Now, then

The camellia - Dignity, gratitude, trust and reverence.

It’s been a while and FEC-THis has been on hold while life continues its various twists and turns. Visitors still stop by. Often they are other women recently diagnosed or about to undergo the same chemo regime.  I wouldn’t wish any of it on anyone else but if just one other person takes strength or finds hope here then my time undergoing surgery, recovering, doing chemo and herceptin becomes more than just a means to extend my own life.

Now, October 2015, is just over three years since Miss M said “I’m sorry… as we suspected it is cancer.”  Until those words were spoken there was a remote possibility of something else. Something less offensive. It might have been random, unusual, irregular, odd or downright freakish but until those words were spoken it didn’t have to be cancer. 

And then it was…

a rapidly mutating, poorly differentiated, invasive and aggressive breast cancer. Insert uncouth foul-mouthed swear words here______ here _______ and here _______. I thought them even if I refrained from saying them aloud.

And I thought I’d break my loved ones hearts…

because let’s be honest, no-one wants to witness their mother/wife/daughter/friend go through cancer or its treatments. No cancer patient wants to bring fear, anger and sadness into the lives of their family and friends. Our mission in life is to live and love. Causing hardship, inflicting pain and breaking other people’s hearts is not the mission I signed up for.

And I surmised I might not see my son graduate…

Which is the moment my own heart – raw and barely healed since cancer stole my mother – shuddered, stalled and shattered into a million pieces all over again.

And I realised death might arrive much sooner than it should.

At this point in 2012 I’d undergone three surgeries, scans too numerous to recall and had attended for my first FEC chemo. I can still remember the unrelenting nausea… because the NHS isn’t allowed to prescribe Emend from the outset on the grounds that it’s too expensive… and not everyone gets hit with stomach churning nausea to the point where extracting one’s own stomach with a kitchen devil and tongs starts to seem attractive. I also remember the compassion and humour of the staff in the Milbrook suite, something that made going there an almost enjoyable experience. Then there was the kindness of the other patients all of whom were at least twenty years older than me, some of whom had been attending for chemo for more than 5 years. They helped me face my fears and encouraged me to fully understand that faith and endurance are a useful combination when facing life’s starker realities.

Now, all that happened then seems a long time ago, in another place and a different life time. But it wasn’t. The memories remain ever present and crystal clear. 


I recently returned to see Miss M for an annual review. Health-wise I’m doing ok. Surgery in March was as expected and recovery was largely uneventful. Despite “encouraging” my body to regain its previous capabilities there is now no doubt that I’m not as physically strong as I used to be. I have less agility and still wake up with stiff joints, painful knuckles and sore knees. My hearing is of variable quality and the same is true of my cognitive powers. Tiredness is my enemy.

These are all by-products of treatments that happened back then carried forward into the here and now. Bitterness and resentment of these unintended consequences would be the easiest thing in the world but without treatment it’s very unlikely I’d be writing this post today. Everyday activities have improved little by little to the point where I can do most of the things I need to, many of the things I want to and I’ve made peace with myself about the ones that I can’t. No use crying over spilt milk as the saying goes.

I am alive and living. I remain hugely grateful for both.