The strangest day…..(I)

Ok, since I have left it so late in the day to write this blog post I am going to have to write it in two parts! Today the good news and the medical bit………  Tomorrow my reaction and the emotional bit……………

So here we go with the …’seeking to be honest’ mantra that I have been promising in everything I write on this blog. Today of course was results day. For the last three weeks I have been desperate for this day to come. Heading into the latter stages of yesterday, I could have seen it far enough. A sleepless night last night and an inability to eat my breakfast this morning revealing my true fears of what might come and the changes that I am about to encounter.

The medical bit…………..

And so we made our way to the hospital, arriving super early and itching to receive the news whatever it was to be. We sat, we waited and I shall not waste any more time before revealing that it was the… best… news… possible. Better than we could have imagined or even hoped for. I have resisted getting too bogged down in medical ‘stuff’ here on this blog, choosing I guess to write more about the emotional side of this experience and explain things in my own naive way. But for those who may have some knowledge or experience, Wilhamina was removed with completely clear margins, no lymph node involvement and is a grade 2 cancer (we were dreading a grade 3 possibility) – so to put all of this  simply –  ‘low risk’!! The best we could have hoped for!

So what happens next? Well I don’t need chemotherapy (!) and will commence Zoladex injections next week to stop oestregen production as my paricular cancer is oestregen receptor positive (you can read more here) before beginning a long 5 year period on Tamoxifen. So good-bye monthly period, hello early menopause. I will also be starting radiotherapy in around 3-4 weeks time. All of this treatment works together in order to hopefully prevent any signs of cancer returning.

So hopefully I have not bored you with all the medical jargon.

But now I have to go to bed! It has been an exhausting day and I am done………but tomorrow the story continues………..

Posted in Results, Treatment, worrying | 4 Comments

The C-word

With just over one week to go to the wedding (remember to breathe Gillian) as well as being so excited I could squeal I am also becoming increasingly nervous and jittery – and perhaps not about the most obvious of things. With everything absolutely in hand organisation-wise (unless we have missed something glaringly important such as marriage licence or rings – ooh the rings!!!) my whirling thoughts and quite frankly wild and completely over active imaginations are turning to other things. My outfit is sorted (hand-made addition “in hand” as it were) the food is very kindly being given as a gift by lovely friends (cucumber sandwiches and victoria sponge galore!) Mark’s suits is ordered, the hotel is booked and any other details are being worked through.

So what is it that is worrying me so? The ‘C’word is the fly in the pie. Now, as I have written before, I am a chatter-box, completely unable to not ‘talk things over’ and an absolute open book, so talking about this whole cancer thing has not been an issue in the least. Chatting about it has helped me enormously, writing about it has been cathartic and my only worry has been that other people may find it uncomfortable (or boring) or want to dodge the subject matter. But my experience so far, has been that folks get that it is good to talk. They want to know how I am doing and I have never had that feeling that it is something that should be kept quiet. Infact absolutely the opposite – there has actually been many jokes and alot of laughter about the whole situation too (strange as it may seem) – but there you go – my friends and family just understand me and my humour.

However now that the wedding day is fast approaching and I am beginning to envisage a small grouping of our closest family and friends together in one place I am beginning to develop the dreadful (probably irrational) fear that due to my openness to date, it will be the hot topic of conversation on the day. And I absolutely don’t want it mentioned. Not even once. Mark and I will have heard enough about the C word on tuesday when I get my results and I am sure we have many months ahead of us where we will be talked at and have the opportunity to talk about it to our hearts content should we so wish. (Goodness I can’t imagine that happening to be honest – there are so many more interesting things to talk about and my goal is to have this done and dusted as soon as possible and for it to be a part of the distant past in the not too distant future if that makes sense)  So I am now having waking nightmares that folks will be mentioning it either at every opportunity or in passing or huddled in corners, in jest, or in sympathy or just in a ‘well we talk about it any other day’ kind of way on our wedding day. My imagination clearly leads me to ridiculous places.

This will be our wedding day – a day we have looked forward to for so long and a day that we just want to be perfect. So in my less stoic moments, I have now become obsessed with trying to think of ways that I can have some control over the discussions on that day. Despite my plans being absolutely irrational, completely innapropriate and quite frankly smelling a tad pungent with the fragrance of ‘spoilt brat’ syndrome I am wondering which ones I can actually utilise to ensure that my fears don’t take over the joys of the day.

Plan #1 Email everybody in some kind of preemptive strike banishing anyone from mentioning the C word even in jest or sympathy or by way of conversation or understanding or empathy …or…or…. ‘There is no C in Wedding day!!!!!’ kind of a thing – perhaps I should just banish all words beginning with C just to make sure.

Plan #2 Put a sign on the door. ‘Cancer or any associated phrase or subject matter is not to be discussed or mentioned in this house on this day only.’ You know….that sort of thing.

