The Lump

I found the lump about 2 weeks ago I don’t think I’ve EVER checked my breasts and I lay in bed one night, no doubt prompted subconsciously by something I’d seen or heard, I decided to have a feel. My left one had this huge lump thing which wasn’t mirrored on the other breast. I booked in at the doctors and she confirmed I did indeed have a lump and that she’d refer me to the hospital. I asked her what she thought it was, she was understandably vague but said it could be one of a number of things not necessarily the big C. I have to be honest, I wasn’t really too concerned. I’d decided I had a cysts – nice bit of self-diagnosis.

I was completely unaware my body could perform such things.

So the mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy process starts as do my tears, it’s so bad the nurse performing the mammogram asks me four times if I want to stop. NO, I just want it done, I want to be told I’ve got a cyst and I want to go home and look forward to Christmas. It’s for this reason I’d asked my friend Catherine to come with me, not because I thought I had cancer but because I knew I’d be on meltdown due to the procedures. After being handled like a milking cow (not her fault, she was very lovely) and having my boobs stretched beyond all expected capacity between two bits of toughened plastic (I was completely unaware my body could perform such things) we get moved to a separate room to wait the 45 minutes for the ultrasound. Just as well, I don’t think I’d have been able to see through the tiny slits in my face to find our way back to the main waiting area. As we sit and I calm down, we continue with the conversation of “There’s nothing wrong with me, I’ll be fine, there’s no way I’ve got it, it’ll just be a cyst or a blocked duct, god there’s a million things it could be, just because it’s a lump it does NOT mean I’ve got the C word.”

So I lay sniffling and breathing my garlic breath all over John the technician.

We get called through for part two – the ultrasound, and I ask that Cath sits behind a curtain. We’ve been friends since we meet in 1990 in the south of France and there lies another story but forgive me I really don’t want her seeing me with my whammers out getting prodded and poked. The ultrasound is no different to that uber-happy experience when they show your baby moving and wriggling, except this one isn’t quite so happy. I’m still crying; pathetic I know but the floodgates have been removed and so I lay sniffling and breathing my garlic breath all over John the technician. It was seriously strong. Cath had already commented when she arrived at my house how bad it was and she suffers from polyps in her nose that mean she can’t smell anything, so it must have been bad.

John does both boobs but understandably spends most of the time gliding the equipment over the bit that’s been used as a colouring-in pad by the consultant. As he moves it to my armpit – I know. I just know. I know what he’s doing there, we all do… the dreaded fucking lymph nodes. Two small words that none of us ever heard of before and lived in complete ignorance of their existence until the C-word.

Ignorance in my world is NOT bliss.

The biopsy, well, it wasn’t nice but to be perfectly honest it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d expected it to be. John was really considerate and explained what was going to happen. He numbed the area and then let me hear the noise the instrument would make, I guess so as not to scare me. It sounded a bit like a quiet gun. I didn’t look. I think sometimes when you can’t see what’s happening it’s easier to cope with and bizarrely hurts less. The most uncomfortable part for me was having to keep my poorly arm stretched above my head. It’s not built for these kinds of manoeuvres since it tried to vacate my body some years hence in a motorcycle accident. That REALLY hurt. John explained that he was going to leave a coil in the lump, something to do with measuring the size of it… bit lost on me, to be honest; I was a little distracted.

I’m not built for waiting. I’m one of these that just need to know. Ignorance in my world is NOT bliss – so I asked him if it was a cyst.

‘It’s definitely not a cyst,’ he said. Hmmmmm, fuck.

“And it is definitely not benign.”

DOUBLE FUCK.

“But there’s some good news. It doesn’t appear to be in your lymph nodes.”

It’s incredible how your once quick brain malfunctions and grinds to a halt. It flatlines and turns to spaghetti.

My brain exploded. FUCK – what do I tell my kids, I haven’t got time for this shit; I’ve too much to pack in before I die (I’m not overly dramatic but trust me this does push you the edge of reasonable thinking). It’s taken me ages to grow my hair. I don’t want to lose my eyebrows. God how do I tell people?

I realise I’ve said most of this out loud as John responds with a, “Well, we need to send the biopsy off first and find out what type you have and what we need to do to is identify which treatment you will need to shrink it.”

SHIT, I’ve got it. Those three little words: I’VE GOT CANCER. The Big C. How bloody annoying AND to cap it all, I’m still bloody crying. I honestly can’t believe it. I’m fit, well, healthy, got a superb life and now I’ve got this to contend with. I simply don’t have the time. How inconvenient, and just before Christmas too; speaking of which – NO, I’M NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO CHRISTMAS!

This Will Not Define Me

I’m the practical sort, so I need time to process this cancer bombshell. My boys had been waiting for a text from me so too had a couple of friends. I sent them all a version of the truth. I’m not built to lie but I also have to consider my communication so I don’t upset anyone, and I’m not sure a text is really the best way to deliver the news so I sent this:

Mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy done get the results in 2 weeks.

It’s true I do get the results of what version of the big C I have and how they will treat it. But you really can’t upset people before Christmas, there’s no point everyone being brassed off. I need time to reassemble my brain.

So, Cath and I have a cup of coffee in the separate waiting room, I guess prepared for people like me who’ve just been given the sort of news you never want to hear. We were encouraged to stop for coffee because you’re not supposed to drive after a biopsy but trust me Catherine is NOT driving my fabulous new SLK. At the beginning of the year, I’d decided that if the business had done well I’d give myself a bonus and treat myself to one. We’ve had the best year ever and I’d managed to save a lot of money in the business. I’m a bit tight and hate spending what I’ve saved, but in truth, I’d found the lump and not knowing what it was it inspired me to just part with my cash. I’m pleased I did and whilst it won’t fix me it does make me smile. I love cars. I love the acceleration and this beast does not disappoint. Cath’s not the worst driver in the world – but even so, she is NOT driving my new car, cancer or no cancer!

