Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Best Medicine

Did not mean to sound so morose in my last post - I thought I was being stoic, but according to A, it sounds as if I'm constantly thinking of death. Admittedly, it has crossed my mind - it's inevitable when the C word comes up. But! I don't think I'm going to die - well, I will, eventually, but not from this wretched curse.

So! We're on holiday and arrived in South Africa yesterday morning. This is a trip A and I have been looking forward to for so long - although we're seasoned travellers (we've lived in six different countries, and that doesn't count another two countries A lived in before we married) we've somehow never made it to Africa. I've been very excited about this trip, not just to see the beauty that South Africa has to offer, but also because I'm wanting to get away from the this whole cancer thing, if only for two weeks. After all, when we get back, we hit the ground running.

One of the first things I asked my doctor (aka Dr Tit-man) after the diagnosis was whether or not we would still be able to go on our long-awaited holiday. We were very relieved when he said yes, with the only proviso that we have fun. Admittedly, I was wary - all I wanted was to do was to excise the evil growth off my body. But he assured me that two weeks would make no difference whatsoever. And in the less than 36 hours that we've been here, I can tell you that he was wrong. Being in this stunning part of the world, with family and beautiful friends, has lifted my spirits no end and I am feeling so much more positive. I will beat this!

Thursday, 14 April 2011


When the doctor told me that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, I asked him (as you do) if I would die. He then replied, 'We all will.'. And no, I didn't hit him for his stupid answer.

I know that we all will die someday, but I'm not ready just yet. Not because I'm selfish and just want to live forever - on the contrary, the thought of immortality is about as tempting as getting my eyelid caught on a rusty nail. It's simply because my children are too young. At the end of the day, A will survive if this cancer claims me in the end (hopefully he'll have a pretty good mourning period though) but I am the children's mother and they need me still. I believe that no-one can surpass a mother's love for her children and I need to make sure that they're fully equipped to face the big bad world out there before I go. So until that happens, I will be clinging on to life with gritted teeth.


...started out innocuous enough - I dropped the children off at their various playdates so that I could make my way to hospital for an MRI scan. I should've known that things weren't going to go my way when the nurse couldn't find a vein and ended up puncturing my poor arm three times, bruising me and thus making me look like a heroin addict.

I have heard numerous nightmare stories about MRI scans, especially the claustrophobia. However, as I was having my breasts scanned this really wasn't going to be an issue as I would be facing down. So I had to lie on this table/bed, very similar to one used for massages, except that it not only has a hole for the head, it also has a hole for each breast. Slightly perverted, and my word, the indignity...

I was positioned into place and told NOT TO MOVE as I was going to compromise the results. So I settled into the not very comfortable bed as they put headphones which would enable me to listen to music of my choice. I had decided against music and instead had downloaded 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue', one of my favourite radio programmes. As it turns out it was pointless as the racket made by the scanner is absolutely incredible. Because the noise took me quite by surprise as it truly is deafening, I started to get nervous and tried to calm myself down via deep breathing. Mistake. I was told off for breathing too deeply and thus making my chest move. Huh.

I left the hospital feeling quite fragile; it hit me that the coming year would be comprised of similar hospital visits. I suppose the next few months won't really belong to me; I will be a slave to this darned cancer but luckily there will be a light at the end of it all.

In the evening I saw my breast cancer surgeon to receive the results of my lymph node surgery last Tuesday. Because of the clear CT and ultrasound scans, my doctor was pretty confident that there wouldn't be any problems. Sadly, this wasn't the case. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Actually, that's not correct - it had spread to one of the five lymph nodes he had taken out. So although it's not the best news, it's not the worst. Although I desperately wanted to cry when I left his office, I had to put on a brave face as I had the children with me. Needless to say, I bawled my head off as soon as they were all in bed.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Am now officially Stage IIA. And I'm scared.
Details later.
Can't write now.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I'm not helpless, I just have cancer

One thing that has really surprised me about the cancer diagnosis, is that when I asked my breast surgeon, oncologist, breast cancer nurse and even the various cancer helplines if I need to make any changes in my lifestyle, they've all said no. I suppose I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle (don't drink, don't smoke, don't take milk, exercise and buy organic foodstuffs) so I suppose there's not much that they can ask me to do. But then I thought they may have said, 'Drink more green tea!' or 'Don't use deodorant with aluminium!', but no, nothing at all.

