Compliments complementary


While I was still under the care of the local Breast Unit, I was deemed bonkers enough to require further support.  And trust me, it was necessary to appear more than a little off the wall.  I am ok with this.  If ever being slightly mad was a sane response to a situation, then surely receiving a diagnosis of cancer is the perfect time.

The further support came in the guise of Complementary Therapy.  The conversation I had with the Captain about it went as follows:

I’ve been referred for Complementary Therapy

Really?  How exciting!

slightly surprised: I was expecting scepticism …

Why ever would I be sceptical?  I think it’s marvellous that people are going to be nice to you.

confused: Nice to me?

Yes.  You know, like: You look fantastic; I think you’re lovely; You have an incredible mind; I love the colour of your shoes; (And then, because the Captain is the Captain) Your tits are amazing!


Complementary Therapy that is complimentary.  And all on the NHS.  Marvellous.

I had a planning session today.  Lots of things were on offer but we have settled on six sessions of reflexology.  I have been promised more interventions should the hot flushes get unbearable once I begin hormone treatment.  Which has not yet actually been settled upon but is looking more than likely.  That settled I came away with a relaxation cd and two sniffer sticks.  Which are exactly like Vicks inhalers.  Only without the Vicks.  These are filled with an individual blend of aromatherapy oils.  I have one to snort as I drop off to sleep and another to help with anxiety.  It was all pretty amazing.




Today I disgraced myself.  I suspect this whole recovery is going to be riddled with days like today.  It has already been overlong.  The wailing began around 1am.  Or was it 2am?  Or 3am?  Actually it could have been any hour during the very very long night because I was awake for them all.  True I did catch a few zeds in between but they were few, fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying.  My wailing woke the Captain.  He was lovely.  Tender, kind and even uncomplaining.  Despite knowing that my wailing would give him a crap day at work today.

My wailing was not confined to home either.  I had a day trip organised.  Having not been seen by any medical staff since Saturday, I had an appointment with Surgical Spice to review my wounds.  Serious Delinquent had volunteered for taxi duties which gave my Mum both a break from me and the enormous relief of knowing she did not have to negotiate the city traffic.  Visiting hospital outpatient clinics is something she did far too much of not very long ago during my Dad’s final illness.  I am grateful she did not have to do it with me.  No sooner had I seat belted myself into the car and waved a beaming farewell to my Mum, than the wailing recommenced.

The journey and some seriously delinquent loveliness allowed me to pull myself together by the time we arrived.  Obviously we were over early as per, but that gave us just enough time for a rather nice Costa coffee.  Been an age since I had one of those.  At that point, I thought there was an outside chance the wailing was done.  Ha.

At the appointed time we trotted through to see Surgical Spice.  I was positioned on a couch behind a curtain, stripped to waist (this is becoming an almost Pavlovian response to this woman which could be REALLY embarrassing should we ever meet socially) and the inspection began.

‘How are you?’ she asked.  Such a bad move on her part.  More wailing on mine.  Still, the extra moisture helped loosen the dressings so that was a plus.  The upshot is everything is healing well.  Needles were shoved into unspeakable places to draw off fluid and further dressings were applied.  A referral has been made to an allergy expert – hurrah!  And finally, she prescribed me some different analgesia which should help with the sleeping.  The lack of which is the main cause of the wailing.  I came away with extra dressings, a new bra and more appointments than you can shake a stick at.

The rest of day has seen me fit for nothing.  Ironically, too tired to sleep I have just lain spaced out on the bed with Alan Bennett’s dulcet tones drifting into my ear as he reads The Uncommon Reader to me.  Not a bad way to pass the time, all things considered.

Tick … tick … tick …


Funny how I cannot sleep?  Must be something on my mind?  Actually, it is not the something on my mind.  Rather the something I need to get off my chest.  Currently I am acutely aware that it has been forty seven days since my biopsy.  Forty seven days since it was decided I had three different types of cancer.  I have been holding onto the relative small size of the grade 3 invasive area.  It had been a source of comfort to me.  Tonight, in my imaginings, it has grown.  It is now the size of a small country.  Something in the region of Wales, I am thinking.  I have visions of cancer cells, built like Welsh miners complete with hard hats and pick axes, stampeding all over my breast, hacking the healthy tissue to pieces, laying dynamite charges and then standing by while the blast takes over.  I am aware this is not rational.  But it has been a while since the totally irrational (yet very vocal) side of my brain made her presence felt.

And so, here I am, at two o’clock in the morning, sitting downstairs in the semi dark, thinking dark thoughts and trying to exorcise them from my head.  Whatever has happened during the past forty seven days, I can do nothing about it.  It is hard to put aside my worries.  I have to hold onto the facts I know: I have no lymph node spread – this is very good; whatever is found on Monday, it has still been found early – this is also very good; I am in good hands – the NHS, my fabulous friends & family and God.

So to try to shut up Miss Vocal and Irrational, I am still reading Psalms.  I think I shall be for a long time yet.  So much feels applicable.  I know it is not what the psalmist intended, but for me, the enemy is cancer.  Those who oppose me are cancer.  Those who gloat are cancer. You get my drift: all opposition is cancer. Yesterday I read the following:

Psalm 35

22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.

Do not be far from me, Lord.

23 Awake, and rise to my defense!

Contend for me, my God and Lord.

24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God;

do not let them gloat over me.

25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”

or say, “We have swallowed him up.”

26 May all who gloat over my distress

be put to shame and confusion;

may all who exalt themselves over me

be clothed with shame and disgrace.

