At least not in relation to yourself, or someone you love. The first time the word was applied to me was as I was introduced to my breast cancer nurse in July of this year.
Whoa – my what?
The background? I’d found another lump (I’m one of those women with lumpy breasts). I wasn’t worried. Not at all. I’d been at the breast clinic the year before and they’d re-assured me, but said not to worry about ever coming back, as they were always happy to check.
Honestly? I nearly cancelled the appointment. The lump had shrunk and I felt like I was wasting a slot for someone who really needed it…
On the day of the appointment it was all very routine. I met the surgeon, she prodded, marked the area and again reassured me. Then downstairs for a scan. Then another scan. And another scan. And then a biopsy and at that point the words ‘suspicious’ and ‘calcification’ were used.
Turns out that the lump I had found was just that – a benign lump. BUT, and here’s a little bit of miraculous for me, through exploring that the scans picked up a tumour that I hadn’t even felt yet. And yes that was cancer.
I’ve kept the bit of paper my surgeon wrote down on that first day to explain what we knew about the cancer and the possible treatment required. Not sure why, but it feels like a bit of my history now.
In the end I needed all the treatment. My cancer turned out to be a very aggressive cancer which had already spread to my lymph nodes. I was scared. Probably more scared than I’ve ever been before. And yet I also had the deepest sense of comfort from feeling close to God. Faith for me has always been important and in this last 8 months it has been everything.
Since the 3rd July (the day of my diagnosis) life has been crazy. There have been so many good times and huge highlights. I’m bias of course but I do have the most incredible collection of family and friends. I could fill a book with stories of them; of their kindness, of their support, of their humour.
But of course there have been a lot of tough times. Chemotherapy, let’s face it, is not something you’d choose for anyone to go through, and two operations at the start of this year proved to be harder, emotionally, as well as physically, than I expected. I’ve still got radiotherapy to come (hopefully very soon, but that’s another story)
I’ve always thought it was important to share my experience, but haven’t been sure the best way of doing it. Until now. I want my words to be helpful: not just for the sake of it, or just to have people tell me how brave I am (although of course encouragement for all of us is always nice 😉)
I want my words be positive, to help others going through tough stuff, as so many have helped me. Hard times have just grown in magnitude for all of us right now, so I thought it may be good to share some of my thoughts, over a series of blog posts in the coming days/weeks:
If my notes are helpful great, if not skip on by…feel free to leave comments and share your own experiences along the way as I’m sure there will be lots of you with similar experiences and good stuff to share, as many wise people keep saying at the moment, we’re all in this together.
P.S. The portrait below of me was taken in our studio, on Christmas Eve, by Niels. I was feeling completely knackered and the thought of being on the other side of the camera was the last thing I really wanted to do, but I knew I would want to record this time. The funny part of this portrait for me was that I had visions of moody images of me on a dark background. Turns out Niels knew better and the ones he took against the white wall were much better and much more me. Moral of that story? Trust your photographer 👌