This is a little of a cop-out post because it's actually what I wrote for the Pink for October site but I think I'd like to share it here because I did take some time over crafting it. It's not a pretty story - but then, so much isn't.
September 29th 2006:
One year, seven months and 3 days ago I sat in a small room in an NHS hospital and heard the words “I’m sorry, it isn’t good news, it is cancer.”
This was two weeks before my 28th birthday. I sat and I stared at a metal cupboard in the corner and I thought “Goodness me, I hope I wake up soon because this is the worst nightmare I’ve ever had. This can’t be true because I. could. not. cope. with this.” But then, it was true and so I said “Well, that’s a bit of a bugger, isn’t it?”
So, from that point the journey went on: through AC and Taxotere chemotherapy, through “febrile neutropaenic sepsis” with IV antibiotics and a 5 day stay in isolation, through a portocath insertion that initially refused to work, through a mastectomy, extensive ‘jollying’ physiotherapy, through radiotherapy, Tamoxifen and Zoladex. Through uncertainty, fear, pain, tears (alright, hysterics) and depression, the journey wended its way. Wound its way through to a day one year and 18 days ago when I came round from anaesthesia knowing (hoping) that along with my breast, the cancer had gone.
The two, interlinked – something I loved with something I hated; something safe with something deadly; something that was part of me with a thing that was invading me without pity.
I spent the intervening time – six months – trying to assimilate what it meant to have cancer; trying to learn how to be someone with cancer. Someone with no hair, no eyelashes, no eyebrows; someone who could barely walk round the block; someone whose collection of medications made them look like a pharmacy – or a drugdealer (anyone for domperidone? I have enough to last a lifetime but, sadly, they didn’t work for me!); someone living with a lump that was trying to kill them.
And then, (now), then(now) it was(is) gone and I had(I’m having) to learn that too – how to be a person without cancer, how to be a person who *had* cancer. Do I still have cancer? They tell me I don’t, but how do they know? How can they know that there isn’t a small cell lurking somewhere in me, just biding its time? In four years – if the cancer doesn’t come back in the meantime – I’ll “officially” have beaten it. My risk will be no greater than anyone else’s. How will I feel then?
My fear is that I’ll never believe it’s gone and will live the rest of my life with a mental scar as prominent as my physical scar.