Sunday, 27 October 2013

The words you never want to hear

The week passed slowly and I’m still not sure how I got through it.  The only time I managed to feel like I wasn’t about to fall apart was when I was on my bike pedalling, or on my motorbike.  Will and I went to an overland bike meet down in Hampshire with friends for a weekend of camping, riding, drinking and hog roast.  It was a great distraction. 
Finally, my results appointment came around and Will and I went together.  I can’t remember what we talked about as we waited.  Not much really.  But I felt surprisingly calm.  I was about to find out whether my life was about to change, and what would be would be. 
Will said he knew it was going to be bad news when a nurse came through to collect us from the waiting room and then stayed in the room with us and the doctor.  None of these thoughts ran through my mind.  My head was empty.  The doctor had a very gentle and sympathetic persona.  He was good at breaking the bad news.  It was breast cancer.  I cried.  There were no tissues!  Surely I wasn’t the first person to cry at such news??

It was July 2nd, exactly two years to the day when we had arrived back in England after twelve years in Australia (not forgetting a five month overland trip back).  A date that now had more significance than ever before.
The good news to follow the bad news was that we had caught the cancer early.  This was, to put it mildly, a massive relief.  Mr Hamed, the doctor, said that he fully expected me to be sitting here in a years time thinking, bloody hell that was a rough ride, but I’m through it, over it, cancer free.  It was at this point that I started to breathe again. 

And then, suddenly, we were talking of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy.  Thank god Will was there with me to ask questions (what he does best) and listen to the answers!  We were bombarded with information and decisions that needed to be made about mastectomy versus lumpectomy, reconstruction options, hormone therapy.  My theory is that they do all this so you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself.  It certainly worked for me.  Will and I left the hospital, armed with a folder full of information, feeling strangely at peace with things.  I felt sooooo much better walking out than I had walking in, yet I’d been given terrible news.  How does that work?  But I at least knew what I was dealing with now.  It felt like ‘they’ had it all under control, and I hadn’t been told I was going to die so that’s always a bonus!

I didn’t feel ready to tell anyone until almost a week later.  I needed time to digest this and work out how I felt about it, before I had to deal with other’s reactions to it.  I was dreading telling family, hating to be the bearer of bad news.  How was I going to break it to them? 
Will and I had been avoiding using the ‘C’ word since getting the diagnosis, preferring instead to use the term ‘BLT’, Breast Lump Therapy.   The word cancer is just so scary and it didn’t seem right for what I had.  After all, I was hopefully going to be cured.  Cancer is a disease that people die from isn’t it?  I think to be honest, we were a bit blasé in the beginning but maybe that was just our way of dealing with it.  We’d been dropped this bombshell but I felt perfectly fit and healthy and we were given the feeling that there was no immediate urgency to get on with treatment.  In fact we were told to go ahead and take the holiday we had planned, motorbiking through France, and that they’d book me in for surgery when we got back.  None of this sounded terrible so far. 
I eventually told family and close friends via email.  It just seemed the best way to get all the information across and give people time to take it in before having to speak about it.  I’m a serial blubber and just knew that the flood gates would open before I’d had a chance to say all I needed to say, so this just seemed like the best option.  There’s no good way to give bad news.  But I felt huge relief once people knew.  Another big hurdle crossed of the list.

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