As you will well know if you’ve known more for more than five minutes, maybe six – my attention to detail is not brilliant. I’m often roughly in the right ballpark: my train yesterday morning was leaving at elevenish from Newcastle or Alnmouth, if that cake doesn’t look right a couple of glugs of milk will probably fix it. (Oh, hold on, there’s some cream in the fridge – even better.)
So it won’t surprise you to know that the blog I am re-posting today I had planned for 1 September, not 1 October. Apparently a month has doodled past while I was thinking it must be abut autumn by now.
Anyway. Here’s what I wrote, a year after I found the lump.
It was on 1 September last year that I found a lump in my breast.
I remember the date because I had spent the whole day thinking, ‘there’s something I need to be doing today…. what have I forgotten?’ And, as I was getting undressed before going for a shower, I remembered. I remembered that even though I was 16 years free of my formal education, 1 September felt like Getting Ready For School Time was beginning. So what I’d forgotten was buying a pair of sensible black shoes, clearing out my pencil case, and cutting out pictures of Duran Duran ready to stick on to my folders.
I was quietly laughing at myself when I walked past the mirror in the bedroom, wrapped in a towel. And then I noticed how the top of my right breast looked a little uneven. I stopped to check, as the mirror is an old one from my late Grandma’s house, and in need of resilvering (or whatever it is that you do to a mirror when it starts reflecting you with faint rusty stripes).
There was definitely something there. I poked it a bit, and then I took it to the shower and washed it, and then I slept on it, and in the morning it was still there, lumping solidly away. I took it to see Alan to see what he thought, and he thought it was Definitely A Lump too, so I made an appointment to see my GP.
And that’s how my dance with cancer began.
It’s been a funny old year. I’ve had some grim and gruesome moments: telling my Mum, telling Ned and Joy, demon-filled sleepless nights, the feeling of my body disintegrating around me, coming to terms with the PICC line, taking a shower and washing my hair and ending up moving it all from my head to the rest of my body, thus transforming into a human/border terrier cross. Then there was the final round of chemo, the tediousness of radiotherapy, the head-exploding drug trial.
I’ve had some fun too. I’ve met some people who I hope will be my friends forever, and I’ve taken some opportunities that might not have come my way. I’ve been interviewed on the radio by Eddie Mair (that’s the sound of me swooning). I’ve written, and written, and written, and as I’ve danced my story onto the screen I’ve learned to value much of what the year’s experience has brought. I’ve got funky new hair and I’ve stopped doing things that don’t feed my soul. Because something else I have done, my friends, is learned that life is short, and then you die. But not for a long time yet.
I’m not sure that this is a year that I would do again, and I sincerely hope that the last twelve months represent the most intense dance with cancer that I will ever have. For all that I’ve benefited, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s been tough, and hellish scary.
But what scares me most is this.
What if that lump had formed itself a little lower, a little deeper, in my breast? After all, I only found it because I could see it – I was never Ms Rigorous Breast Checking Regime. What if it had grown and grown there in the dark, and what if I was sitting here on 1 September 2009, laughing at myself for thinking about Simon le Bon, feeling a little under the weather, while inside me those cancer cells were teeming and spreading and had got who knows how far? What if I’d spent a year being ungrateful and unaware of how utterly lucky and blessed I am, when every day the cancer was spreading through my body’s systems in a silent onslaught that I might not have been able to save myself from? That’s scary.
If you’re reading this, and you haven’t checked your breasts lately, here’s how
. Please, do it. Do it today. Let’s call it an anniversary gift.