Dinner with Sarah. Poor girl. I’ve no idea what we spoke about.

I manage to pull myself together, nip to the loo and wander round to the car park. It’s a piss take – I have to pay £2.60 for the parking to be told I’ve got cancer, oh the fucking joy… I do think they should make some allowances for stuff like this. Anyway we come home, Cath goes and I have to find the courage to get ready, stay smiling and go out with my friend for dinner. My kids are away with their donor – yes, I know that’s not very nice but to be fair that’s about all we got from their father – so I’ve yet another Christmas on my own. So after music full blast, showered and my happy mask applied, I collect Sarah

Dinner with Sarah. Poor girl. I’ve no idea what we spoke about. I know my communication was disjointed, to say the least, and my train of thought not exactly as rail track straight as it should. Thankfully she was drinking as I drove so I don’t think she noticed. But all I wanted to do was scream in her face, “I HAVE CANCER!” It went round and round and round in my head. I don’t know how I stopped myself YELLING it out loud, except for the impact those three little words would have on her, her Christmas, her family. It just wouldn’t be fair it’s not her fault and I don’t think I’d want to be hairdryered like that.

I’ve had friends that have completely abused their body’s and yet are fighting fit; whilst I wouldn’t ever wish this upon anyone, you do have to wonder who decides.

Now let’s chat about being fair. The big C is not fair. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t want a pity party, a badge, nor do I need a flag to wave. I’m no ‘poor me’. If I was, you’d think getting sexually abused at ten by an overzealous step-grandparent and nearly losing my arm at 21 in a motorbike accident would be enough for me to get a ‘poor me’ badge, but you really couldn’t write this shit. Why me? I know that’s an awful thing to say but why? Jesus, haven’t I had enough to contend with. Ever wondered what you did in a previous life?

And I know this is even worse, but I’ve had friends that have completely abused their bodies and yet are fighting fit. Whilst I wouldn’t ever wish this upon anyone, you do have to wonder who decides. I had this one friend who had a body to die for, proper slim, long luscious brown hair, she drank black coffee, did cocaine, smoked her perfectly pert tits off each and every day to the tune of 20-30 fags, drank like an alky, ate no more than 500 calories a day and she’s fine…HOW??? Again, trust me, I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone, it’s a shit thing for anyone to go through BUT I want to know who picks the recipients because we need a chat!

Sorry, I’m ranting again – right, back to Christmas Eve. After I dropped Sarah off I popped into my friends Nicky and Nigel’s for drinks and did my best to be my idea of normal. Tell you what, it was good to get a couple of glasses of prosecco down my neck and play catch up with my friends. I’ve always been lucky with my friends and have a vast varied collection of people whom I love spending time with. I was vague about the outcome of my appointment. I had told them that I was off to the hospital because I honestly thought I’d have nothing to complain about – got that wrong, didn’t I?

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Just Another Day

Christmas day was a challenge. It’s never great spending Christmas without my boys but I want them to do what they want so I can’t honestly say I’m loaded down with Christmas spirit at the best of times BUT I am very positive and always approach it with the ‘it’s just another day’ attitude. But I’d woken up in the night having a little panic thinking I was dying. My body didn’t feel right. Oddly, I had a moment like this at a friend’s a few weeks previously. Except in the middle of the night, alone, you do literally think this is it; this is the end for me, I must be terminally ill. It then dawned on me that over the previous four days or so I hadn’t eaten much, and I’d walked about 26 miles so that was the actual reason my body was having a mini crisis! I needed food, so at 3 am I got up, raided the fridge and started to feel a little more human. It’s funny what your brain does to you, it plays games and tricks especially in the middle of the night.

I still felt a bit down when I woke up so I walked the dog for about 8 miles. It was great thinking time. By the time we’d got home, I’d realigned my brain. Excited with myself, came back and wrote down my thoughts:

The C Word

Facts

• I could have died in a car crash last week.
• We are all going to die.
• Having the big C doesn’t mean that I am going to die, it’s a just a small jab in the ribs, a wake-up call – maybe for everyone – I think sometimes the kids take me for granted a bit.
• My life’s been relatively easy for the last 13 years to be fair and pretty close to perfect so, to be honest, something like this may be needed to happen to make me realise again just how lucky I am and realign my thinking.
• It’s not my kids or anyone else I love.
• I’m strong. I can do this.
• I have something that needs fixing that all, it’s just the words that are scary.
• If they tell me it’s terminal I will still fight the fucker… I usually win battles… and anyway we all have to die sometime, I would just have been given an early warning… more than most get. I’d be pissed off that I was wrong though (I’ve always said I’ll die when in 92 and even had a party this year to mark the halfway point!).
• I’m fit and well.
• I think we got it early – it’s not in my lymph nodes.
• I’ve got amazing support.
• The more you dwell on the negative the more the negative becomes reality… tell less people.
• Financially I’m OK…I’ve got cover of some description.
• If I sit and wallow, I could make myself ill, there’s nothing wrong me… I have a lump, I’ve survived far worse.
• This is a blip.
• I’m not scared. This is no different to anything else I’ve had to face.
• I will win.

Philosophical

• This has definitely happened for a reason.
• Maybe I need to slow down.
• Maybe I need to reassess work and find people that can run it without me to enable me to sell it and stop fannying around with it. The model is right I just seem to think only I can do it… bollocks.
• Maybe I need to do more of the things I want to do and stop saving for a rainy day… it’s currently fucking raining!!!
• Maybe I need to get on with children’s homes (this is my long term goal).
• If I don’t experience this, how can I help anyone else that might go through it.
• Maybe I need to chill out a bit about the things that don’t matter.

