Exactly 12 days after discovering the lump in my right breast I was given a diagnosis of cancer. I had a mammogram at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary at 9.10 in the morning. This was followed by a breast exam, an ultrasound on my breast and lymph nodes, an aspiration done by needle on the lump. The outcome of this indicated that the cells are malignant and showing active cancer cells.
I had my best friend with me when the consultant delivered this news and said that action was required. I felt my stomach twisting in fear. For a moment, the floor fell under my feet and I sat with my head in my hands, sobbing. They needed to perform a biopsy, so my friend held my hand and gave me a hug. I was given a local aesthetic and it was done very quickly. I was introduced to my breast cancer nurse and given a chance to talk to her and get information.
In among the mix of shock, fear and distress, there was an element of relief. This is what I am dealing with. The full blown anxiety that I had suffered while waiting for the tests now seemed appropriate, I had been afraid of getting bad news and now I had got it. There was a sense of how much worse can it be?
This is a question you should never ask yourself as with the growing knowledge about breast cancer that I acquired I spent the next few days worrying that I had secondary cancer, not just cancer, and that I was going to die.
I had completely lost my appetite and was vomiting.
We told our children, boys aged 7 and 11 years, 4 days later. I needed time to process the news and I started to tell close friends and family first. The distress you feel about the diagnosis then becomes secondary to the pain you inflict on those who you love. I have made everyone I love cry, and that made me cry too.
Crying is my new normal. When we shared the news with the boys I told them that they would probably see me crying quite a lot and not to worry about that. I have always preferred to do my crying privately where possible and not in front of my children but the rules have changed, and those rules were probably rubbish anyway.
I woke up on Sunday morning very early to a day that was made beautiful by October sunshine, but I had cancer. I walked with my son and my dog over the fields as he played on the hay bales, but I had cancer. I made pancakes in the afternoon and we ate them in our kitchen, but I had cancer. The postman asked me how I was and I said, “Fine, thanks!” and I thought, apart from the cancer.
Cancer, that wolf, has cast a large shadow over my life but my life is still wonderful. It will take parts of me but what remains will still be wonderful. Fear has made it larger than it actually is. The fear comes and goes but I feel strength returning to me.
I will be ready for what happens next.