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.
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.
It seems never-ending. The telling that is. Just when I think that I’ve covered everyone, I remember someone else. It is exhausting. I have been delegating The Telling. Friends have been telling others for me which I greatly appreciate. So please feel free to do likewise. I will be doing that so very 21st century thing of making an announcement on Facebook next week but I am trying to catch important people before this happens. If I have missed you it is not because I do not regard you as important. It is because I am overwhelmed. And crap at remembering everything. Frankly it is a miracle I do not go out with sandwiches in my hair, shoes on backwards and with some item of clothing entirely missing. Oh, wait a minute …
This weekend I am desperately hoping for some much-needed time with the Captain. We have had no time alone since we sat in a gin bar in town on Monday. ‘What d’you want to do?’ he asked on our return from the hospital. I gave my usual response to almost every question, ‘Drink gin.’ ‘Right,’ he said, ‘let’s get pissed!’ And so we caught the bus into Birmingham in order to allow the plasterfication to really be effective. We howled with laughter, pontificated passionately, and sobbed at intervals. It was wonderful. Well, not the occasion that brought us there but as a response to it, pretty appropriate I’d say.
However, since then there has been not a moment to ourselves. So this weekend we are aiming to have that. My phone may only be on at intervals. I am not ignoring you. Well I am. But not because I do not want to hear from you. I do. Very much. I just need time. And there is precious little of that.
Yesterday The Great Telling began. It is not exactly something you can slip discreetly into conversation.
‘Isn’t it a lovely day and oh, by the way, I have breast cancer.’
‘You look fabulous in that dress, d’you think it will work with one boob?’
‘Doing anything at the weekend? Me? Oh you know, contemplating breast reconstruction.’
None of these really work do they?
The hardest was telling the children. I say ‘children’ but they are not really. Being 23 did not stop my daughter needing to sit on my lap and sob though. Nor did it stop her needing to be held in the pouring rain after she fled the restaurant. Our tears added to the general wetness.
By the end of the evening, our roles were reversed. My lack of sleep, general anxiety and feelings of utter crapness caught up with me and I could no longer hold it together. As I broke down, my beloved 23 year old stood with me while my darling 22 year old sat by my side and they both held me. They were strong for me. It was a precious moment.
So, my let’s-tell-the-kids-plan didn’t exactly work out the way I intended. Child no.2 unexpectedly arrived home yesterday night in a state (the sort of alcohol, brick wall & razor blade state that sometimes happens). I had just gone to bed. His carers did ring to warn me:
‘Erm, things aren’t so good here, Mrs T’
‘They’re not too hot here either, as it happens.’
‘He won’t let us near him.’
‘We’ve called the police, they’ve broken into his flat, we’ve removed the sharp things’
‘He wants you. Can we put him in a taxi and send him over?’
That’s not exactly a question you can refuse, is it? So of course he comes. And of course he wants me. And of course he needs me. And in the moment I am glad to be there. I find the energy because I have too. It is not superhuman. It is being a mum. And he does have a crisis. A genuine one. Not just his demons.
But I have a crisis too. One day, I will have a crisis all to myself. One that won’t be gatecrashed or usurped by others. I’m not sure when that will be but it will be good. Because let’s face it, cancer doesn’t seem to be enough to warrant one to myself.
He took my news fairly well. There was much hugging. Hanging on for dear life rather than hugging actually. He is full of resolutions and promises of good intent. Staying away from alcohol and staying out of trouble is all I want. Those things would help. A lot.
One down, one to go.
I do realise that this is not something that will stay secret for very long. Especially as I am the one who is generally doing the telling. However, I would like it to remain relatively underwraps for a few more days.
I have not yet told our children. And they deserve to be told face to face. By me. So this requires a little organisation. No one relishes having to give such news to their offspring so it is not likely to be easy. However, throwing two autistics into the equation will certainly add a spice. They will be frightened. And express it badly. I am hoping for best but being practical.
We have arranged a family meal out. They are coming with their partners. Once fed & watered we will return home and break the news in the privacy of our home. Under normal circumstances we would not go out at all but in the middle of all this we have no kitchen. Our new one is about to be demolished and over the next two months be reconstructed. Sounds familiar. My new kitchen will be yellow. Perhaps I should order a new breast to match?