There's this calendar with the most meaningful dates bigger and bolder than the rest. Wednesday 22nd October 2014 is a new date to add to my list, but how do you categorise it? You have the date and time you got married, the date and time you had your babies. I think this new one it's a bit like remembering what you were doing when you found out about 9/11 or Princess Di or the tsunami. One of those horrible experiences that sticks rather than a nice one you reflect on.
Bizarre morning whist getting C ready for school and F ready to go to nanas (good old nana). I was putting my face on, I turned to a petrified looking M and stated "don't look so worried, I haven't got cancer". It was one of those famous last words moments, you had to be there. So M got C off to school and we took F to mums and we were on our way like two rabbits in the headlights.
Oncology is another very fresh looking department and much like Breast screening the average age is about 25-35 years older than myself but the waiting room is much more vast and much less solemn and quiet. It's rather quite a bubbly waiting room in the sense that there's probably about 5 separate clinics happening at any one time. I eventually get called. A rather chirpy nurse leads us to a room commonly known as "the naughty corner", we had a giggle at the obvious funny side of being put in the naughty corner. I was asked to strip from the waist up and place on this rather fetching poncho type jacket thing and wait for the doctor. I don't remember what the weather was like, I don't remember the big news of the day. I do remember being sat in the naughty corner for ages it seemed. M and I were trying to make sense of the brightly panelled building in front of us and having a giggle about the fact it was called Ronald McDonald house and coming up with silly ideas about what it was used for. We were quite obviously nervous and it was a weird nervous non-conversation whist I sat there in my weird poncho but I will never forget it. It was the last conversation that we had that wasn't tinged with the shit!
In walks a doctor closely followed by a nurse with lovely pink accessories on her clothing. A pink lanyard holding her name badge a pink pen and a pink ribbon badge. I didn't put two and two together. Now I'd know the signs. They tag team you. The doctor deals the gut blow and the nurse mops up behind. I hopped up on the bed, like the good little patient so the doctor could examine me. I think I tried to make small talk or a joke they didn't find me even remotely amusing (I have a habit of laughing at serious situations). I was trying to read their faces and let me tell you. They gave nothing away!! Dead pan. He asked me some questions about my lump and the other symptoms I was experiencing. My line and my weird hard vein. Then nodded and told me to get dressed again......ooookaaay!! Weird.
The doctor is sat at the desk to the side of us, the nurse awaits me getting dressed and when I'm done perches on the examination table in front of us. In front of the doctor is a few sheets of paper stapled together. He has them face down on the desk. He flips them over but he's guarding them studying the papers without making eye contact there's an extended silence in the room. The anticipation makes everything feel like slow motion. "I'm really sorry". Oh fucking hell!!! Freeze frame a moment forever etched in my psyche. Concentrate Danielle, shits about to get real. "The lump you found is Breast cancer". You'd think that would be the point at which my world fell apart. It wasn't. Don't get me wrong I was shitting myself but the weeks of waiting for appointments, of tests, scans and waiting for results. The weeks of unknown. I hadn't realised I'd been holding my breath. And suddenly in that moment I breathed and everything became vivid and clear. And I was about to get a shitload of information that I wouldn't be able to compute right now but I needed to take it all in because I'd have to consult Dr Google later. I heard words, snippets if you like. Grade 3, aggressive, invasive, not hormone responsive. My brain allowed what it could given that it had just been dropped off of the Empire State and was currently hurtling towards earth at a million miles an hour. Small tumour, early stages, good prognosis........ok that's better, my brain sighed and pulled its parachute cord. Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy...... parachute failed!!! Splat!!! Grey matter all over the sidewalk. "Do you have any questions" (yes!!!) "no" (am I going to die???) "ok we'll give you a few minutes and the nurse (K) will come back to answer any questions you may have". They left the room. I sat staring out at the Ronald McDonald building unfeeling and became acutely aware that M was sobbing his heart out next to me. I've never seen him cry before. He probably did when F was born but I was so off my face on the pain meds I can't remember. I could do with some of those now to dampen this burning rage that's ripping through my body. "Wow" I think that was the first thing I said to M. And then it was something along the lines of "don't bloody flake on me now, I need you to be strong so I can be, now sort yourself out" which to be fair to him he did. We've had this conversation before. I'm not an overly emotional person, I don't do depression, I don't do wallowing and if I'm upset don't cuddle me. The night 4 robbers came into the bookies to hold up the shop and I was working alone I was a mess namely because I was plied alcohol by my family the minute the police let me go home and M spent the night holding me whilst I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed big fat wet tears streaming down my puffy cheeks, till the tears ran out and were replaced by dry heaves he didn't let go. He just held on until I fretfully fell asleep. He knew not to hold me now, to this day I haven't cried about having cancer. I've cried in pain from my surgery, I cried when 2 days after my diagnosis I got sacked. I've cried when I'm asked how the kids are coping. But about me and my cancer it's not worth it. I don't like to waste time on feeling sorry for myself. "Don't borrow tomorrow's sorrow" I don't know who said it but it's one of my favourites. Basically it means don't waste time and your future worrying. I don't remember the conversation we had, I don't even know if we conversed at all. I think we just sat there shocked to the core. K the Breast care nurse came back. I don't know how long they left us, time had taken on another new dimension. She's a beautiful, petite blonde lady with a slight Irish accent and she is lovely. She placed a folder on the desk and the white stapled sheets were back. She went through everything the doctor had gone through with us before. Just incase we missed it the first time. Questions started to pop up and she answered them all with a reassuring calmness. She's a pro, she's done this before. She gave me the book "mummy's lump" I nearly lost it at that point. Luckily M had some questions of his own and I was able to pull it back again. I've found along the way he's amazing at asking the right questions, he asks the questions I forget to ask based on conversations we've had weeks before. The whole time my poor little splatted brain is screaming "why!!!" At the top of its lungs.
I have some jobs to do before I get to leave. First I have to have a blood test then a mammogram, fyi if you're scared of needles, hope you never get a cancer diagnosis!! Because you will become a veritable pin cushion. They call it the triple test or something - ultra sound, biopsy, mammogram. They don't generally do a mammogram on a younger person for diagnostics as our breast tissue is dense and the mammogram is basically useless but I had to have one none the less.
The poor man in the bloods room! To this day I feel sorry for what I said. I tend to laugh at really important stuff. I was exchanging banter with him and suddenly just blurted out that I had just been diagnosed with cancer. I needed to say it. Not to the guy but basically say the words I've got cancer, I had to test it on my palette to make it fit and to make it real. Up to this point I'm sure I was just talked at. It was time to make my mark and take charge. He wished me well in my treatment and I apologised for about the millionth time!
On the way across to Breast screening I decided to call my mum. I had no idea how long it would take to wait for the mammo and it was already pushing lunchtime. She'd know something was up and would be fretting. I hung up 3 times before actually letting the call go through. My mum is the one person who can break my defences. I knew once I'd stared to tell her I'd be on borrowed time to either end the conversation and move on or break down and if I broke down now where would it end. I don't know how I told her. I don't know what I said. I don't think I handled it well but I'd done it and from then on Marc was my diagnosis voice, calling people and taking all the calls. I can't imagine what was said between everyone he spoke to but I'm just glad I didn't have to speak to anyone
The essence of the naughty room had well and truly taken over by the time we made it to Breast screening. Either that or the shock was really starting to kick in!! But more nervous banter ensued. I got called through and asked to strip from the waist up again! (Time to get used to this) I stood in front of the weird looking X-ray machine while the radiographer clamped first good boob one way and another then bad boob one way and "ouch" crikey if I didn't know my lump was there before I certainly knew it was now. I snuck a quick peek before I left.....bastard thing glowing as bright as the North Star!!
How did we even get home! M drove, I just sat, knowing that the closer we got the further I was away from the sterile hospital where you could pretend it wasn't happening. We pulled up at mums took a deep breath and went in.........