Plan #3 Employ a couple of generously proportioned fellows to stand at the door with ‘spy-like’ ear apparatus that will detect any conversation from 50ft away and rugby tackle the perpetrators to the ground before forcibly vacating them from the premises.

Mmm, perhaps my plans aren’t that great after all.

Of course if anyone were to try to ban me from mentioning a particular word or phrase on any other occassion, the word cancer (or any other associated word) would then multiply and repeat and form rude rhyming slang in my brain until it would be all I could think about and in the super-human effort that it would take for me to not accidentally say the C word I would then have to put my hand over my mouth in order to prevent myself squealing like an overboiled kettle. (whew that was a super long sentence.) I would find myself asking for chemo (sorry keeeeey-liiiiime pie, key LIME pie) or some other faux pas and making an utter ‘tit’ of myself would have to creep away to fan my scarlet cheeks in embarassment.

Good grief.

(yep, this diagnosis appears to have transformed me into the previously un-known twin sister of Charlie Brown)

So as you can see I have managed to tie myself in knots with all this worrying which is a sure sign that I have had far too much time on my hands during my recovery from surgery. Although I have been working a few short hours a day, I have found myself lapsing into day-dreams and thoughts of my up and coming hospital appointment. Day dreams should be reserved for creative thoughts and not self-destructive, whiny ‘what-ifs’! Proper work begins tomorrow. No more lazing around using every tool in the book to try and distract myself from just getting on with my life.

And no more worrying about things that I have no control over. I just hope that next Friday folks will instinctively know that C stands for Ceremony, Celebration and Congratulations….

and Coffee Cake…

and Cupcake (infact cake of any kind)…

and Champagne….

and Crying with laughter…

and Cox (my soon to be surname)

Posted in Wedding, worrying | 3 Comments

(Part 1 of 2) Pride comes before………

…….. that horrible moment when you realise that perhaps you had not been dealing with things as well as you had previously thought…

I think I may tell this tale in 2 or perhaps even 3 parts. Yes, I think it may be worth more than one blog post since it covers such diverse subject matter as an out of hours vet; bunny farts (or lack of them); an episode of Dinnerladies; that werthers originals are actually a rescue remedy in disguise and how a hug from an unexpected person can make all the difference. Definitely more than one blog post is worth.

All this, however does not make this an easy post to write. This story of falling off the wagon that was well on the road to ‘Coping Admirably’ and is now trudging along the muddy, pot-holed path that takes a detour to ‘Sobbing-over-the-least-little-thing’. It is a terrible thing to have to admit and clearly something that I have been putting off for the best part of this week, utilising every excuse in the book to avoid returning to this blog and instead immersing myself in dire tv, reading each page of a book five times or more in order to take in the words, talking to bunnies and sucking on werther’s originals (more on those later).

Of course I haven’t been in complete denial of the fact that this is a bit of a rollercoaster ride and I have certainly had my moments of feeling a little lost and tearful. But almost as soon as those tears have threatened to spill over, I have given myself a shake and got on with things. What else is there to do?

Sunday was a bit of an eventful day in that a couple of hours after my daily call to the hospital to relay progress of my wound drain I was in agony with it pinching on a nerve and had to make an unexpected trip to have it removed earlier than planned. The remainder of the day was spent fretting about our unwell pet rabbit Jeeves, before making a dash to the out-of-hours vet service and then fretting overnight as he remained there for treatment. So I guess Monday was where those first wee hints of emotional uncertainty became apparent. Then came the doubts about my own sanity and fear of becoming a bona fide hypochondriac. Oh, Great.

(Don’t worry! The amateur dramatics only become a little more heightened in the next post, before eventually dulling down to a return to ‘normality’!)

xxx

Posted in facing the unknown, Uncategorized, worrying | Leave a comment

In 2 weeks………

The week of the 6th of September is going to be one of the most important weeks of my life…..if not ‘the‘ most important. For two very different reasons, and if you don’t mind I shall only briefly mention the first reason (I am sure I shall be dedicating plenty of typing-time to it in the future) before delighting in the second, infinitely more joyful news.

So News story #1 -Two weeks tomorrow, on Tuesday 7th September I will attend the Breast Clinic for my pathology results and treatment plan. Wilhamina (and a portion of her surroundings) is currently languishing in a tupperware type bowl being poked and stared at and receiving the attention she craves from Beaker from the Muppet Show (or at least that is the picture I have in my head). The results from this poking and staring could be either

 a) Good – everything is gone; no further treatment needed

b) Average – further treatment needed, lets get on with it, bob’s your uncle

c) Bloody hell we have to go back in and remove further boobage and then get on with months of treatment.

