WARNING: This is a long blog!
Last Wednesday, 23 November 2016, I had my penultimate chemotherapy and my very last one will be next Wednesday! I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of my friends, family and loved ones who have taken the time to hold my hand, wipe away my tears, give me a hug, smile and ask how I’m doing or send me lovely messages of support. For those who have supported my daughter Katya, encouraged her and helped her to deal with this – thank you from the bottom of my heart. Each act of kindness is one I will never forget. You have no idea how, even the smallest things, have meant so much and spurred me on. I’m truly thankful.
This awful journey began in February 2016 with a routine mammogram and has been a way of life for me for all of 2016. Whilst I’m so excited at finishing the horrible poison called chemotherapy, what you may find more surprising is that actually finishing the chemo fills me with dread. Let me explain...........
Whilst you’re having treatment (and for me it’s weekly at the moment), you have a team of medical professionals looking after you. You can talk through weird aches and pains, if you find a lump or something strange, you can have it investigated and, for my type of rare breast cancer, which has a higher rate of recurrence and secondaries than the “normal” types of breast cancer, it’s a comfort having a team around you. For most breast cancer, you can take medication to help prevent a recurrence – with mine, you can’t. There’s no safety net. Chemo is my only weapon and because my cancer was removed in April, there’s no way to know if the chemo has worked. I’ve had it to mop up any cells that may be lurking around my body BUT there’s no way of knowing if the poisonous cocktails I’ve had, have worked – that was a huge shock when I learned that.
However, I’ve been exceptionally lucky. My cancer was caught so early that 3 months earlier, it wouldn’t have shown on a mammogram. Because of how fast it was growing (it doubled in size in 2 weeks), my surgeon said that if my mammogram had been 6 months later, my outcome might have been different. So I’m lucky – really lucky - but that knowledge also fills me with dread. I’ve been lucky once. What if ........... will I be lucky again?
Back in February I never felt a lump. I never felt sick. When I had the mammogram, I left the unit thinking that I wouldn’t be having my boobs squashed for another 3 years! I felt “normal”. I didn’t know I had cancer. That’s what’s scary. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be told you have cancer – well I know now and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Your world stops, shifts and changes. The devastation you feel, the fear you may die is beyond anything I can describe. The world suddenly looks very very very different. I desperately didn’t want to die. Ladies (and men actually), if you find a lump GO AND GET IT CHECKED IMMEDIATELY. Every day you delay is a day you may have to fight for later on. Go for your mammograms. It’s 10 minutes out of your day but could save your life.
So, the actual hard work begins after my mastectomy (in January). I’ve got to try and get on with life. A life that has been clouded with cancer for nearly a whole year and has changed me and my family forever. I don’t think anybody, other than a cancer survivor, can understand how much your life changes. How you have to learn to live with the dark fear of it coming back. Those who have been in a similar position often suffer horrible depression or post traumatic stress. Life has changed forever. Even medical professionals won’t say “you’re cured” or “you’re in remission”. They say “at the moment there’s no evidence of disease”. There’s a long battle ahead and I hope with time it gets easier. Bear with me while I, and my family, pick up the pieces.
What this has taught me is ........... look at what you’ve got in life. Enjoy your health, your family, the sun warming your skin, the sight of a beautiful sunset, the sound of laughter, singing and dancing along to your favourite music, seize every opportunity and go for it and above all, throw the small shit away. Look at what you’ve got to be thankful for. For me, I’m going to have a new set of boobs for 2017 and I fully intend to be on a beach (hopefully the Maldives) showing them off. They may have tried to kill me but I’m getting the last laugh because they’ll be in the bin and my Pamela Anderson’s will be there in their place! Woohoo!