What do you think I'm going to tell you today? the consultant surgeon asked at 2.30pm a year ago, a nurse by his side. My heart slipped a little closer to my stomach.
During the mammogram and ultra sound tests a week earlier, a couple of comments about the lump (which I'd satisfactorily convinced myself prior to the appointment was the innocuous result of hormones) made me nervous. I asked the radiographer what he was looking for. The mammogram suggests pre-cancer, he said. Pre-cancer, I considered, I like the sound of 'pre'. Yes, he said 'pre' is good.
I left the tests to enjoy Christmas, knowing I'd be returning on the 27th December for the results. Then they'd tell me whether I had no cancer or pre-cancer. Or so I thought.
I'd learnt about pre-cancer over the festive period. I didn't go near the internet - am way to cautious to trust my sanity to Mr Google - but instead consulted with my wonderful friend who, rather fortuitously for me, happens to be an oncologist in breast cancer. Pre-cancer wasn’t to be taken lightly, I was told. Dependent on the extent of these cells at the first abnormal stage, a mastectomy might be necessary, together with hormone therapy, perhaps, even a dose or two of radiotherapy. But no chemo and, crucially, no risk of death at this pre-cancerous stage. If there's a sentence containing 'cancer' as well as, 'no risk of death', it's hard to feel anything but relief.
I looked at the surgeon and the nurse and I think I smiled. It was OK, I'd prepared for this and the way he'd phrased the question made me certain. You're going to tell me I have pre-cancer, I finally answered. The surgeon and the nurse continued their gaze, not even a twitch from either of them until the surgeon said, I'm afraid it's much worse than that.
|February: 8 inches cut off my hair|
And thus I trot towards 2015 with three operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy behind me and with much more optimism about the future than I had last New Year's Eve. Nonetheless, I'm celebrating my cancerversary small; just poking a superstitious toe into the festivities. No parties this year, just gratitude for the brilliance of modern medicine and for the love which has helped me step over the pebbles. Some people have to deal with cancer and other crises on their own and I can't begin to imagine how hard that must be. Being with my family around the gold star-bedecked table, clutching a tiddly wink cracker, brought me to tears this Christmas and not just because I burnt the pigs in blankets. I'm lucky to be here and my cancerversary is a time to give thanks for that.
|September: first re-growth|
Next year I hope to celebrate two years clear, then three and four and onto five. Five years is a milestone I pray to reach and a significant goal in the life of Grade 3 breast cancer. That's when we can really believe it's finished: every last stray cell gone, no new little blighters gaining strength and preparing to strike. December 27th 2018 is going to be one heck of a party.
Meanwhile, I shall keep thanking my lucky stars for no signs of recurrence or secondaries. I shall keep checking - you must too, because early detection is your biggest weapon against cancer. Do it on the same day every month and then you won't forget. Boys! Enough sniggering at the back, you know you have to check yourself too, right?
|2014: not all bad by any means...|
And most of all I shall keep having fun because none of us know where our life is headed. In the inimitable words of the Cold Feet opening credits: Life's a journey, travel it well.
Please raise your glass with me for my cancerversary and here's to a happy and healthy 2015 for all of us!