However, I'd like to be part of the cancer healing process. I don't feel like leaving everything up to the doctors and chemotherapy - sounds a bit fatalistic to me. So, I've made a few changes, such as I've stopped eating meat (making me a nightmare dinner guest), I've cut down on my junk food and I'm drinking an average of six cups of green tea a day. Oh, and I sprinkle turmeric on nearly everything.

I've also decided to explore alternative treatments. So today I went for my first reiki session. I knew that I would have to have a very open mind when I walked into the treatment room and was accosted by the very heavy smell of a lemon-y incense, walls covered with images of Egyptian gods, hundreds of crystals and music with whale sounds. And for some bizarre reason, porcelain figures of the Seven Dwarves - without Snow White. But still, I stayed and had to stifle a giggle when the "Reiki Master" (you cannot possibly say "Reiki Master" without quotation marks) told me that reiki was founded when this man went up a hill, blacked out and saw "visions". Personally, it sounds like drug-induced behaviour to me. I wonder why Amy Winehouse has yet to discover an alternative therapy. But I digress... Rather than leaving I let the "Reiki Master" wrap me up in a blanket and do his stuff. Sadly I cannot be more detailed as I had to close my eyes at this point as I was nervous that I would lose it and laugh my head off. And worse, end up with accidental eye contact whilst he was doing the "treatment".

The funny thing is, an hour later, despite my cynicism, I felt better - and lighter, as if a load had been lifted off me. So, like a proper sucker, I booked myself in for a second session. If I find Snow White hiding in the treatment room somewhere, I'll definitely let you know.

PS. One thing I've also decided to do is change is my deodorant. I've switched it from the all-singing, all-dancing industrial strength one to one made of natural oils. I not sure it works and I think I smell. I apologise to everyone in advance.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Time for my hypochondri-act

Met with my chemotherapy nurse today, to go over the process of treatment and what I should expect during and after each session. What a downer. I'd had a lovely weekend with family and friends enjoying the sunshine and this was a dampener... (Oh, and look! It's raining now. All I need is some melodramatic music and the theme is set.)

Part of me is obviously going through a selective process - basic instinct, I suppose. It's almost as if I'd forgotten over the weekend what's in store for me when we come back from our holiday, but sadly the chemo nurse was very happy to remind me. She gave me a list of the side-effects, which if she knew me better she wouldn't have done, as I'm your classic hypochondriac. I make a very conscious effort of never reading contra-indications of any medicine given to me as I will be feeling the symptoms soon after. But one thing I cannot be psychosomatic about is hair loss. Although I will be wearing the cold cap, there is still a very big possibility that I will lose my hair. And I haven't decided yet what I will do when that happens: do I go for the denial wig, the hippie scarf, or the 'looks like a robber' knitted cap? I'd like to think that I can get away with the scarf and look stylish and interesting with it, but I know that I'll just look like a very eccentric person - not helped by my bursting into tears at the most inappropriate moments.

My very good friend C used to perpetually annoy me by asking me to guess who I would look like if I were bald, and then refuse to tell me the answer. I suppose I will soon find out...

Friday, 8 April 2011

Psycho-femme, que'est-ce que c'est?

I knew, the moment I woke up, that today would be a struggle. Which is why I forced myself to go to the gym and was pretty proud of myself for having done so. (After all, I was just in surgery last Tuesday.) But I felt strong afterwards - I suppose the endorphins kicked in. Later in the day the children and I had a picnic lunch outside in the garden which was absolutely lovely.

