I don’t have a bucket list but when I reflect back on what I have done since 2003 when I was first diagnosed I realize what I have achieved. Cancer made me focus on undertaking things which were more important than navel gazing and it is in the years since then that I have lived the most.
So with the ringing of the bell, maybe a cake, and a final zap and a buzz many women come to the end of their active breast cancer treatment with a last session of radiotherapy. They leave the hospital with a follow up date in the diary or two, a three month appointment and a simple ‘BYE.’
And then what?
A big black hole is what.
And what does that feel like? Empty, hollow, scary, you’ve won the battle, you are victorious but …
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.
Like all good fairy tales this one must also come to an end! It’s time for Cinderella to hang up her ball gown and get back in her kitchen, that’s totally figuratively speaking, this Cinders never got into the kitchen in the first place! After much lotus eating and naval gazing we are on our way home. I could easily have stayed longer but would either have ended up with gout, too much rich food and good things
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!
On holiday! School’s out, Europe is heading to the coast, the kids are all glued to their i-pads but what are us terminals up to? When I asked my oncologist if I could go to Japan he said ‘NO!’ But he did say Europe is fine, so after a ten hour drive, an hour on the ferry I’m in a place I love, Lesbos. So I have decided not to write too much but simply share a few beautiful photos with you:
And back to the serious business of being a terminal breast cancer patient … Friday was day one of my new course of radiotherapy. It’s my treatment of choice but that comes at a cost as it’s everyday and a 200 km round journey. It does get a little tedious and rather tiring but I focus on the benefits. I’m pleased to say that I personally am not doing the driving and generally post zap I like to have a snooze on the way home. On Wednesday I also had to go to the hospital in order to be measured up for this course of treatment.