Emotionally

This is going to be a test of my strength. I will fucking win.

I’ve made a decision too. I’m only going to tell my fave people only:

Cath
Clips
Sally
Karen
Conor & Oakley – I’m going to tell the boys tomorrow…I’m going to sell it to them, focus on the positives.

Positives

• I got it early
• It’s not in my lymph nodes
• The process wasn’t as painful as I expected
• Staff were amazing and honest
• I’m fit well and healthy
• I feel great
• It will fix
• I will win
• The situation in itself does bring positives…financial, opportunity to refocus realign and rethink… none of which I would have done.

Time to Share the Big C News

I appreciate that this brain dump isn’t exactly cohesive, but I can’t tell you how much better I felt for doing this – we all have to do what’s right for us and I’m a list girl. If I brain dump and write a list I feel back in control and I think that’s the crux of it for me. Control. Everything in my world is under my control: I’m in charge; work, kid’s social life, friends (I mean that in the right way… generally, I’m the strong one). This is probably why I’m struggling with this. I’m not in control at all, the lump, the procedures, the process, the outcome, the long term prognosis, my thoughts… this is the hardest thing for me. I’ve always been brilliant at controlling my thinking and my emotions; something I perfected at an early age, as you can imagine, but this has sent me into a spiral of unanswered questions. You may have noticed that I’m not the most emotional of people so my list is about practical and logical stuff predominately.

I also hate negativity and sympathy, for me they are pointless, hold no positive outcome and just make people like me feel worse. I do NOT want people to feel sorry for me or to behave differently towards me. Christ, I have a lump, yeah ok it’s big and it’s cancer BUT that doesn’t change who I am.

Making the decision to only tell my favourite people has also helped me enormously. I feel like I’ve some control and what it also enables me to do is to ensure I don’t have a pity party. The sad, knowing looks like you’re already dead. For fuck’s sake, I could NOT cope with that. The head tilted to one side, pity in their eyes and a, “How are you feeling? Have you started the treatment? Oh, your hair…” I don’t want pity or sympathy, it won’t make me better AND, more importantly, I don’t want to have copious negative conversations about the same topic; that would drive me crazy.

HELLO! I’m still me. I still exist in my normal form which is gobby, loud, silly, funny, direct Vicki. Mum, boss, frikking amazing friend and the most honest person any of you will ever meet. Don’t misunderstand me, I know people mean well but I think I’d end up knocking someone out.

What this will also ensure is that my other friends and mates and staff will treat me exactly the same. Possibly not the right way for everyone but, hell, it’s made me feel great AND in control of how they behave towards of me. My favourites get me and will completely understand what I need from them which is positivity, happy, normalcy unless I want to talk about it.

Saturday 26th December

Boxing Day night, my friend Sally invited everyone over to her house for the evening. The street I live on is fab. I’ve been here with the boys since 2002. December 17th to be precise and when I moved in the heating didn’t work nor did the sky TV. I knocked on my unsuspecting neighbours’ doors to ask for help and found within number 38 two amazing people who have become great friends of mine; Sally and Derek. Sally fixed the heating and Derek didn’t manage to fix the Sky but we bonded over a crate of freezing cold Strongbow and our fate was sealed. Over the years we’ve had many a fun tale to share.

It was lovely to spend Boxing Day evening with friends, but I struggled a bit to keep it together. When Sally asked me again what the outcome was, I fluffed her off. I just wanted to buy some time. No one wants those conversations over Christmas or at a party, but I knew this wasn’t going to be the end of the conversation; she’s not stupid! So she came over the following day and I told her where we were at and what the real outcome was. She was, as I expected, great. Sally is very different to me and is very emotionally driven BUT she knows me so well and delivered exactly what I needed: positivity, practical thinking. Not all the sad shit.

Monday 29th December

By Dec 28th I’ve arranged to see Clips – real name Clare – to share the happy news. She’s 10 years younger than me and an amazing friend and great support. We met through work about 18 years ago. God, that makes me feel really old. We worked together on and off for years and during that time became great friends. She’s hilarious and absolutely brilliant to work with. In fact, when I started my business she was our Girl Friday (and Wednesday, she only did 2 days initially). Whilst I’m strong, I seriously do not think I’d have got this far with the business without her. Amazing woman and very fucking funny. She gets me, gets my sick humour. Oh, and the nickname? I’m not particularly good at remembering peoples’ names and when you manage a team of 20 it’s kind of important that you can address each and every one of them, so re-naming them is my trademark.

Clips and I met at our usual upmarket haunt, Macdonald’s. Coffee high, here we come! I approached the conversation with a strategy.

Tactic one: get them to talk

“So, how was Christmas, Clips?”
“No, come on. I want to know about the hospital,” she said.
Shit.

Tactic two: distract them

“Oh, I meant to show you this. It’s our new brochure.” Clips has always been interested in what we did at work – she left us a couple of years ago to pursue a career in a school helping severely challenged children.
“It’s great Vee I love it. I still have the first one we did.” She puts it in her bag.
“So, how WAS Christmas?” I say.
“NO. What happened at the hospital?”
Double shit. I take a breath.
“I’ve got Cancer… Well, no, I haven’t but my boob has.”

I have no idea why I just blurted that out. No idea at all. I’d planned what I would say and I can assure you it wasn’t that. FFS. Now her eyes have filled up. “Right, Clips you can’t be upset.”