I am sure there are various other possible scenario’s but information from the hospital is scarce at this time and information from the net is quite frankly confusing, scary and overwhelming. I look and read and then wish I hadn’t as what-is-the-point-when-I-don’t-yet-know-the-results-anyway. I do this before logging back in and reading more information in an effort to be prepared and aware of all the potential outcomes – before again logging off in a confused, scared and overwhelmed state of mind. Again. Gosh it is going to be a long 2 weeks. I am told this is the worst time. You don’t say.

News Story #2 WE ARE GETTING MARRIED!!! Sorry for shouting. I am quite excited. You may remember we were due to be getting married on 2nd October of this year in a tiny wee church in Scotland with reception to follow in the village hall. Make do and mend, DIY, completely hand-done, simple and twee – lovely. Then our plans had to change (the second time we have had to cancel) and we were both heartbroken.

The next day we picked ourselves up, stopped whinging about how devastated we were and decided to go ahead with a wedding date anyway. So for the last couple of weeks we have been putting it all in place. The new date is Friday 10th September at the local registry office with a few folks to celebrate with us. We are having a simple high tea back at the house, organised by lovely friends; photography kindly provided for by a friend of a friend and staying in a hotel down the road. I will wear a vintage dress I already own, flowers picked from the garden, perhaps make a wee hair accessory and wear a smile from ear to ear (and lots of waterproof mascara).

 Perfect.

The ironic thing is that in all our efforts to bring a sense of the 1930’s/40’s sensibilities to our original wedding plans – we could not be closer to that ‘cheap as chips, no extra’s, simple as can be’ type of wedding if we tried. With the reminiscence work that I do I often hear tales of weddings organised in a week, wearing the sunday dress and suit and a scoffing a victoria sponge back at the house with a glass of sherry, so it seems perfectly appropriate. We couldn’t be happier. WE ARE GETTING MARRIED!! (sorry, I know I said that already…)

Not everyone that I would want to be there, can be there unfortunately. There will be family and friends who will be greatly missed on the 10th. But once I am through this ‘blip’ we will be having the wedding blessed in the original church with a party afterwards – much to the original plans that we had, sometime next year.

It is so difficult not to fall into corny, overused, fluffy, sentimental blubber-speak at the moment. I have always known that I have the best partner, family and friends – there is no great revelation there. Now I just have the perfect reason to broadcast it to all and sundry and not give two hoots who minds.

Posted in being good to myself, facing the unknown, Results, Wedding | 3 Comments

After…….

This and the last post were written during a sleepless post-surgery night whilst heavily dosed on morphine. They are unedited apart from correcting the horrendous spelling mistakes caused by tiredness combined with a tiny qwerty keyboard…. Beware…..in an effort to be honest and truthful about the whole experience…this might contain too much detail!

I am lying here post surgery at around 4.30am with 91 year old ‘bag o’wind’ * in the next bed and 80 something ‘snoree mcsnorer’** opposite me. Both lovely, sweet ladies and both talk in their sleep.  But fear not, I do not claim to be doing much better myself. If  I was sleeping I am sure I would be farting, talking and snoring with the best of them. I have oxygen mask strapped to my face and a pile of itchy glue covering the area previously inhabited by Wilhamina. My right boob looks like it has been hit by a train with bruising to rival the colours and textures of the most beautiful Turner painting,  I have a lovely drain exiting the wound, a bright blue nipple caused by the dye injected into Wilhamina and lets not forget my delightful ‘free from deoderant’ smell and fancy blue support stockings. Good grief I hope it gets better from here on in.

I am probably not the best ward-mate either in that I am lying here tap-tap-tapping away on my phone keyboard writing this and other things in order to keep myself sane and empty my mind which is full of racing thoughts.  I am committing these  to my notepad so that I have a couple of days of blogs posts and possibly even a short time of blessed sleep. Morphine will cause drowsiness? Not for this loopy mind it doesn’t.

I am also completely baffled by the fact that I was babbling about sewing blue tartan taffeta as I was waking from the anaesthetic………………..

Posted in Surgery | 1 Comment

Before…..

This and the next post were written during a sleepless post-surgery night whilst heavily dosed on morphine. They are unedited apart from correcting the horrendous spelling mistakes caused by tiredness combined with a tiny qwerty keyboard…. Beware…..holy melancholy batman!

From reading a few blogs written by breast cancer survivors, and now by writing my own, it is clear to me that it is nigh on impossible to write about the experience of cancer without falling into using cancer cliches. You know the ones…. rediscovering self; making the most of life; re-evaluating past and current choices; painfully dissecting what makes us human….

