Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Hailstones in May





"Oh, I'd also like to talk to you about alternatives to the usual contraceptives. Like, sterilisation."
"OK, well let's get this looked at first and we can talk about that at a future date."

The doctor ushered me out, as if she couldn't get rid of me quickly enough. She was to request an appointment for me at the hospital's 'one-stop-shop' for all things breast related, so I could have a lump that I'd found investigated. She was probably thinking that contraception was the least of my worries.

I could tell that she knew right away, as did I, that this was no cyst. When the hospital called a day or two later saying they could fit me in that Friday, I knew there was a reason for the urgency. I now know that they keep several 'emergency' appointments open and I had just become an emergency.

It was a late afternoon appointment, around 3pm-ish. I was there for over three hours. First, a questionnaire to complete - symptoms, bodily location, family history, etc. Both on the form and when talking to the doctors, I told them there was no family history, but that my mum had had a big cyst the year before; trying to convince them as well as myself that there wasn't, couldn't, be anything wrong with me. Even though I already knew, and had known, since the second I felt the lump.

I discovered it by accident; I rolled over on the bed and my right hand just happened to be in the way of my left breast. For a second I thought there was something under me. I felt again. There was definitely something hard there, but it wasn't under me, it was in me. I got Hannes to feel it and he said it felt a bit odd and to check with the doctor, just to be safe. 

I almost didn't. I was immediately terrified and waited a couple of days, to see if it went away. It didn't. And everything began to fall into focus - why I'd been feeling so unwell, why I'd been exhausted for no apparent reason, why my armpit had been feeling so uncomfortable and swollen. That in itself petrified me - if it had spread to my lymph nodes, I knew that was bad news. But that was the extent of my knowledge, because there's a weird information blackout surrounding cancer. All I knew, or thought I knew, was if cancer spread to the lymph nodes, you die.

So, there I was, in a hospital gown, gabbing on at doctors and nurses with years of experience, trying to convince everyone that I was fine. I think I had the mammogram first. I don't remember much about that. What I remember most is going in for the ultrasound and laying on the bed, whilst the doctor slid the probe thing over my chest, armpit and breast, focusing on the area where the lump was. They took a biopsy from both my breast and armpit.

They were talking in hushed, concerned whispers, with their backs to me. A nurse was by my side and placed her hand on my arm - I didn't even realise I was shaking. 

"Are you OK, love?" she said kindly.
"I'm scared." I managed to get out, between shallow, tight breaths.
"I know, honey." the nurse replied, softly, knowingly - no reassurance. I stared at the clock the whole time, watching the red second hand tick round and round and the minute hand glide through 4:50pm, towards 5pm, trying to see if I could see it move, but it just seemed to happen invisibly. The way cancer had.

The ultrasound doctor and a nurse told me to fetch my mum and Hannes from the waiting room. As I walked to the corner to beckon them in, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for what I was about to put them through.

"The images look veeeery suspicious." was the first thing the doctor said. "Sometimes in young women it looks really bad, then we send off the biopsies and it turns out to be benign. But this time, we're about 75% sure that it's cancer." Actually, I think they were 100% sure.

My mum was already crying. Hannes was silent. I just stared at the doctor and said "OK." Pretty much everything they said after that, I just replied with the same; "OK." The rest is a blur - I know I was told I'd have to come back in a week for the official result, but I knew there was going to be no miracle before then. I knew they were going to say the same thing: I had cancer. 

I'm pretty sure I went to work the next day. The following week came around and the diagnosis was made official and my life became an instant whirlwind of appointments, more scans, plans, information overload and more medical staff than I'd ever met in my life. I couldn't take it all in, so I chose to focus on one thing that they told me: "We are aiming to cure you."

I walked out of hospital that day with a new feeling of knowing. I'd already known that I had cancer, but now I knew that I was going to beat that motherfucker. There was no other option. I was twenty-nine years old, had already been through more than my fair share of shit and was finally happy in my life; there was no way in hell that I was going down now. 

That was three years ago today. I'm skipping over all the most awful parts; the treatment, the ongoing recovery and all the ways I'm still affected by it daily, because today, here, now, I am alive. I came through it. And whilst nothing is ever guaranteed, right now I am well and I am cancer free. 

That's what I want to focus on today and revel in, because most of the time I still can't believe it. I am thankful every single day and need to remind myself that I may not be exactly where I want to be, I may not be able to do things as quickly as others any more, but I am here, I know exactly who I am, I am strong and I am living my life. There is a whole legion of women like me, who have been through, or who are still going through the same ordeal. Hidden heroes everywhere, somehow holding a life together whilst dealing with the possibility of death. It's a life that you can never, ever comprehend and I hope you are never in a position to understand. 

To all the other cancer patients out there, you are super heroes. Fellow breast cancer patients, you can all call yourselves Wonder Woman. My heart is with each and every one of you. 

You may be a having a hard day today - I hope this gives you a little perspective. That is not to belittle anyone else's problems; shit is shit, no matter how big the pile. Just do me a favour: go look in the mirror. Look yourself in the eye. Smile at yourself. You're OK, aren't you. Yeah, you are. While you're at it, check your bits. 

Now go do something you love, with every ounce of your heart.


This post is dedicated to JoJo, a kickass girl
who sadly passed away this week. Shine on, beautiful lady.

xx 





All images used are taken by and are the property of Tiny Grey Cat, unless otherwise credited. The use of any image from this blog without express permission is strictly prohibited.