Apparently, I can’t control how my news will make people feel. I made her laugh, it’s my coping mechanism, it’s really sick, black humour but that’s me. It’s the only way I know how to deal with difficult situations. I explained to her what had happened on Christmas Eve but that I didn’t want her to be upset. Stupid really, isn’t it? Of course she’s going to be upset, she loves me. Another lesson in control – apparently I can’t control how she will feel or react… hmmm. So I’d said that if she was going to be upset then it could be no more than a 3/10. I mean, I did want to know she cares. Her text to me made me fill up.

Ok, so I managed to get to the end of the path before I cried….👍 Told Karl after a few deep breaths and I may have reached a level 4 as there was snot 😤
Makeup reapplied and I’m back 😁
I know you know but if there is ANYTHING you need from me I’m here 😘
xxxx

My World is Changing

My whole world is changing. I’ve gone from making people happy to making them sad. I’ve gone from being the one who checks in on them to being the one who gets checked in on. My friends are crying because of me. I just want to run away. I still can’t really believe it. Not me. I’ve so much to pack into my life. So much to see and do and I won’t know till the 7th if I’ll be here to do it!! So. We make choices and I’m NOT sitting at home pissing my pants about this. I’m going to live, love and enjoy every moment of every single day. I’m being faced with something like this and at the moment it’s all very much unknown what version I’ve got and what treatment I’ll need and, yes, indeed whether I’ll survive it. Dramatic? Maybe, but it goes through your head. It also makes you feel reckless and review the day to day things you do and the importance you put on stuff that frankly is irrelevant. It’s all well and good you reading this thinking, ‘Bloody hell and she reckons she’s not dramatic? They’ve told her it’s not in her lymph nodes, what the hell is she whining about?’ And yes, you’re absolutely right, BUT my usually very positive brain is wondering a collection of the following at any one time:

• How long it takes to spread to the lymph nodes?
• Is the two-week wait long enough for this to happen?
• Is this secondary cancer/ have I got it elsewhere?
• Will they give me a lumpectomy?
• Will I need radiotherapy?
• Will I have chemo?
• Will I keep my hair?

Tell me you wouldn’t do the same? Oh, and the best bit – social media only seems to be posting statuses of someone dying of cancer; sorry, “losing their battle.” Just what you want to see.

Tuesday 29th December

So I wake up on Dec 29 early after a poor night’s sleep and drive 80 miles to have breakfast with Catherine, then I drive to the coast and spent 3 hours on my own walking the beach. It was fantastic. The day was cool yet sunny and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it. It was just what I needed to recharge my batteries and to not think. And I LOVED driving my car – it was just what the doctor probably wouldn’t have ordered because I drove way too fast, roof down, wrapped up in my big skiing jacket and the heater on full blast, music blaring. Great for the soul and a superb distraction from my thoughts.

God, how I HATE being needy.

Although my business closes at Christmas, the following day I go into work to pay the wages. I’d woken in the night with this enormous feeling of just being so alone, so on my own with this BIG horror story, I just wanted someone to make it all go away and tell me that everything will be ok. Sadly this carried through into the day. I was probably hormonal to be fair. Gosh, us girls have a lot to deal with, let me tell you. However, the hardest thing for people like me that aren’t very emotional and therefore don’t cry and behave like a normal girl is that when these black days arrive, it’s like the end of the world. I basically have a huge meltdown. Well, actually I have two. I’ve gone from Mrs. Strong-Independent-In Control-Witty-Happy Bird to Mrs. Fucking Needy-Crying-Irrational-Moany-Bitch.  This is not something that’s synonymous to me and a very ugly trait in my view. This is very scary for those people around me because I’m just not like that. I’m factual, practical and logical… this little predicament is NOT playing to my strengths.

The support I’ve had from my friends has been amazing and they’ve delivered exactly what I’ve needed at the time I’ve needed it. New Year’s Eve was a challenge. I go on a HUGE walk and reflected on my fate. Gosh, this is hard. It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing to cope with.

A New Year’s Eve party at the neighbours’ is fab, although by 10.30 pm I’ve lost my happy mask and just left and came home and got into bed, with Sally in hot pursuit just to make sure that I was okay. I’m really not! I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my entire life and I’ve got to the point that I didn’t even really know what I’m crying about: cancer, being a bitch or just having an overdose of hormones. Life, hey?

So I have 3 meltdowns in 2 days – an absolute record for me. GREAT and Happy New Year!

Oddly, though, after my hormone days, I feel absolutely fine. I feel back in control of me and I just want to find out exactly what I’ve got and how we are going to fix it.

New Year’s Day

January 1st turns out to be a great day. I feel like I achieve a lot. I’ve written some pages for this blog, I’ve taken the boys out for a last-minute lunch – basically, I’d forgotten to buy some food to cook for today – can’t imagine what had distracted me? Anyway, we went out and had a really good laugh. I’ve explained to them that we need to be prepared for the fact I’ve most probably got cancer and that there will be some treatment of some description. If you have kids you’d probably do exactly what I did which is tell them a version of the facts. I don’t lie nor would I, but what’s the point of telling your kids half a story? I explained that I get the result on Thursday. Bless, they thought a letter would come through the post. I explained that I have to go to the hospital and they asked if they could come with me. NO CHANCE. Bloody hell, I’ll need time to work out how best to manage myself through the process before I share with them what’s going to happen.

Doing the things I’m in control of has really helped me to keep my thinking and emotions on track.

I’m looking forward to going to work as, to be truthful, having all this time off to fester and think isn’t helpful for me. I’ve done everything I can do to fill my time and meet up with friends and dog walks, etc., but I still have way too much time to think. Monday will be great – I’ve staff training to do, oh, and I have to nip to court in Grantham to stand as a reference for one of my team. I think she’s a book in her own right! But today has been a good day. Doing the things I’m in control of has really helped me to keep my thinking and emotions on track. I woke in the night but wasn’t plagued by the horror thoughts of previous nights.

