Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

You may have noticed a slight change to your usual service.....
I know the pink is alarming and slightly sick-making but, rest assured, it's only temporary.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I've gone pink slightly in advance. It will only be pink for the duration - I promise!

You know the drill: know your breasts, check your breasts, throw embarrasment to the winds and show 'em off to your GP if you're worried, don't smoke, birth control pills are not your friend, eat healthily and bear in mind that the earlier you start your family and the longer you breastfeed, the better (less exposure to oestrogen during your lifetime). Not doing these things doesn't mean you'll get cancer - these are just a few known factors that *can* (not will) help to reduce your chances of getting breast cancer. But remember that 1 in 9 women will get breast cancer at some time. The brilliant news is that there is loads of money going into research and treatment of breast cancer and if it's spotted early enough then the survival rate is very good. Be proactive!
And above all: noone is too young for breast cancer. Cancer does not respect your lack of age; in fact, it doesn't respect a damn thing. If a doctor tries to fob you off with the 'you're too young to have BC' line then you tell them you know someone who had breast cancer when they were 27.

Here are some of the sources out there who I've had help from over the last 18 months:
Breast Cancer Care

London Haven
Cancer Bacup
Lavender Trust

Lots of them have lovely things on sale or links to items being sold to raise money for research and care of people with breast cancer. So, if you fancy lavender wellies or pink gardening gloves or any number of other things, you can help them to support people like me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What I did last night, or torture extraordinaire

So, (I start all my posts with 'so' - it's so you all feel like we're just picking up a conversation where we last left off...) So, Sarah dragged me off to 'Body Conditioning' at Kentish Town Sports Centre last night. I rang her after seeing Elaine, hoping for a cup of tea and a chat only to be told that she was on the Heath walking Wooster but did I want to come to the gym with her later. I said 'yes' - god knows why - I don't do 'classes' - I hate being hot and sweaty and I have no stamina. But I went - and I survived. I got really hot, my hand swelled up (lymph fluid: drain! Drain, I say!) and I re-aggravated the ankle that I turned last week - it's strapped up now and I can walk on it - it's just a bit uncomfortable. 'Body Conditioning' is aerobics to start with and then exercises with weights afterwards - I didn't use weights: I can't remember what the weight I'm not supposed to go over is. (If you see what I mean) It was hilarious but no one laughed out loud at me - I'm not terribly coordinated and trying 'grapevine' and the turn and then 'kickback' or whatever those terms are; well, I was lost and was waving my arms up and down in the opposite direction to everyone else and going the wrong way and it was all quite sad. I'm not convinced that I want to go again. Sarah keeps telling me that it'll get easier. I don't mind the aerobics bit (much) but I am very wary of putting my weight on my hands - like in press-up stance and I was scared when my hand started feeling so swollen. It went back down again - apart from the baby finger knuckle that's always puffy now. I'll keep thinking about it.

In the meantime, in order to try and solve the utter
disorganisation and being unable to remember things anymore I have bought a filofax. No laughing and no poncy-jokes, please. I just can't cope - I need to-do lists and a diary section with the hours marked in it and somewhere to scribble shopping lists and guide programmes and Peru details. And I was doing that with bits of paper and it was a disaster - I just had scraps of paper all over the place. So, in my eyes, a filofax is just a grand collection of scraps of paper. So there.
It looks like this:

Except, it actually looks more like this:
Yay!! Bright red! For easy finding in bag, for easy noticing when I'm about to accidentally leave it at work/home and for just being generally sexy. If a filofax can ever be such a thing. And it has lovely different colored sets of paper for writing notes, so I can have different colors for notes on different topics!! And it has Day Planner and To Do pages! I'm entirely too excited about a filofax, aren't I? Yes, it's true - but I have high hopes for actually being able to stay on top of things now.....

(Argh! Font has gone all ballooey (I've never written that word before - it looks wrong) and won't let me fix it. ::hate::)

October is a very important month....

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sad, tired, not a total screwball

OK - I may have been sounding a *tad* dramatic over the past few weeks. Well, alright, yes I have been.

Please be assured that it all comes and goes and that I'm not spending my life curled up in a ball weeping. I am jolly confused and muddled and astounded by where my sense of self is taking me at the moment. However, in my calmer moments I do believe that it is all taking me somewhere new; that it will resolve - that I'll come out the other side.
I just haven't yet.

I am like a child learning how to communicate; except here I'm relearning how to communicate emotionally. I think I've been 'shut down' for a very long time. I froze myself rather than expressing things - because some part of me thinks that having feelings is a failing and because they were just too overwhelming. There were too many things, one after the other or all on top of each other and they would have drowned me on my own. So I stamped them down, shut them up, told myself to be strong and get on with things because feeling something about all these things was not going to make them go away or resolve themselves. I have learnt/am learning that feelings cannot be right or wrong: they just are; that you are allowed to feel and wish for things that cannot be. I am astounded by some of the things I'm learning about myself because I find myself thinking things that are simply not true. To put it metaphorically (and why not!) I've been trying to steer my ship according to a false map and false landmarks to the wrong destination. It's time to get myself back on a course - a better course - because, of course, there are many. (and possibly too many uses of the word 'course' in the previous sentence...)
I'm starting to have hopes for the future. I won't say I see or know what it will be; but things are starting to float into the offing - I see ghosts of the future.
Gentle ghosts presenting opportunities.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Move on

OK – I’m close to cracking-up. I haven’t slept without waking every 2 hours for 3 nights now. Yes, the vicious ‘hots’ are back. If this carries on then I’m not to be held accountable for snapping, biting your head and arms off and then bursting into tears.