However, there was only so much I could do. By 3pm I found myself bawling my head off at the injustice of it all. Suddenly, all the confidence I had in the doctors and the medical staff was gone. My tumour was incurable, I was going to die. My children were going to grow up without a mother. I would have to find my husband a new wife (it's all about control, even A.D.) I called the the Breast Cancer Clinic nurse, cried my head off with her. I called Macmillan and did the same. I then got hold of my friend M, who suffered from breast cancer a little over five years ago and was soothed by her. She prayed for me, and made me laugh. Suddenly, everything was fine again. I am going to live. A will not be forced to marry a second-rate version of me (no way am I choosing some alpha female) and I will meet my children's children.

I think I will have to accept that these psycho days are going to be part and parcel of the whole C experience. It's very unnerving - I can only compare it to watching Comic Relief* every other day. I can just imagine though how much more uncomfortable it is for the recipients of my manic emotions. This is an excerpt from a conversation the other day when the children's music teacher called:

R: Hi, I was just confirming that it's still okay to come on Tuesday?
Me: (stifled sob)
R: Sorry?
Me: Hoooooowwwwwwwwwwwwlllllllllll!!!

People will start to think I'm crazy.

*Comic Relief is an annual British fundraising drive for children in Africa and the UK. They intersperse funny, side-splitting sketches with the most heartbreaking images of dying and impoverished children.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

I am so blessed!

Today is the first 'real' day since my diagnosis: A back at work, children back at school. So we join the rest of humanity as the world hasn't stopped. Funny that...

Earlier today, I had to drop the car off at our local garage as the brakes needed checking. I ordered a taxi to take me back home as I had to leave the car for a couple of hours. As is usual, the taxi driver and I ended up in conversation: he told me about his children, and I told him about mine. At which point he said: "You are so blessed!", and although we'd had a pretty rough weekend, I immediately replied, "Yes!"

Because despite this pernicious evil which has decided to invade my otherwise healthy body, I am indeed blessed. I have my husband who has been an absolute tower of strength, patience and love; three beautiful children who bring me so much joy and laughter; and other family and friends who are a constant source of inspiration. When I've come across images of the people of Japan who have lost loved ones, or Madeleine McCann's mother, I know that I would rather go through this experience a million times over than be in their shoes.

The cancer was caught early; six months earlier the mammogram would've come out clear and I would have walked around with a false sense of security. As it is, I have complete confidence in my doctors and the medical staff. I know that I, with the support of family and friends (I cannot overstress their importance) will beat this.

I have decided to look upon this curse (I am running out of euphemisms for this darned affliction) as a chronic disease, rather than a death sentence. I will live with it, but I will conquer it. I know I am blessed.


It's come to my attention that there are so many inactive cancer blogs out there. I do hope it's because they've been given the all-clear and are now leading windswept and interesting lives so they simply don't have the time to update their blogs. And it's not because they're dead.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Family and Friends

Although we had been told that it could be cancer on Wednesday evening, it wasn't until Saturday morning that we received the proper diagnosis. By Saturday afternoon, I had told family and friends. A girlfriend, who had been diagnosed with cancer the year previous, could not understand my desire to tell everyone. To be completely honest, I'm not sure either. But I'm a person who wears her heart on her sleeve; I was upset and I knew that I would receive comfort from family and friends. And this has been the case, most definitely.

Reading messages of love and support from friends and family has made the news slightly easier to bear. They were sad with me when they heard of the diagnosis, and rejoiced when the CT scan was clear. (Amazing how the bar changes - on Saturday I was devastated to learn I had breast cancer, and yesterday I was overjoyed to learn it was JUST breast cancer.) And I know that they will continue to be there for me as I embark on this arduous process of getting rid of this evil crab.

What a Pain

The past week or so has been an absolute blur. One week I'm up and healthy, and the next week, I'm diagnosed with cancer. What a pain. Although I know I should feel the same - the cancer was simply picked up because of a health check I signed up for - I feel different. Tainted. I feel that my body (specifically my left breast) has been traitorous. And although I was doing double spin classes just last week, I suddenly feel frail. My world has changed, and although I do not want to be defined as a cancer victim, it is part - and will forever be a part - of who I am.