I feel a little bit like the lump is not really part of my body and that by touching it I’m making it real or helping it to grow.

Sugar. Now there’s a lot in the press at the moment about refined sugar being bad for us and it being linked to cancer. Fortunately, I don’t have a sweet tooth but strangely I started eating more sugary things early December. It might be relevant, it might not, but it does seem a bit odd to me that I’ve eaten so much more and now have cancer. I must remember to bring this up at my next appointments.

Now it’s odd, but since the biopsy, I’ve not wanted to feel my lump, which by the way was described by my GP as being the size of a plum, but I do have big boobs. Well, at the moment I have, I’m currently unsure of their long term fate!

I feel a little bit like the lump is not really part of my body and that by touching it I’m making it real or helping it to grow. What’s also bizarre is that when I wake up in the night I can “feel” my boob. Not with my hands but just as I lay there I can feel it – if you’ve ever suffered with ‘irritable legs,’ you’ll know it’s a weird feeling. You notice your legs, but day to day you don’t really notice your body as individual components. Yet as I lay there in the night I can feel my boob – it’s the oddest thing. It does ache a bit but then again it has been abused somewhat recently.

Hideous Decisions

Monday 4th January

Oh my God – back to work today. It’s been superb, I can’t tell you what a fab day I’ve had. Everything was normal, no one knows, I trained the team and they had a superb afternoon… just fab. I spoke to my business coach and explained why I had to change our appointment from Thursday morning. He doesn’t count by the way, regarding who I’m going to tell, but I needed to tell him because what we do together is effected by my health and the decisions I make about the business are arguably crucial right now.

We did the pleasantries.

“Stuart, sorry to be a pain but can we change the appointment on Thursday I’m sorry to be difficult but I’ve got a hospital appointment that I must attend.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, Vicki. Nothing serious, I hope?”

“Erm… well, I’ve got a bit of breast cancer, so yes I think you could say it’s serious but I won’t know till Thursday what I need to deal with. But I’m sure it’ll be fine – well, it has to be I’ve way too much to fit in.”

SILENCE then, “Oh no that’s awful, you sound like you’ve got a cough too.”

“Yes, well, let’s hope it’s not bloody lung cancer too, hey?!”

“Did you have a good Christmas?” he asked.

“Well, not really, no. I found out on Christmas Eve so possibly not the best present I’ve ever had.”

I had a thought today that it’s only three more sleeps until my boob knows its fate. Odd really that it’s something you count down to. It’s usually for something exciting like a holiday or a special event, a birthday perhaps or a wedding. My thoughts are odd. I feel very much in control though and like there’s nothing wrong with me. When I found myself in the waiting room at the court today for one of my staff (yes, I saved her from a fate worse than death…prison) watching, not from choice, the BBC news, I saw something called Victoria something or other. She’s having chemo and is taking a day to day video of her hair loss journey. If I’m dead honest, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I get it. I get the idea but shit it’s SO depressing!!! Why would anyone want to watch something so desperately sad and morose? Jesus, I’ll be avoiding that like the plague.

It’s true that sometimes you don’t realise what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Tuesday 5th January

The 5th of January has just been a fucking battle from beginning to end. I have had to contend with a whole host of garbage at work from staff claiming: “Oh, I didn’t think.” “Oh, I hadn’t thought that might happen.” Hideous decisions made without any common sense whatsoever. Really, very frustrating. Our old manager had left in November to pursue a different career – I think we need her back. Since she’s gone it’s been a complete disaster and more than I can contend with. It’s true that sometimes you don’t realise what you’ve got till it’s gone. I need to arrange to see her I think.

I’m almost lost for words. There’s nothing right now that will help me to get over just how fucking cross I am.

Today also included a stupid cyclist who seemed to think undertaking and overtaking in the dark with poor lights and lots of traffic was fine. I wonder if I’ll see him without limbs next week at the hospital? Then to cap it all, I came home to a letter from the hospital telling me my appointment has been put back to Friday. Yup, logically I know it’s only a day but the focus on this one date THE 7th January has been immense. I’d cancelled all my appointments from Thursday to the fucking Friday. I’m almost lost for words. There’s nothing right now that will help me to get over just how fucking cross I am. They have NO IDEA how this makes people feel. If it’s spread I swear I’m going to lose it with someone there.

The good news today? Oh, there isn’t any – so in addition to being awake most of the night on Wednesday deciding I’m terminally ill and have weeks to live, I manage to get through a manic busy day at work, missing a number of calls from a ‘no caller ID’, I never answer these I don’t have a landline at home because I want the option to screen my calls. Anyway, I get into work on Thursday – with a feeling it must be the hospital – no message left, I might add, but no one would ring 8 times if it wasn’t urgent. So I called the specialists PA who said it was probably just to check that I’d got the letter about the change to Friday – thank God.

Two more missed calls Thursday morning. I finally get to answer the phone and I‘m informed by someone ‘from appointments’ that they were putting my appointment back to next Wednesday. I nearly self-combusted.

“NO, YOU’RE NOT!” I said. “I’m not having this, it’s been put back once already and I’ve had to change three clients’ appointments – which means I lose business, now I’ve had to change them AGAIN because it moved to Friday now you’re telling me I’ll have to change all the Wednesday appointments too – I can’t run my life like this. NO, I’m coming in tomorrow.” I was livid.

I fully appreciate I’d been very direct and rather cross, but FFS can you get where I’m coming from. She was quite curt and somewhat rude, to be honest.

