Friday, 2 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: Life's not a TV script

Author: MJ

A lifetime of hypochondria and a fertile imagination had prepared me for the moment I got my biopsy results. A dashing but authoritative TV doctor would swoop in, one glance to camera before fixing his eyes on me with a compassionate gaze. The worst news would of course be announced and I would drop to the floor, weeping in my husband’s arms. End music plays.

Well, there weren’t any cameras and ‘dashing’ is a very subjective thing, but the kind doctor I had first met the week before knew that the wait had already been agony enough and he didn’t prolong the announcement. Yes, it is cancer. I missed my cue at this point, I didn’t drop to the ground.

A voice in my head said ‘of course, I knew it would be’. Not negatively, just calmly. Shaking at first, taking long breaths, I sat down with my husband and a Breast Care Nurse (BCN) to talk through my feelings, my options, the road ahead. I wasn’t sad much – just a few tears when I saw the pain my husband was feeling, which I felt guilty for causing. I wanted facts, I wanted prognosis (on a scale of 1 to 10 would do!) I wanted control. In shock? Definitely. Scared? All the time. My young children, my elderly father, the life changing interior design course I was due to start the week after flashed neon in my mind. 

After an hour or so of sitting with the BCN, I realised that I was actually getting pretty bored. Ok, I get it - got cancer, got options, got to fight. What I needed to do was get out of there, work out a plan, make a list, start my fight.

First, to tell people. “Hi Dad, yeah I’m alright. Is Mum there?” Texts sent out to interrupt peaceful days on holiday, playing with the children or concentration at work. Right, done.

Next, my interior design course. Yes, I could defer the start date. A flood of relief to feel control was returning.

Now the children, all of whom were about to go back to school. The youngest, twins, were starting for the first time. The timing of it all suddenly made me really cross – why hadn’t this tumour, so clever it could take a life, checked my diary first? In fact, more than that, the girls need me for longer than a few weeks. It is just not ok to take me away from them before I see the beautiful adults they will grow up to be. Fight. Control.

That takes me pretty much to where I am today, waiting for a lumpectomy in 2 weeks. I did cry, I did get very sad, but I also spent a lot of time thinking about my plan. My diet has changed radically and I’m starting to exercise. I am leaning on friends in a thoroughly un-British, un-me way. I have also started to make plans for a future without me. Some people find this hard to hear – stay positive, I’m told. But this is positive for me. Just in case, and the chances are small, just in case I’m not here, I need to still feel like I could be a parent. This takes away my fear, it is not pessimism. And yes, however long I am around for, this will remind me not to take life for granted, not to put things off. Live in the present, stop dreaming about what might never (or sometimes will) be.

Life’s not a TV script.  

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Write for the blog! This blog is one of a series being shared on the Young Women's Breast Cancer Blog UK during October, breast cancer awareness month, but the blog is here year round. If you are a young woman in the UK who has/had a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to be a part of this blog, please have a read of the additional information here.

Check your breasts
Breast cancer can happen to any of us - regardless of age. Information about how to check your breasts can be found on the Coppafeel and Breast Cancer Now websites.

Further information and support:
Younger Breast Cancer Network UK - an online chat and support group for women under the age of 45 in the UK who have had a breast cancer diagnosis.
Baldly Beautiful - a YouTube channel with make up demonstrations, created by Mac makeup artist Andrea Pellegrini who went through chemo herself in 2014.
Take A Moment - This is a group for women (all ages) who have/had breast cancer who want to explore, reflect on and express their feelings and experiences through photography. This is a link to the public page - to join the group, send them a message.
The Osborne Trust - Providing children of parents with cancer the opportunity to access time out recreational activities whilst their parents undergo operations and treatments
Jen's Friends - Free heart-shaped pillows for women (and men) with Breast Cancer. Designed to provide comfort and protection after a Mastectomy operation.
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