The bombshell

So the beginning of this post brings me to last thursday. The 28th of July 2010. Five days ago.

The 3 days inbetween passed by quite normally. I only mentioned my biopsy to 2 friends I think and only thought about it myself very occassionally. I may not have even mentioned it in my own personal journal. I would have to check back to see. It seemed a minor inconvenience, once I had recovered from the shock of the initial appointment. I tried to talk my partner into not coming with me convinced that it was unecessary. We made our way to the hospital and waited an age for my appointment.

The thing that struck me about waiting for this appointment in this room with the piles of magazines and 60 minute makover playing on the tv, is just how many women are waiting with me, waiting for tests, for news, I am surrounded. This is not something that is happening to me and me alone. That is not a comforting thought.

We were taken to room, we wait some more. We make small talk. Read the labels on the soap dispensers. Look at a blank PC screen. Watch the staff walk by the door on errands and with coffee cups. No clock to stare at. Pictures of Nottingham on the curtains. We laughed nervously at something nonsensical.

The doctor walks in, followed by a nurse and all of a sudden it is real. I am really there. My full attention is on him. I know as soon as he sits down. I turn my back to Mark, unable to look at him, or feel him looking at me and every part of me is focussed on the Doctor knowing what is coming. I did not cry; I just wanted to take it all in; trying to listen to every word. This is important and I need to understand everything that is being said to me. I am breathing, every part of me is concentrating on just my breathing.

Now of course I can only remember these details, my bag and cardigan on my lap, held tight to me. My feet touching the linoleum floor. Knowing Mark is sitting behind me but not being able to look at him atall for all the time that the Doctor is speaking to me. I cannot remember a thing the doctor said after the initial diagnosis. But strangely I feel as calm as can be. The nurse takes us to another room down the corridor and I remember making a silly comment about the bright turquoise blue of the sofa’s. Tis strange the things that come out of your mouth when you don’t know what else to say.

Two volunteers (survivors) from the centre bring us coffee and sit with us for 5 or so minutes and I remember wittering like an idiot. Wittering and smiling. Everything is gonig to be ok. They survived and yes-I-will-go-to- their support-group-thank-you-very-much-for-asking. I chatter some more and still feel calm.

The nurse comes back in and chats to us for a time. I wish I could say that I remember all she said. Infact I remember very very little, she said this was likely to happen. I make some lame jokes I am sure – why do I do this! We mention that we have just been through this with a close family relative, a great role model for dealing with breast cancer treatment with positivity and grace. I hope that I can do the same. I won’t go over or try to guess at what I think we may have been told at this time. I am afraid I might be making things up so I shall wait for further info after our next appointment but I do seem to remember thinking that we were told very little. I do not know the stage or type of cancer that I have. I have only a vague idea of the treatment that I may be offered. At that time it seems the only definite thing is that I will be getting an operation and it is my choice whether to have a masectomy or a lumpectomy. Do I have any questions? Yes I do.

1. Can we still go ahead with our 2nd October wedding (almost exactly 2 months from today)

2. How is this likely to effect my ability to work? I have no critical illness cover, I work employed 14 hours a week with no sick pay as far as I know and the rest of time I am self employed – does not seem like the best situation to be in.

3. Fertility. We have no children. We have been thinking about trying for children. Have we messed up by not having children before now? I am 38 years old.

The answers right about now seem to be….

a) We should be able to work treatment around the wedding date. As yet we are unsure about the honeymoon.

b) I should see a social worker to try and figure out how my work and finances could be affected.

c) It seems the sensible thing to do would be to seek fertility advice. Bloody hell.


About gillianleesmith

A lifetime fascination with storytelling, history, fairytales and folklore, has led me to create imagery based on the everyday whirling mind of a person who does not always wish to be rooted in the realistic present. Themes of times gone by and reminiscence are especially evident in my designs and my work often delves into the expression and characterisation of our human nature, which we may hide away and only ever glimpse at when prompted by a reflection of our inner selves. My character sculptures in particular are a nod towards my own imaginations, avid reading and childhood dreams. They are a way of seeking the perfect representation of our character. Each tells an original tale, with a single image that endeavors to embody a whole life story in an uncomplicated way. My most recent work begins to explore ‘dwelling places’, a place where we can truly be content and again the setting that truly represents our character and history. Each material used is carefully chosen to create layers of texture incorporating textiles, paper, paint, hand painted imagery and meticulously detailed hand embroidery. The combinations of varying media help me to create many layers and textures, which are evocative of the memories and history that is integral to my work. Graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in Performance Costume in 2005, I have since been working on my own creations as well as teaching workshops with community groups. More recently, I have been coordinating a project involving reminiscence work with older people. This has been a huge source of inspiration to my latest artwork and themes of memories, dreams and childhood.
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