27 May those who delight in my vindication

shout for joy and gladness;

may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,

who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,

your praises all day long.



decision day

Not really a big surprise to find me up and writing at 5am today, is it?  I did not wake until a whole hour after my usual 3am so that was a plus.  And I slept relatively well up till then.  But my mind, if not my body, has decided that this sleep thing is over rated.  I can now be found in our somewhat drafty sitting room which I have barricaded against Storm Jake as much as possible: tea towels are stopping the gaps between the building work and where I am sitting and the fire is on full blaze.  Remember my chair?  Under Physio Extraordinaire’s instruction, the Captain has raised the height and the cushions have been adapted to accommodate my Amazonian stature.  This is now so unbelievably comfortable I may never leave it.  It is entirely possible that you will find me in ten years time, riddled with pressure sores and smelling of fish paste but I promise you, I will still not want to get up.  And nor would you if you had been sitting on the equivalent of dolls’ house furniture for all of your adult life.

This whole chair thing came about because of my recent encounter with the Emergency Services.  Dealing with breast cancer simply was not complicated enough.  I just had to spice it up with slipping a disc too.  Since then, I have been working on getting match fit in time for surgery.  My list of exercises has been pawed over, read and re-read and carried with me everywhere.  Given my aversion to exercise in general, what is more surprising is that I have actually been doing them too.  From past experience (accident 2010 leading to two years of ill-health, 5 operations & chronic neuralgia) I know that my back is likely to suffer from the enforced rest coming my way so I have to do my utmost to get it fit.  It is still stiff and sore but oh so much improved.

So onto today.  I begin at 8am with a wee trip to my GP.  I have yet to see her re the whole cancer malarkey but I am now thinking she may be feeling left out.  After all, the rest of the medical establishment has had free access to my once (now less so) magnificent bosom for some time.  Come to think of it, most of my corner of England seem to have copped a feel in the last fortnight.  Given that my left breast at least, is now a limited edition, I feel it only fair to give her the opportunity.  Plus, apparently I am now entitled to free prescriptions.  Who said cancer does not have its upsides, hmm?

Then, of course, it is off to the All Singing All Dancing (here’s hoping it’s not pink) Breast Unit for what I sincerely hope will be a day of decision making and plan formulation.  Surely that is not too much to ask?  If I do not come out with a plan, I may be heading to the Captain’s shed because his bandsaw is starting to look awfully attractive.

Boob Tube


All Singing All Dancing Breast Unit have excelled.  I have already mentioned that when having one’s bristols diagnosed with cancer, it is wise to learn to read first.  On account of the quantity of reading matter.  However, thanks to All Singing All Dancing Breast Unit all is not lost if reading is not on the agenda.

Yesterday our lovely Postie delivered an exciting package.  Thanks to all you gorgeous people, I have been pretty much single handedly keeping the Royal Mail and many of their competitors in business.  Since my last thank you, I have received more flowers (and not a single pink one among them, I applaud you!), gin & tonic chocolates, gin, bookmarks, a shawl, a hope stone (or a stone that says hope), and about a gazillion cards.  I love them, and you, all.  Thank you.  Each package has been greeted with squeals of delight because if there is an upside to cancer, this must surely be it?  So when the small, flat oblong parcel arrived my excitement was high and I ripped into it with unseemly haste.  You would think the hospital frank on the packaging would have tempered my enthusiasm, but no.  I simply thought the NHS were now sending me gifts.

And in a manner of speaking they were.  A dvd.  Featuring boobs.  Baps on the box.  Tits on TV.  Not sure it will catch on.  For a start, it will bomb in the world of porn.  Not that I am an expert, you understand.  This was a 25 minute feature on the different types of reconstructive surgery available.  A dramatisation of the booklet they also sent.  More reading matter.  So all bases were covered.  We dutifully settled down to watch last night.  The lovely Jane Asher narrated which prompted the Captain to ask if reconstruction using cake would be featured.  Apparently not.  The results for each technique were encouraging – although they would hardly display their failures.  All in all, I found it helpful.  I even slept relatively well afterwards – hurrah!  The same cannot be said for the Captain.  Who spent the night with fevered nightmares about cancer and breasts and surgery.

Wee small hours


I mentioned earlier that it has been exactly a fortnight since I heard those words: ‘You have cancer.’  Since then, the world seems to have twisted off its axis; time has lost its meaning, and I am pretty certain that any minute now we will be seeing ‘The seasons alter’ and ‘change / Their wonted liveries‘.  Sheesh, would’ya listen to me?  Grandiose or what?  Deluded.  And with an overinflated sense of importance.

However, something is preventing me from sleeping (what could that possibly be, I wonder??).  I am becoming far too familiar with 3am.  And not in a good way.  Sometimes I am woken with vaguely disturbing dreams that are just out of reach as I achieve consciousness.  Sometimes I wake as if in mid conversation with myself.  Sometimes I am in mid conversation with others.  Always I wake fully alert.  It is probably the most awake I feel all day.  Without wishing to be anymore dramatic than I have already been – actually, I’m not sure that’s possible having suggested the world has spun off its axis because of me – my nights feel a little like John Fuseli’s painting of The Nightmare:


without the donkey.  There are definitely no donkeys in my nightmares.  Chest crushing demons yes.  Donkeys no.

Tonight I am doing my utmost to combat this situation.  I really have to as the shadows under my eyes are beginning to become a defining feature.  Not that I am vain or anything.   The plan is as follows.  I have been off caffeine since midday.  I am burning ‘night-time’ oils from Neal’s Yard.  I am already in my pjs.  My soothing tea is being sipped.  I am about shut down my mac and all screens.  The sheep will be counted.  Bed time stories will be told.

If this plan fails, I may have to take up knitting.  Desperate times, people, desperate times.