In 1997, at the age of 27, I discovered a very small lump in my right breast (so small, I wasn’t even sure it was a lump). Being a pragmatic person, I got it checked out at the doctors, and although she didn’t think it was anything, she referred me on to the hospital as a matter of course.
After several months and tests later, the consensus was to have the lump removed so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it any more. As it turns out, of course, I did need to worry because it was, that very scary word… CANCER!
But hey, I got lucky. After a further excision and removal of all the lymph nodes from under my right arm, they found no further evidence of the disease; so after some intensive radiotherapy and a total of five years on Tamoxifen, interspersed with having my daughters (the two most beautiful, intelligent, loving, frustrating, caring, energy-zapping, funny and mischievous shining beacons in my life), the ordeal was over and diminished a little in memory with each passing year. In short, I got on with my life.
Having said that, I wasn’t naive. I knew it could return, and I knew what to look out for. I continued to check myself regularly, had yearly mammograms and for fifteen years that worked out just fine.
So, you will probably appreciate how much of an idiot I felt upon being told that the months (and months, and months) of backache were as a result of a vertebral collapse and spinal cord compression which would need urgent surgery. Actually, that’s not quite true, because at that time I wasn’t informed why the collapse had happened – not for another full week (can you still sense the exasperation and frustration two years on?) – when I was told it was due to Metastatic Cancer. BUGGER!
Now, you may know exactly what metastatic cancer is, but back then I didn’t have a clue. I just thought it was a different type of cancer, and that I would go back to having treatment and beating it, just like last time.
However, it doesn’t work like that… Metastatic cancer basically means that the primary cancer (in my case, breast cancer) has spread to other organs of the body (again, in my case, the bones) and that, whilst they can treat to control it, it cannot be cured. DOUBLE-BUGGER and DAMN!!
But, it’s not all bad. No, really it’s not! After some gifted and fantastically talented surgeon at Queens Square in London put me back together again (just like Humpty-Dumpty, but hopefully I’m a little less egg-shaped) I have even been able to get back out dancing again on a near-weekly basis. The cancer’s been controlled by a few hormone treatments and bone-strengthening treatments every four weeks, and I had my ovaries removed (to stop them producing oestrogen). I have scans every three months to check on progression, and it worked… for nearly two years.
Unfortunately though, just as you think you know where you are, the sneaky bastard goes and changes and mine has become immune or resistant to the hormone treatment. TRIPLE-BUGGER and DOUBLE-DAMN!!!
So, here we are… pretty much up to date!
If you’re wondering why exactly I’ve decided to start a blog on all this – and you’ve probably gathered by now that this is my first foray into the literary art – guess what we’ll cover in the next thrilling instalment! Hope you’ll stick with me…
In the meantime – KEEP LIVING! [fade in “Strictly” music]