There is nothing good about having cancer.
It strips away everything you know about the world, your relationships, your career, yourself even, and leaves nothing but fear and uncertainty.
The weekend I found my ‘lump’ was just like any other. It had been a warm sunny weekend and I’d been busy with the kids; I’d taken them to the Ely Food and Drink Festival, had just started the usual bed time routine and was sat next to the bath watching Noah when I happened to reach down and press my fingers into the inside of my breast, near my breastbone.
I froze. A cold sweat worked its way across my skin and I became acutely aware of my breathing which suddenly turned quick and shallow, I thought I might pass out. Directly under my fingers close to the skin was a small, rubbery lump. It felt like a tough bit of cartilage from a joint of lamb.
‘Oh my God I’ve finally got breast cancer’ was my first thought. I’d been here before, it didn’t turn out well and I’d spent 17 petrifying years waiting for this moment.
The crippling fear I felt in that moment re-visited me several hundred times over the next few minutes, hours and days. I honestly thought my life would be over by Christmas and started mentally planning funeral songs. Things got very dark for quite a while.
And then, like the flick of a switch or the click of fingers I decided I’d had enough. Enough of feeling terrified. Enough of counting down each minute just to get through to the next day. And enough of laying impotently around waiting for another bit of bad news to be delivered to me.
I decided to make cancer the best worst thing that had ever happened to me
And this became my mantra.
Instead of feeling despondent and angry that my consultant would only offer me a lumpectomy, I chose to push for a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction as I knew this would be the best option for me. This decision led me to the wonderful surgeon Mr Goh, who I fully credit with saving my life in more ways than one.
Instead of feeling ashamed about the crappy financial situation being poorly left us in, and embarrassed when the wonderful owners of Noah’s nursery offered to put a fundraiser together for us, I decided to embrace it. This decision showed us how wonderful, kind and generous people are and how lucky we are to have such amazing friends and family in our lives.
Losing hair through chemo became a good opportunity to try out a radical new hairstyle and possibly the only time I’ll ever have a crew cut.
My new boobies will never sag.
My lack of nipple-age a fantastic reason to get a tattoo.
I could go on but I think you get the message!
It’s kind of ironic that a few months before being diagnosed I’d been to see my GP (again) as I kept having panic attacks about getting cancer. He told me that I was cancer-phobic. I asked him how I could cure myself of this, and he went on to say that he had a few patients who’d suffered from ‘cancer-phobia’ and went on to have cancer, which cured them.
I left the surgery confused and a bit angry, thinking this was a very weird and irresponsible thing to say. But he was right.
Don’t get me wrong, I SO wish it hadn’t happened to me and that my life could have continued on its planned trajectory, but it didn’t and I have to deal with this fact the best way I can.
Having breast cancer was the thing I was most afraid of, and by way of an extreme exposure therapy I’ve had it and am still here to tell the tale!
And so, I plan to continue with this positive mantra and to use my life lesson to do things differently. I promise to live boldly, laugh lots, enjoy even rainy days and (try to) not spend my days wondering ‘what if’. After all, this didn’t do me any favours last time…