“Woman to woman, I can understand why you’re upset.” This did not make my blood boil AT ALL. “You can come in but we don’t have your results back yet, so there wouldn’t be much point.” Why she didn’t she just say this at the beginning of the conversation? This teeny tiny bit of very important information makes all the difference. Unbelievable. So I have to wait another week until the 13th? Brilliant!!!

It’s D-Day, or Rather C-Day

This never-ending nightmare comes with a whole host of illogical thoughts usually delivered in the middle of the night when everything becomes worse than it already is. Erm… is that actually possible??? So I woke one night in a panic about the fact that I’d lost about half a stone within the last month or so. Now I had eaten less and walked more BUT tonight I had this goddam awful panic that I was ACTUALLY dying, terminally ill. Oh, and I defy ANY of you going through the same thing to not have these irrational thoughts. Trust me, I’m THE most positive person you will ever meet but boy this is a challenge.

So I figured the best solution was for me to eat more do less and see if I put on any weight. Well, for the very first time IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, I was delighted to have put on 3lb in about 4 days. I honestly can’t even begin to tell you happy this made me, it also made me laugh so loud, like most women putting on weight is NOT what I want, but for once I was thrilled. Funny how something that once would have made me gutted actually made me happy. This, in my logic, means I must be ok, well, not dying, back on the positive track we go.

I love work so the meeting kept my brain on charge and I didn’t have the time to dwell on what might be.

The weekend was great and odd all at the same time. I drove up to Catherine’s – it hadn’t dawned on me just how much the experience would have affected her. Her husband was lovely but just a bit different towards me and the same again on Saturday night when I went to collect Clips for an evening out: her husband looked like a rabbit caught in headlights. People just don’t know what to say to you – I asked him how he was, he said “Yeah thanks, Vicki. I’m fine thanks,” and looked absolutely petrified about asking me how I was. I completely understand but it’s also hard to be on the receiving end of people behaving differently towards you. It’s confirmed to me that I’ve made absolutely the right decision about not telling the world about it.

It’s so hard for everyone because it’s like the worst news ever. Only Derek, Sally’s husband (who is VERY similar to me) knew what to say. “Vicki, Sals told me what’s happened I don’t want you to think that I don’t care but I also know you don’t really want to talk about it. Just know that I’m always here for you in you need anything.” What a sweetie. I really am very lucky.

It’s weird and lovely too. Because no one knows at work and the vast majority of people have no idea, I honestly feel like there’s nothing wrong with me and I’ve had a super few days feeling a bit like it’s not real, really. I’m sure that Wednesday will change all that when I get my results and the plan of attack!!

A doctor and two nurses (wearing black uniforms) were there. Not exactly boding well, is it?

So results day, January 13th is here. D-Day, or rather C-Day. So after much cajoling, I agreed to take Catherine with me for my 4 pm meeting; sorry, appointment. I had a 10 am in Manchester which was great because it kept me occupied and I love driving so it was a great way to while away the time. I love work so the meeting kept my brain on charge and I didn’t have the time to dwell on what might be.

So we got to the hospital for about 3.40, purchased one of their extortionate and pretty shit coffees before we walked round to the temple of doom. We got ushered into one of the “crying” rooms and sat around a knee-high round table with four chairs and a box of tissues. A doctor and two nurses (wearing black uniforms) were there. Not exactly boding well, is it?

“Vicki, we have some news for you, sadly you do have cancer…” Before he could continue, I interrupted.

“Okay, can I stop you there? So is it fixable?”

“Oh yes, of course it is.” It was his incredulous tone that sealed it for me.

“Brilliant. Right, okay, that’s great, carry on, what do we have to do?” I settled back in my chair and all I could think about what that I was going to survive. Fucking yippee. I think the word is euphoric – that’s how I felt.

“You have grade two invasive ducal carcinoma and…”

I honestly can’t tell you the rest of the conversation because in my head I’m doing cartwheels. YES, I’m going to survive… excellent! The rest of this horror story I can do, it’s just a process. So the plan; chemo first to help reduce the size of the cancer, then an operation to remove it, then radio. Yup, I can do this. It’s fine! Sure, it’s going to be horrific and I’ll be bald BUT I’m not going to die. HURRAH!!

They wanted me to have the operation on the 22nd but I’ve got a dinner to go to that I’ve really looked forward to. Cath nearly had kittens.

I’m not sure my reaction was what they’d expected. In fact, I know it wasn’t but the bit they all failed to realise was that I already knew, and I’d spent two weeks papping myself that I was going to die. So this is great news. It’s fixable, I get to spend the critical illness money I should be getting. Not quite the attitude, I know, but you’ve no idea how relieved I am.

So the first doctor leaves, he was very lovely, I think he was bad news cop to make way for good news cop. What a lovely gentleman, he came in and was really gentle with me, he explained the plan and what was going to happen in the next couple of weeks before chemo started. I told them I had private health cover. This is an absolute godsend for people like me who have a business. The flexibility it gives is awesome. It also means I can have chemo at home if I chose, appointment times to fit with me and choices… I like choices.

The consultant explained that the next few weeks would include a consultation with him, an appointment with the oncologist, an appointment with the breast clinic nurse, a CT scan, a bone scan and an operation to remove a lymph node just to make sure it’s not spread. Apparently, the ultrasound scan isn’t 100% accurate so the lymph operation enables them to be completely sure that it’s clear. It’s more about them knowing rather than anything else because the chemo will blast anything and everything. So a busy few weeks. They wanted me to have the operation on the 22nd but I’ve got a dinner to go to that I’ve really looked forward to. Cath nearly had kittens. Speed is of the essence to a certain extent but they’d just told me that from detection they have a 90-day window, apparently my cancer doesn’t grow very quickly, so I don’t think another couple of days will make a difference. What lovely people, what a lovely attitude. I asked lots of questions, I understand the process and feel okay about it. I have two issues which I’ll explain to you, but honestly, I’m good with this.

