Wow Cancer, you threw a right curve ball there, didn't you? There I was, putting my tiredness down to stress, the usual fatigue of life as a single parent and the worries that come with it and then there you were. Or still are, if I am to be exact. All 2cm of you occupying a lumpy zone in my previously unlumpy left breast. It's down to Facebook I caught up with you . Nope, you didn't come up as a suggested friend, rather Breast Cancer Awareness Month was popping up in my news feed and at 32 I thought I had better carry out my first check. The lump was so prominent and hard I thought it was bone and checked the right side. Nothing similar. After keeping an eye/ hand on it for a couple of days I mentioned it to a friend who straight away groped me and sent me on my way to my GP who referred me to my local Breast Clinic.
The Registrar felt the lump and marked it up with a X so it could be found easily for the ultrasound. My request for a smiley face was turned down. An ultrasound led to a mammogram, which led to a biopsy, which led to waiting to speak to the registrar. Even though 1 in 100 of those referred will have cancer, I thought something wasn't going in my favour while I waited to meet the registrar who was hanging around the nurses station at the other end of the corridor. He was clearly waiting for someone and in the fullness of time the person he was waiting for made herself known. A breast care nurse. A Macmillan breast care nurse.
"We've taken a biopsy from your growth and we are waiting to find out if it is cancerous or not but we recommend you bring someone with you for your results. Your appointment letter is already in the post and we want to see you next week. "
Typically, fiercely independent me arrived the following week the same way as I had for my previous appointment. Alone. No one needed to tell me I had Cancer for the simple fact the very same breast care nurse arrived in the waiting room to call me through. It's not like you see diagnosis on the telly. At least that's not how it was for me. Yes, I was told I had breast cancer but that was quickly followed up with information of how we were going to make it so I no longer have breast cancer. Lots of talk of almost 90% survival rates, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, gene testing, possible preventative surgery in the future and the likelihood of hair loss, menopause and infertility. Dating just got tougher!
My response to this news?
"Think of the fortune I'll save on my hair!"
"Thank god I already have my children"
"Double Mastectomy? I get a boob job!"
For nearly a week I cracked more cringey jokes than you get from a holiday camp entertainer. The situation was so mental, so absurd and yet so typical of my luck I had to laugh. So I did for all those days until I found the Internet and began to absorb all the pseudo - science available. I put the fear of God in myself, convinced myself I was a goner and resigned myself to the worst. Until I spoke to my care team and learned my first lesson - only listen to what your nurse/ doctor tells you. Be guided only by them and not the unsubstantiated myths online or the tales of a well meaning friend's aunties, sisters neighbours cousin. Your care team are not in the business of killing people. They want you to get better. You want you to get better. Trust them and only them on what they are doing because they have done this before.