26 comments:

  1. I have no words... this was beautifully written. I feel honoured to know a person with such strength!

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  2. It's safe to say I'm crying. You remind me of my best friend and the determination, strength and courage she showed during her fight. It's terrible to say, but this awful disease is why I don't believe in a god because why, when there are truly terrible people in the world, is it the most beautiful, kind hearted and caring individuals that are made to face it?!
    I really am very (to steal Kerri's word) honoured and glad to know you.
    Heck yeah for being CANCER FREEEE!!! <3

    xo

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    1. Thank you so much, Danielle! I am glad we are friends too! I agree - cancer is vile and always seems to affect the best people, whilst awful ones seemingly sail through life. There is no justice :(
      xx

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  3. I dont even know how to word everything I'm feeling, and I'm worried my attempt will be awful, so I'm sorry. But reading this just made me sob, actually sob. You are obviously kick ass and fucking inspiring, but the thing that is so powerful and real is that you took us through your story, your thoughts, each step how you felt and what you did. And I could never understand what you must have been through, but you've given me the strength to finally do something I've been putting off. I'm going to get myself checked out and there's no particular reason I've put it off but there we go. So thank you for that.
    Putting everything in perspective like this is a good thing too, and I think sharing your story will help others who need it. I cannot tell you enough how amazing I think you are and how much I respect you because this must have took so much strength to write.
    Sending all my love, you absolute hero.
    Jemma xx

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    1. Wow, thank you, Jemma! That's exactly why I've been so open about everything - in the hope that it helps even just one person.
      I'm very glad you're getting checked out - health should never be taken for granted and our amazing NHS should be utilised!
      xx

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  4. Wow. This post is so powerful and moving! I found a lump in my breast, but thankfully it was benign! I can't imagine what you went through because I know how scary it was to just pluck up the courage to go to the doctor .. Not knowing what the outcome would be. I am so happy for you that you fought through it! You are a really strong woman and it must of been hard to write this post, but hopefully it can help other people who are going through the same thing! You are such an inspiration!
    Sophie xx

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    1. Thanks very much, Sophie. If I can help even one person, I will be happy :) Well done for finding the courage to go the doctor and I'm so very glad to hear that it turned out fine xx

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  5. I'm sat here crying as I read this! This was so moving and you are amazing! I only recently discovered your blog but as I soon as I clicked through and looked back at your previous posts, I knew I'd love your blog, and I'm so glad I've discovered you because even throughout this post, and reading about what must have been a hellish time for you, your strength and bravery shine through and you are an inspiration. It must have been scary to write this and I think you're incredibly brave for sharing your story. Thank you! - Tasha

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    1. Thank you so much, Tasha! And welcome to my blog! I'm so glad you like it! I hope you'll continue to read and enjoy my posts :) xx

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  6. I've never read your blog before but this has completely moved me. This was an extremely brave thing to do but I thank you for getting your story out there...more people need to be made aware of breast cancer so they get themselves checked out sooner rather than later. You are an absolute inspiration and I wish you every happiness in life.

    Amy xo

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! x

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  7. You are an amazing woman and so brave to have got through all of this and shared your story.
    Well done on keeping it real and kicking ass!
    Life really is precious and things like this totally put it all into perspective. My brothers friend found out she had stomach cancer 4 weeks ago, but that it was too late to treat, and unfortunately she passed away yesterday. Life is so cruel and unkind.
    Lotsa love to you guys, xxx

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    1. Oh my goodness, how utterly horrendous :'( That is my worst fear. That poor lady. Cancer is completely hideous xx

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  8. This is just amazing and so heartfelt. You are literally so inspiring and i am beyond honoured to know you in even a small way. Along with many others i also cried reading this because it is real, it happened and it simply shouldn't.
    It always takes something big to put the little in perspective!

    So much love to you!

    Rach xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Rach! That's really what I wanted to get across - this is real, this isn't some smiling advert, this really happened to me and it was utterly horrific. I'm glad it's making people think.

      Much love and happy anniversary to you and your chap! xx

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  9. It's so great to see somebody sharing their side and talking so openly about a topic many chose not to. Thanks for posting this, it's one of the most inspiring things I've seen in a long time.

    Keep kicking ass xo

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  10. Sending lots of hugs your way <3 Zoe xxx

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    1. Hugs are always gratefully received, thank you! xx

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  11. First of all congratulations to making it through this dark time, and the for the fact that you can write about it in such a profound way. I am glad I ran into your blog, and while I am not personally affected by this terrible disease, I know someone will find courage in your words. Thank you for that.
    Secondly, you have a great blog here, will stop by often! Blessings and continued health!

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    1. Thank you kindly, Claudia. It is the hope of helping someone else that is precisely why I think it's so important to share these experiences.
      So glad you like the blog and hope to have you stopping by regularly! x

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  12. Such a powerful, moving post. Thank you so much for posting this. I hope it reminds everyone of the importance to get lumps seen to. You are such a strong, wonderful person <3

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    1. Thank you, Becky! I definitely want to make people realise how important it is to check themselves regularly and that cancer doesn't care how old you are - it affects all ages x

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  13. This is so wonderfully written - you have shown so much courage. I honestly don't know how people deal with illness. You must have such inner strength. Our health is the most important thing in the world and as I get older that seems to become more and more pertinent every day. Thanks for sharing this. And best wishes for your health!! Sophie xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Sophie. Our health really is everything! Unfortunately a lot of people don't realise that until it's too late. Anything little I can do to raise awareness is a good thing! xx

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