Reactions

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I have almost completed The Telling.  Close people now know.  I think most important people are also clued in.  I have made an announcement on my business Facebook page.  Another will be going on my website shortly with a newsletter to follow.  Finally, a personal Facebook announcement will happen once I have dates etc following today’s afternoon clinic appointment. It is a little like chucking a brick into a lake and watching the ripples, nay waves crash onto the shore.  Many people’s faces go through the expressions above.  Although possibly not the bottom left.  Sneering with distaste has yet to happen.

I think I had quite possibly the BEST reaction yet yesterday.  It was after listening to the sermon on John 15:1-8.  Seriously?  A sermon on lopping off and pruning just before I have a mastectomy??  Thanks God!  Some people with cancer speak of being shunned, of others wishing to avoid them as if they fear ‘catching’ the cancer for themselves.  This has not been my experience at all.  Even the following from later in the day, while insensitive, was not delivered maliciously.  Someone of many years acquaintance asked:

‘How are you?  Are you ok?’, with some sensitivity, unusual for them.  I am well into my script now, so I simply replied:

‘Not really, I have breast cancer.  I’ll be having surgery soon.’

‘No!  Have they given you a prognosis?  I mean are you going to die or anything?’

Classic!  Best.  Reaction.  Yet.

For the record, I have no intention of dying.  None.  So do not going planning my funeral.

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Shopping

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Who knew that having breast cancer would involve such a huge amount of shopping?  And not the sort of shopping that takes all day, involves friends, alcohol and long lunches to come back have spent vast sums on very little.  This is dull shopping: slippers, toilet bag, batteries for electric toothbrush …

I need nightwear.  To be fair, it is six years since had new night attire.  I seem to only buy it for hospital trips and the last time was 2010.  That lot did me through five lots of surgery and has been doing sterling service ever since.  So it was time.  Skimpy, I thought?  Satin?  Strappy?  Of course not.  Sensible it has to be.  Worse, it has to be serviceable.  As in, easy to wear.  Stop sniggering at the back, you think I can’t hear you?  I need button down the front garments as lifting my arms above my head is likely to be beyond me for a while.

One night when the 3am waking was particular bad, I spent five hours trawling the t’interweb in search of traditional pjs, only shorts ones.  Because of the lack of hormones.  You know, hot flushes etc.  They are SO not in fashion right now.  As if I were in any doubt of that fact, BHS seemed to have a supply.  I swallowed my pride and trudged along there the following day.  Blame my muddle headedness, blame my sleep deprivation, blame my caught-in-the-headlights-of-cancer shock but I managed to convince myself that all of the pjs were mix and match.  As I need Continental Land Mass sized tops but only bottoms the size of a Small Island this was important.  I found one design that a) fitted and b) did not make me look like a standard lamp in an old people’s home.  I duly swapped the sizes till I was happy then went to cash desk.

‘You can’t have those,’ said Foul Woman on Till (FWoT)

‘But I want different sizes, can’t I mix and match?’ I reply feebly

Rude laughter from FWoT, ‘Buy something else then.  These are a set.’

‘Do you have any in this style in the mix and match range?’

‘No.’

By now, I start to snivel.  I am not proud.  But I was exhausted.  It was bad enough having to buy nightwear I didn’t really like for an operation I didn’t really want but to have this woman being so unhelpful was getting to me.  So I explain I am having a mastectomy and need button through pjs yada yada yada.

‘Go and see what there is.  But I don’t think there’s anything.  Anyway, you can’t have these.’

Finally breaking down, I pathetically sob: ‘But I have breast cancer!’  Which was code for ‘Please be nice to me.  I understand you can’t sell me things that are not for sale but at least be kind about it.’  Sadly FWoT hadn’t attended that Customer Service seminar.  Her reply?

‘Well what d’you want me to do about it?’

I would have complained but I did not get her name and cannot bring myself to go back into the shop.  Anyway, I ended up with some really nice nightshirts.  That I actually like.  From Tescos.  For £12 each!  Bargain.  And they make me feel young.  I have not worn nightshirts since the 80s.  I am thinking of teaming them with a headband & leg warmers.

This experience could not have been further from our trip to Buy A Chair That will Not Kill my Back.  It is a problem.  Currently I have nothing to sit on that does not hurt except a dining chair.  Physio Extraordinaire suggested cane conservatory furniture: deep seat, firm cushion, wide arms, upright back with legs that can be built up to correct height.  Being six foot tall really does have its issues *sigh*  The Captain & I found such a chair:

‘Lovely,’ said Shop Assistant of the Year (SAotY), ‘there’s a 4-6 week delivery on all our chairs, ok?’

‘Erm, no.’

Situation was explained: bad back – concerned expressed; imminent surgery – hand placed on arm; breast cancer – galvanised to action

‘In that case, take it now.  My boss isn’t here today but he won’t mind in the least.  We can easily order another to go with the set for the shop floor.  And do let me carry it to the car for you.’

What a difference a shop makes!

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The Great Telling part 3

breast cancer care

During The Telling, many of you lovely people have asked me all sorts of questions.

  • Questions about my cancer
  • Questions about how you can help
  • Questions about my treatment
  • Questions about breast cancer generally

Despite having been thrown into this situation, I feel ill equipped to answer many of them, although I do not mind anyone asking me anything.  I absolutely believe that knowledge equals power so here are links to two fabulous organisations: breast cancer care and Macmillan They both have excellent information.  Do not bother with anything else online, it is only confusing, can be contradictory, may only apply in other countries and could well be wrong.  Save yourself the worry.

There are many confusing and seemingly contradictory things about my own diagnosis that I have yet to sort out but basically I have a multifocal grade 3 invasive cancer.  Besides having a mastectomy, I do not yet know what sort of treatment, if any, I will be subject to.

What I do know is that without the changes to the screening program which dropped the age from 50 to 47, my cancer would probably not have been picked up until too late.  The changes in my second mammogram at 50 were only apparent because they varied significantly from my first one taken at 47.  Had that been my first, it is unlikely that it would have been considered abnormal.

So please, do not ignore requests for screening.