Today it really hit me, the enormity of this situation  that I now find myself in. Whilst I have made jokes of winning board games by using the ‘cancer card’ and being frustrated at the time all of this is taking from my daily life; feeling absolute compassion for those with ‘more serious’ forms of cancer compared to my mini wilhamina today I found myself waiting….again… after a rather uncomfortable procedure to insert a guiding wire into my breast and another (equally uncomfortable mammogram). Sitting in the breast unit, clutching my notes and watching women coming to-and-fro, be-wigged, seeing more pixie haircuts than you can shake a stick at and knowing that in the next hour or so I would be in surgery. The fear and realisation was overwhelming and I felt weighed down by all that is happening; I felt very small: I felt rising panic about all that is ahead of me.

If there is one thing I wish to be, over everything else in this blog, it is to be honest, even when that might be painful. Yes, I would love to give the impression of unfailing strength, to show how brave I can be, to show humour and a cetain poise at all times, but the reality is that this is not always possible. I had never for a second pondered how I would cope if faced with cancer until now. I always thought I would crumble. In truth you just get on with whatever needs to be done. You just ‘are’ and continue to ‘be’. I wish with all my heart that I had the wit and humour and talent to write in a similar vein to this lovely lady but whilst in life, I can bring on the witty banter, in writing here it is always my ancient melancholic soul that comes to the fore. I realise that this does not exactly make for an inspiring or particularly entertaining read and it also smacks of irritating self indulgence but as I said at the beginning of this experience… all I can do is go with the flow.

My character is sculpted buy it’s contrasts, flaws and inconsitencies. I can be contrary and solitary, selfish and moody. Whilst dealing with this quite frankly, rubbish situation I find myself in, I absolutely welcome this chance to evaluate my life, my personality and my future whilst retaining those parts of me that are wholly unique. I crave the opportunity to be a more consistant friend, a more communicative daughter and sister, a braver less fearful artist and writer, a more adventurous spirit and a more loving and patient partner.

Whilst the downsides are

a) I have cancer

b) the treatment may suck

c) I am having to spend time, energy and headspace on this when I could be doing other things

The upsides are infinitely more numerous

a) I get to find out the heart of what makes me tick as a person

b) I get to explore a whole new side to myself in my artwork, whether literally or figuratively, I am sure it will inspire me in some way and I am excited to see what will happen

c) I know how precious my life is and I will not waste another minute on ‘thinking about what I want to achieve’, I will get on and do it. I am the ultimate procrastinator and it drives me to distraction (edit: In hindsight perhaps this was a bit of morphine-induced fantastical thinking… I of course realise that a leapord cannot truly change her spots overnight!)

d) I get to be more thankful than I have ever been in my life for my family and friends.

e) there are of course many, many more but I am shattered…………

So there we have it, post surgery mutterings and possible morphine unduced delirium. I am home now, feeling as I have been hit by a truck but happy to be on my way to my own bed. Next post is the ‘too much information post’ again unedited and written on my phone at around 4 am post surgery…. I shall save that delight for tomorrow! I do make every effort to give a rounded version of the whole experience for your reading pleasure! I am just grateful I did not attempt to take photos….

 

Posted in facing the unknown, Surgery, worrying | Leave a comment

Marked……

 

So here I am with my rather mild interpretation of the tattooed lady look. Thank goodness it is only temporary! This is only half of the design with the ‘target’ shape being to the far right under my clothing. My appointment at the hospital was not as straightforward as I had hoped with my expectations of a quick signing of the form being rather optimistic. I was again poked and prodded to the point of nausea – Wilhamina is just not that sociable I am afraid – I will be so glad when I don’t have to put up with her uppity antics any longer. There also seemed to be some confusion about x-rays/scans (none of which I have had) and missing information which led to me waiting in the reception are for around 40 minutes wondering what the heck was going on! Not good for the nerves.

I guess one of the strange things about this, is that apart from my ‘companion’, I feel absolutely healthy. I am overweight but I feel as if I am in good health. It takes 25 minutes to walk to the hospital (it would take 20 if my legs were not so stumpy) and I love being outside striding along in the end-of-summer air. But I have this ‘thing’ which indicates (supposedly)  that I am sicker than I have ever been in my life. Bizarre! Any treatment that I have, to make me better will in fact have the potential to make me feel more ill than if I were to just carry on as normal. What a weird situation. But of course I know if left untreated it would all be a different story and I have to keep reminding myself of that. So tomorrow will be a new chapter – the first step on the road to recovery! That, in a strange, ironic way is very exciting.

At least with all the hospital appointments ahead of me, I have a good chance of losing some weight with all the walking!

PS. I really have to thank you all for the wonderful comments, messages and emails. Every time I write this blog I wonder what the heck I am doing, it is as challenging as it is cathartic and I do feel very exposed. I guess I write in a very ‘real to me way’ and it has surprised me that anyone would even be interested in the inner workings of my wittering mind, but really your thoughts mean a great deal. Cheers and see you on the other side of surgery! x

 

Posted in Surgery | 3 Comments