It took every ounce of my strength and will to get through last week. To get up in the morning, to get through the routine, to get through those hours at my desk and then to go home and feed myself properly and start it all over again. I’m miserable. I go through periods of time where I think I’ve moved on; that the memories have receded a little and then they come back and hit me again. How many years will it take? I thought: one year – then perhaps it’ll seem better but now I’m thinking that perhaps *next* year it will be better and underneath, a part of me if thinking that perhaps it’ll never be better. Perhaps I will always be sad. Perhaps I will always be grasping at life trying to hang on. Trying to keep up. Trying to be on top of things instead of running around after them.

And then I’m scared and hate myself for finding this so hard – this cannot be as terrible as everything I went through last year! That took real tooth-gritting will-power. I feel like it’s taken me away – the cancer may be gone but it’s still eaten me up in the process of banishing it. It’s taken so much to get through it that, actually, what’s left of me isn’t worth having.

Stop me if you've heard it all before.....

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Happy Birthday to my mastectomy scar!!

A year ago today my cancer was removed and with it, my cleavage. Hey, who wants one of those anyway? Other than the entire damn western world, that is. Today I find myself mesmerised by other women's cleavages - and they're everywhere! The fashions, they are low cut; the bras, they are on display and me - I find myself staring at other women's boobs, and that's pretty weird.

I never used to think much about them before: they were there and if I had the right top on and stood at the right place at the bar in the pub then I might get served before the blokes. And I liked to wear my fitted tops and I loved my lacy, beautifully colored, low-cut bras. No matter what I was wearing on top it made me feel good to be wearing something sexy underneath - even if only I knew it.

I have had some very nice, very kind comments recently so I wanted to say a more 'public' thank you. 'Thank you, ladies'. I have to admit, I'm not feeling very beautiful or even very happy with myself anymore. I never thought this would happen to me. No-one ever does, I expect. I just feel sad now - just sad; in a dull, heavy, weighted-down kind of way and nothing much seems good - it doesn't seem *bad* either - just...flat. Like nothing much, like I've gone numb along with my scar. It's my "little souvenir of a terrible year".

I have occasionally stamped my foot and said 'it's not fair' - but I guess I don't feel I'm allowed to complain. It doesn't change anything - it doesn't make it go away but maybe I should; maybe those 'dragons' need to be named and released. Maybe I'm allowed to whine a little bit and say 'it's not fair'. Well, you know what: IT'S NOT FAIR! WHAT DID I EVER DO WRONG? I'VE ALWAYS BEEN THE 'GOOD ONE' - too afraid to be anything else and look where it's got me....I'm boxed up by my fear and constrained but it didn't save me from breast cancer. It didn't save me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Allowing mutilation

A year ago today I signed a piece of paper giving my consent for my right breast to be removed. I had tears pouring down my face and as I went to sign I shouted/screamed/vocalised; I couldn't sign it without that. Somewhere I have a copy of that piece of paper and one day I will look at the signature: I bet it doesn't look anything like my signature because I don't think that was me.

I think the signing of that paper was the worst part - almost worse than waking up after the mastectomy. Apparently as I woke up from the anaesthetic, I was crying. Utterly unconsciously. But still tears were coming. I don't really remember. But having to say 'yes, I allow this' - it was awful, because I didn't want them to mutilate me. But I did and they did.

After I signed the consent form they let me go home as long as I promised to come back by 7.30 the following morning. I made David take some pictures of me - you know - with both breasts. I haven't looked at them since. Maybe I will one day.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Radio trauma-rama

Class night.

I woke up at 4.30 with 'the hots'. Whilst fumbling for my chillow and waving pillows around I managed to knock over a half-full pint glass of water (Water! People! Water! I don't do the booze!). And I knocked it all over a) my pillows and my side of the bed, b) thd radio alarm clock and c) the bedside table and 'the gap' - you know, that space *between* the bed and the bedside table that is a useful cache for those things that won't fit *on* the bedside table. Mine was the repository for those big clear plastic bags full of anti-sickness medications, steroids and painkillers that I used to come away from the chemosuite, post-chemo, with.

["Hi! I'm Emily, I have cancer and I rattle when I walk!" Last year was *great* - NOT]

So currently, 'the gap' has my useful A4 notebook for planning and writing, an Asterix book (of course!), a box of 100 soluble paracetamol (they didn't have any smaller boxes in Morrisons pharmacy and it's a stupid size!)

So, I spent a happy, groggy 20 minutes with a towel drying off those things plus the stuff on the *top* of the bedside table (too. much. stuff.) including the clock which was rather damp too. Went back to sleep eventually.

Woke up - later than the alarm time - radio is making strange hissing sound. Whoops.
I play with the volume control - louder hissing. I tip it up - AHHA - if I stand it on its side then it plays!! (Of course!) So I leave it on and have a bath and get ready - now I'm ready to leave - it won't turn off!! Classy! No matter which way I tip it. So I've had to leave it singing and talking away to itself - BBC Radio 2 all day.

Class night.

The tales, they do get better....