We left the hospital, me with my arm around a crying Catherine, telling her it’s going to be just fine.

The four people in the room are staring at me, watching my every reaction but I’m honestly fine. I guess they’re expecting me to cry and wail and breakdown, but I’m just not built that way for audiences. I need to be super controlled and practical to get through. I get to live, that’s the best news I could have heard, nothing else is important. The consultant is surprised I think by my reaction. Cath’s eyes are a tad red although she’s doing her best not to cry, she knows that I need her to be strong. Anyway, the consultant leaves and the breast cancer nurses stay and talks through the detail. She was nice. She said that she’d written down everything she wanted to cover with me, but that it was all a bit pointless now. I’m guessing she was going to go for the positive angle and to ‘make me feel better.’

We left the hospital, me with my arm around a crying Catherine, telling her it’s going to be just fine and after parting with yet another bloody £2.60, drove home to tell the boys.

“Okay. So there’s good news and not so good news.”

They stare at me as I say those familiar three little words. “I’ve got cancer BUT it’s treatable so it doesn’t really matter.”

Cath is struggling I think with this, and I appreciate it’s not exactly the best delivery but you have to remember my kids have known me all their life and the way I tackle things and handle situations maybe a little unique, but it’s honest. And I’m genuinely thrilled I’m not going to die – the rest of it right now is nothing more than a battle I will win.

I did later speak to both the boys individually to reassure them, but honestly, I just don’t see what the big deal is. I explained to them if I’d said I’ve got mutating cells and I need some treatment to fix it no one would bat an eyelid – but because we say CANCER and CHEMO – everyone just shits themselves. Hey, I won’t die (well, I will at some point but not from this) and I’m back on track to making it to my 92nd birthday.

Here are my two issues with this: hair loss and the fact that now I’m going to have to tell people because unless they’re blind they will notice my lack of hair. Hair loss. Who wants to be bald?

Hmm, this is going to be a tough one.

The Email Announcement

I receive an unexpected call from the consultant’s secretary asking me to go and see him for an appointment the following afternoon at the private hospital. He’s a really lovely chap. He came out to greet me and asked me how I was as we walked to the room.

“I’m good, thanks. How are you?”

He was a little taken aback. I think both about my response and also my question to him. I guess not many people ask the doctor how he is. He asked me if I knew why he’d asked me to come in for an appointment. I shook my head. He proceeded to tell me that he asked me to come back so that he could explain again what would happen but that also in all the years of him doing this and delivering bad news to people he hadn’t ever experienced a reaction like mine yesterday. How lovely. I guess he thought that I was in shock and maybe hadn’t really heard or understood just how BIG this is – how lovely of him, but this is indicative of the type of caring man he is. I explained that I’d known since Christmas Eve and had done all my crying and wailing waiting for the results, so the fact that I wasn’t terminal was really the only thing that mattered – I could cope with everything else. I know it won’t be nice, BUT I’m a battler and I will win. He smiled, and in truth, I’m not sure he knew quite what to make of me.

I’m still trying to ascertain the best way to deliver my happy news en masse.

Recognising that I would be needing a wig sent me out shopping – I know I’m a girl but I really dislike shopping at the best of times. I’d like you to say out loud, “I need to buy a wig because I’m going to be bald.” Bloody awful, isn’t it? That’s my current reality and forgive the pun but something it’s going to take me time to get my head around. The wig shop I went to was closed. How? On a bloody Saturday? Anyway, I got the number off the internet of a place in Cambridge called Scruffs and made an appointment to go and get fitted. NOT what I thought my January would be looking like. I’m still trying to ascertain the best way to deliver my happy news en masse. I’ve got loads of people to tell, family, friends, and clients. Now I’ve test driven a couple of approaches on a couple friends over the weekend. Their reactions ranged from sharing with me every case study feedback of everyone she’s ever heard of ever that’s had ever had breast cancer – with varying degrees of outcome (not overly helpful or inspiring if I’m truthful) – to considerate thoughtful comments from people who had seriously thought through what to say. So what’s the best, most consistent message that’s concise and gets me the outcome that I need, which is normality. I need normality. As I mentioned before, I do not want a pity party. So, the plan. AN EMAIL.

Yes, I know you just cringed. It’s the most impersonal, thoughtless and horrific way to deliver the news BUT I need you to consider this. I’ve learnt that people only hear a little bit of what you say when they go into shock and then some of them make the rest of it up to suit themselves. This is not what I need and frankly, I’m literally not built to keep repeating myself. It’s boring… oh, and it just makes it that tad more real.

It’s also dawning on me that I need to sort out the work situation and get my old manager back. We’ve kept in touch and her Facebook posts about work aren’t exactly inspiring so fingers crossed she comes back. It’s not going to be too much of a problem to meet up with her, but I’m going to have to admit to her that I NEED her. Now that’s going to be a tough one, but I’ll worry about that later.

Now back to the hair situation – someone suggested to me that I did a ‘brave the shave’ and raise some money for charity – what a fabulous idea. I’m big into charity and over the last 6 years have raised over £38,000 through charity balls that we’ve held through work, so it’s a superb suggestion AND it means I’m taking control and not waiting for the imminent hair falling out trauma.

So by January 18th I bite the bullet and write and send my email to my friends and family and then have an anxiety attack – I’m literally papping my pants, unsure what to expect as I press send.

Hi

Firstly I’m really sorry to send this news to you via email but as you read this you’ll understand why.

