June 2010, aged 38. I knew what the diagnosis was before I even walked in to the waiting room. What I wasn’t prepared for was the whirlwind that would follow. That is honestly the only way I can describe it. With my faith 100% in the amazing medical team I had, I allowed myself to get fully caught up in that wind. And emotionally, I was steadfast and positive. Always positive. With all those in place, I flicked the autopilot switch.
My medical team decided on surgery, 6 months chemotherapy (and a blood transfusion), 15 doses of radiotherapy, 2 years of monthly Goserelin injections into my stomach and 10 years of Tamoxifen. In all this I was diagnosed with lymphoedema in my arm on the affected side. It’s only slight but noticeable all the same. I then decided on prophylactic surgery as I sadly lost my mother to breast cancer when she was only 40. I had to do all I could possibly do to not allow history to repeat itself. My children needed me. And I want to meet my grandchildren when that day comes.
I don’t really know how to express it, and maybe it’s some sort of internal defence mechanism but I block (for want of a better word) anything negative or detrimental to me. It really did feel like I was on autopilot. All very surreal. I couldn’t allow myself to sit and think because then I might dwell, and dwelling would only bring doubt. It was so hard for my family to watch me go through it. I know how scared my children were. Scared that I might not be around. Wondering what would happen if I don’t make it. I know how desperately sad my sister became. She always tried to be strong for me, but I know how terrified and upset she was. But I was in my own little bubble, doing what needed to be done without a second thought. In my bubble trying to ensure all of my family was happy. In my bubble with three “lifesavers” – Darren Hayes, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Square Enix. I will be eternally grateful to these for helping me to get through in one piece. They kept me positive, kept me sane and kept things constant. I will thank them all one day for the joy they put into my life at that time.
And then came the day when I got the all clear. That was the day I went home and sobbed. I could finally breathe. Finally I could let go of everything that I had been keeping locked and buried deep inside. I sobbed some more.
Only now can I sit and think what I have actually gone through. I think of my Mom going through the same but losing her fight. I think how lucky I am. Attitude is everything. I do strongly believe that. Not once did I allow negativity or depression to enter my thinking. I’ve always been an emotionally strong and positive person. I wasn’t going to let that change me. In fact I’ve come out of it more determined. There’s nothing like facing your own mortality to know what you want and to begin living your life the way you want to. Take those risks. Tick off those bucket list items. Life is far too precious and fragile to be down, to be unhappy, to worry. See the beauty and find strength in everything around you. I find the simple things now bring the most joy.
September 2017. It’s been a long time but I am finally reclaiming my femininity, learning to love the body that cancer left me with. My scars are my daily reminders of my strength and to live life to the fullest. My hair grew back naturally white after chemo. No way was that staying! It’s the inkiest blue black thanks to Schwarzkopf Live Color XXL 90 Cosmic Blue (me and my inner goth love you!). It is a journey, albeit an annoying one sometimes. Annoying in the sense of finding a beautiful, sleeved top only for my affected arm not to fit in it. Annoying in the sense of trying to find pretty, sexy, feminine bras as opposed to the hideous slingshots that apparently I should now be wearing. Oh, that’s a future blog post!
And on that note I shall stop with my rambling. I have never allowed myself to feel so vulnerable. I’ve shared my story in the hope that it encourages or inspires and gives hope to those who feel hopeless. You can get through it!