Living with the ‘C’-word: part 1

by May 27, 2011 No Comments

As I emerge from sleepiness post anaesthetic and reengage with things, my mind is also moving forward to getting the next lot of results and what that will mean.

I know I am not alone in listening intently to every nuance, every word, every shrug of the shoulders or look of sympathy and trying to build meaning from it.

A surgeon as experienced as Professor Dixon knows this very well and chooses his words carefully as he talks to me after the operation. I noticed he was encouraged by not having had to remove so much tissue this time and how I hope that means, perhaps, there won’t have to be the next stage surgery after all.

But of course, that isn’t what he is saying. But maybe, just maybe, he is leaving the door open for that?

When I speak to people about breast cancer as part of my job with Breakthrough Breast Cancer, I often say that breast cancer affects families not just individuals and this has never been more apparent to me than now. This story isn’t just mine; it’s my family and friends and colleagues too.

My husband is a volunteer counsellor and has had to suspend his volunteering meantime. You need emotional capacity for counselling and this experience was using that up. My step-daughter has found my news diffi cult because although she knows it’s different, it has taken her back to when her mum died far too young of breast cancer just a few years ago.

My daughter, being away from the family at this time, is, perhaps, worrying more than she would if she were here. And of course, she has always known that the age of my fi rst diagnosis means that she may be at slightly higher risk herself.

For my son, it’s hard too but he can help with a well-timed hug or offer to make dinner but it’s still impacting on him and his girlfriend too. If I could take this away from them all, I really would want to. The hardest thing for me is knowing that I can’t.

For my mum, I am still her daughter and perhaps the hardest day for me was going to tell her that I needed to have treatment for breast cancer again.

Breast cancer treatment is complex and deciding about treatment requires a good level of knowledge, an ability to understand and analyse risk, self-awareness and good people around you to help you know and accept what is best for you.

The mantra of those looking after me in Edinburgh is: take your time – you don’t have to rush a decision. It’s good advice but what about those who don’t have that knowledge or support, who are scared by the word cancer and make quick decisions they then regret?

My head is not only there, it’s also been in trying to deal with the ‘how do I shower/wash my hair and keep my wound dry too/?’. My fabulous daughter suggested a boob cap (shower cap adaptation). Sadly, I had to email her at work earlier to say that it worked for a wee while but fell off eventually. So the plan for Dragons’ Den and the advertising jingle to the tune of “Love shack” (try it – boob cap, baby!) have to be shelved meantime. Keep working on it, hon – there’s a gem of an idea there.

Reasons to be cheerful today are: the hair got washed, got some lippy on and feeling more optimistic I might get to the team night out and hear the karaoke talents at the end of the week. More of that later…

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