I realise, on re-reading episode 7, that I left out a few important parts of the story, and failed to mention some of the supporting actors. Obviously it’s all about me, I’m a total legend, an inspiration, a warrior. This is the story of my epic battle against cancer, hear me roar etc. Well, that’s what you’d believe if you read my social media accounts.
But really? I’m just a middle aged woman who got breast cancer. I didn’t embark on an epic journey, I just went along to an appointment one day and my world fell apart. I’ve had surgery, sure, but I didn’t do it, I didn’t fix anything, I just turned up and let a heap of actual heroes do what they do, every day, for thousands of other women like me. I am not unusual or special in any way.
I decided to blog about my experience, not to show how brave and capable I am, but because I was scared and lost and needed to take control of what was going on. I process things by writing them down, I enjoy writing, it’s cathartic for me, so it seemed like a sensible thing to do. Some people have said I’m brave for sharing my blog. I see no bravery in that at all. In sharing my story I have no higher mission to empower women or give others hope, if it does, then that’s wonderful, but I share my story because I selfishly need people to be there alongside me. The thought of doing this alone is truly terrifying.
The Gruffalo Theory
Yes I accept that I have a positive mental outlook. I am a fixer, a do-er, a solver of problems. It’s my job and I’m good at it. But I don’t for one minute think that being a positive person will make one iota of difference as to whether or not some cells in my body will decide to mutate and turn cancerous. After all, I’ve been this positive person for quite a few years now and it didn’t stop cancer pitching up, did it? Cancer just happens sometimes. The reason I am able to be determined and outspoken (and swear a lot) is because I am surrounded by love, support and people who will be by my side if the big bad scary thing turns round and wants a fight. I also subscribe to the Gruffalo theory that even the smallest mouse can be the scariest thing in the forest, given the right marketing.
So today I wanted to think about some of the other players in this, my own mini-series (I say mini-series in the hope that it will be over before the summer. If this turns into a Coronation Street epic, I’ll be re-thinking my fee and sacking my agent.
I joined a Facebook group recently, for people living with Breast Cancer. I really hate Facebook, but this group is amazing. In it you will find true courage. The husbands who post for their wives to get advice from others on their partners’ behalf. The women travelling this journey alone, who take the hugely brave step of reaching out to strangers for support. And the survivors, who are there every day, supporting and caring and advising anyone who reaches out for help. It is unquestioningly wonderful to watch how something so awful can bring out such a wave of compassion and kindness. And this isn’t a one-off show of social media support, like changing your profile picture or tweeting a virtue-signalling hashtag, this is the real, snotty-teared, scar-bearing, heart wrenching reality of living with cancer. I’ve really just pitched up at the entrance way, but this show has been going on for years, silently, in the background - thousands of people supporting many more thousands of people as they take their first steps on a well-trodden path.
I realise I’m starting to sound like an ITV awards ceremony now, so I’ll give the sniffly bits a rest for a while and focus on a news update.
In other news
So Fucktard the Tumour is out and hopefully in an incinerator by now. I really, really did want to ask if I could take him home in a pot and stick him on the mantelpiece so I could walk past him every day and stick 2 fingers up at him all call him a ****. But I didn’t ask, and I regret it now. Hey ho. Two of my lymph nodes are now in a lab somewhere being examined to see if there are any cancer cells in them. If not, the cancer hasn’t spread. This is the result we’re hoping for. I’ll still need chemo and radio to kill any rogue cells and to try to stop it coming back, and then some kind of hormoney thingummy tablets for like, forever, which is a pain in the arse. If there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes, we change our attack a bit, but we’ll deal with that next week when the results are in.
Smurfwise, I’m afraid it’s a disappointing tale. Sadly the dye didn’t travel around my body as much as we hoped, it stayed very local. I did have a blue patch of skin, mostly hidden under a dressing, but it’s gone now. Husband tried to console me by telling me I looked a bit grey, but it didn’t quite have the effect he was hoping for, and he got hit by a heart shaped cushion. In consolation, I can tell you that smurf dye makes your pee bright green, so you feel like a domestic goddess before you’ve even flushed. I did take a photo, but I’m not sharing. A girl has some standards. Sadly no blue tears either, much to my daughter’s disappointment. She even tried poking me to see if it would make the tears come. It didn’t. I guess me and the Smurf gig just didn’t work out. Sorry.
Life Support Systems
Medically I’m doing fine. I’ve had a grumpy couple of days with a sore armpit and general weariness - as the anaesthetics and the heavy duty pain-killers wear off, all your old aches and pains come back and remind you that you’re also a bit decrepit in lots of other ways too. And then to my utter disgust, our feeble broadband died a death on Tuesday so we have been without the internet for 2 days. We also have no mobile phone signal as we live in a remote valley, so have been forcibly immersed into the crappest episode of Little House on the Prairie that you could ever imagine. The one where the plague arrives and they all stay home while Pa mops fevered brows and Laura tries to make stew out of turnips.That was us. Without the plague or turnips, but you get the idea.
I am only slightly ashamed to admit that we all got in the car and drove to the top of the hill and sat in it, in the rain, on more than one occasion, in order to feed our social media and email addictions. My excuse was that I had to send a BACS payment for work and post my last blog. The other members of my family have no excuse. And if anyone hears a rumour that we made an unnecessary journey to McDonalds drive through, just so my son could download the Spongebob movie, I’ll deny it in the strongest possible manner.
The most wonderful part of today was getting our internet back on (by some slightly dubious fibbing, sorry Openreach) and logging on to read all of your wonderful comments and posts. I was expecting the flurry of love to die down a little by now, but you’re all still with me, cheering me on. This is the heroism I was talking about earlier - you lot, being here for the long haul, not just for the big bang moments. Thank you dearly for every like, every post and every message you have sent, I treasure them all. But the final moment (sorry I know I’m back in ITV tear-jerker mode, I’m just so bloody grateful to have broadband again) has to go to a couple of total strangers I have never met nor ever will.
When I was at the hospital last week, there was a lady there on the recovery ward, having had breast surgery too. She was probably in her mid 30s, with Downs syndrome, and was quite tearful and anxious, calling for her Mum and Dad as she came round. Her nurse was wonderfully kind and reassuring, but she kept on asking for them. It was about 3pm, so the nurse said she’d call them and tell them she was OK and they could come and get her soon. The nurse came back a few minutes later and said that she had spoken to her Mum and Dad, that they loved her very much, they were very proud of her, and that they were waiting outside in the car park, ready to pick her up. They had been sitting waiting in the car together since 8am, when they dropped their daughter off.
So if you’re looking for the real cancer heroes, they’re in the car park, waiting quietly for their little girl to come home.