L5-S1, T1-T2, C5 … what are these? Battleship coordinates! And so it begins but not on a games board but in my back. My spine from the top at C5 to the very bottom is a mess of fractures, lesions, and tumors, yes I have them all. And now we’re here today and trying to normalize the new information and get a new treatment plan. I’m actually almost convinced that the C5 compression fracture was sustained in the North terminal at Gatwick as a result of a spot of overzealous shopping! I’d been in London celebrating dad’s 88th birthday with my two sisters, Mary and her family and Lucy.
On the way back to Turkey I got a bit giddy in the duty free and filled my super light cabin luggage with face cream, lotions, perfumes, oh and champagne.
I was carrying a shoulder bag which I had also stuffed with mags, all with Jen or Jolie on the cover, delicious Pret sarnies, and a few packets of Fortnum’s teas and packets of Walker’s shortbread biscuits, oh and a few bars of chocolate. What had been a couple of kilos became a tank which I was propelling around the airport and then on to the plane.
And then this is where it went wrong, I had to pick it up over my head and put it in the luggage rack! Oh shit. Over the last few weeks I’d noticed a few tweaks in my back, a sensitive spot here and there.
But now it is uncomfortable when I lie down, uncomfortable to turn. Despite having a drawer full of powerful painkillers I haven’t reached for them yet.
I am obviously blessed with the pain threshold of an ox.
I didn’t notice the creeping tumor in my chest in 2010 until it had taken over almost all of my sternum and was equally unaware of the tumors in my iliac and sacrum (lower back to you and me) until they had totally felled me the day before my wedding.
When I came round hours later I quickly realized that I still had a breast, but also without a shadow of a doubt had cancer too. I think I was probably pleased to have my breasts intact. The surgeon thought that at 33 I should enjoy having them and perhaps didn’t fully understand the family history. So with a simple lumptectomy and breast still intact I began my own cancer journey. In 2003 almost no one I knew had a computer or a mobile phone, however I managed to altert the troops to what was up! One sister in the Isle of Man, Mary, another in California, Lucy and then my mates in London. We whispered, planned and plotted and the decision was made.
Our mum had died only 3 years earlier of breast cancer and now I was going to have to break the news to dad. Or do the next best thing, get a sister to do my dirty work for me … Mary would fly to London, open a bottle of wine and tell dad. We have never been a family to put the kettle on in moments of stress or sadness, instead we have eaten some of our best meals and shared some of our most memorable bottles of wine. I always say that in your worst days you can live some of your happiest moments. I have such vivid memories of the most indescribable intimacy which Neset and I shared in that terrifying moment.
I felt utterly loved and cocooned with the love of a friend, husband, father, so close that nothering could separate us. And that’s when my mate Crazy Lucy, aka Lulo, or the Chickster rocked up!
Invasive carsinoma by any other name would still be cancer. Everyone who’s had cancer, has a diagnosis story. And so my own story begins – in the shower. In 2003, at 33 I was living it up on the southern Turkish coastline, a golden life, working as a teacher, tanned and blond, the centre of my own world and feeling like a princess.
Girls you all know who you are but for all the others not in the know let me fill you in. I have a gang of entirely virtual friends from all over the globe and we are united by one thing breast cancer. This is a sympathetic, warm and loving bunch, ready to listen and share virtual tears and laughter. They respond any time of day or night as someone is always awake somewhere in the world.
You’ve already met some of the stars of this group, Norma and Rose but there are so many more; I’d like to introduce you to Jill who guides the group and keeps us in check, Ethel who provides us with wonderful turns of phrase and humour, Keri who always finds just the right response and tone with everyone in all situations and Tracy, Jan, Melissa and so many more wonderful women besides.
We are from America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Scandinavia, Europe, Turkey and the Middle East. We are an international and pretty classy bunch sharing our daily trials and tribulations, both good and bad news, rants, tears and sometimes things not connected with our breast cancer.
So can you tell me what I have in store Mystic Rose, can you see what kind of day lies ahead on Monday?
Well, I can see that you have a nasty case of … wait, it’s coming to me! Yes of course, plague of almost everyone in the western world, a particularly bad dose of MONDAYITIS
Yes, tell me about it and do you know what? It began at about 9pm on Saturday so this one must be really bad. I know the cause of it of course but that doesn’t actually make any difference or seem to help in the slightest. Mine has been brought on by usual stresses of Monday and back to the office – oh scrap that, should read Monday at the hospital. I’ve been having a few ‘Oh shit’ thoughts about what may be in store.