I found out on Christmas Eve that I had a form of breast cancer……excellent Christmas present……I got the detail last week of what it is and what needs to happen. The only thing I’m really bothered about is that I won’t die…..well not from this anyway………so for me, anything else I can cope with. So the plan: I need chemo, then an op and then radio. I had every intention of not telling anyone but as I’m about to lose my hair I think there’s a slim chance people might notice lol.

We all deal with things differently and all need different things in situations like this. What I need above everything is normality. I have no desire to go over the detail of it, the repetition bores me, the conversation is negative. I won’t die from it……nothing else matters in my head. I’ve got great support from my closest friends whom I intend to rant at if the mood takes me lol. The boys are fine, understandably upset but we’re close so have each other. I’ve sorted some support for them and told their schools…..pisser timing wise with A levels and GSCEs but they’ll get special dispensation……not like our day hey?

What I need from you. Nothing other than how you usually are with me. If I see you daily, weekly, monthly or annually great let’s keep it that way. I don’t want or need sympathy or a poor me badge it won’t fix me and the negativity of it won’t inspire me at all, I have everything I need with my support team….lucky buggers hey??. I know you’ll want to help and I appreciate that enormously but you’ll help me by being the same with me….nothing has changed I just have a new challenge to deal with that’s all……oh and I’ll be fucking bald……I need positivity and happy conversation please ….lots of laughter. I’m sure I’ll have shit days but doesn’t everyone? this just gives me a great excuse that’s all. 

I can’t cope with being fussed over or being told what to do. I don’t need to hear about case studies of who survived and who didn’t. This will sort, it’ll be fine just bloody inconvenient and did I mention I’ll be bald? FFS!!! Because of this, I’ve decided to shave my hair off and to do it for charity, before I lose it and would be grateful if you would sponsor me…this way I don’t need to advertise to the world my situation….. I’ll email the detail when I’ve had time to set it up….. It will be to coincide with the start of the chemo. I will NOT be advertising this on Facebook and would be extremely grateful if you could all avoid putting anything on there relating to my condition please and respect my request to not advertise this to the world. I want to contain this as much as possible for a gobby cow I hate everyone knowing my business.

So it’s not the best news I guess BUT for me, I’m genuinely thrilled……two weeks wondering if you might have a terminal illness means this news is brilliant. I’m fixable……nothing else matters.

Hope all’s well with you all and I’ll see you when I do. Again – forgive me for emailing ….but my time’s a bit sparse at the moment with the hospital demanding my attendance lol 😃

You can imagine the variety of the replies I got, but I have to say on the whole I got exactly what I’d hoped for. Strong, positive supportive responses.

So having decided to shave my head for charity – not only for great causes but it saved me the horror of it falling out in the shower. I am not emotionally equipped to deal with that. So I set up a ‘giving’ page and tried to be rather clever about how I worded the ‘sponsor me’ bit on the page. Someone had very kindly shared it on Facebook (they meant well, I know they did), but there was a comment on there about me having the big C, so my fabulous idea about keeping it to myself wasn’t really working. So Facebook erupted, I decided I would just have to brave the whole thing and so I posted this:

Screenshot (102)

 

I’m getting braver and figured I’d better just suck it up and get on with it. I can’t begin to find the words to describe how it’s made me feel. I’ve had the loveliest comments, messages, texts and emails, and my money begging page has been shared by loads of people. I’m truly humbled, overwhelmed and dumbstruck by how benevolent people are. WOW.

Oncology, Private Healthcare & Free Tits

Monday 18th January

Today is January 18th and I’ve met my oncologist, and like the other consultant, she is just lovely. Very considered. I’m having to learn lots of new words, but frankly, some of the information is just too much to remember. I got packed off with books and books from the original ‘you’ve got cancer’ meeting a couple of weeks ago, which I’ve no intention of reading – how very dull. The plan: we start the chemo on Thursday 5th February. That’s all I need to know.

Private healthcare – what an absolute godsend. Not only do I get seen quicker and the process expedited but I also have the HUGE bonus of chemo at home. Okay, it wasn’t exactly what I had on my Christmas list BUT it’s made my day. I’ll be allocated a nurse and a plan. Phoning up to speak to the insurance company was actually far less horrific than I expected it to be.

I genuinely thought you had a policy, you get the dreaded lurgy, and you get paid out.

I’m still struggling to say the words, it’s becoming more real every time, but the lady I spoke to was fabulous very considerate and kind. Which is more than can be said for the delight I spoke to about my Critical Illness cover. I’d taken the policy out about 10 years ago when I used to smoke. I stopped 6 years ago but this didn’t stop her from very coldly asking me how many fags I used to smoke. I explained that I honestly couldn’t recall; when you stop you tend not to focus on the quantity of nicotine you inhaled daily. It upset me, actually. It was like she was trying to imply I’d created this cancer myself.

Furthermore, the policy I’d taken out was a smokers’ policy so I honestly couldn’t see the relevance of this. I explained this to her in my usual gentle manner, whilst she held onto her throat. We seemed to understand each other from that point on. She explained that the claim would have to go to the underwriters for a decision. Now, this did surprise me. I genuinely thought you had a policy, you get the dreaded lurgy, and you get paid out. Anyway, least of my worries right now, I’ll let fate determine the right outcome for me.

I might have mentioned that being in control is important to me so I decided the clever thing to do to help me through this journey was to keep a kind of diary of how I felt each day after each ‘spa treatment’ as I’ve renamed them – kinda of makes them more palatable, I think. I figured I needed something that I could refer to that I could see if there was a pattern. So I brought a whiteboard home from work, one of the girls from work had very kindly put some black tape on it so I could mark off the days of the week. What I did was date it and fill in relevant events from the first week of February through to the end of March. Then each day I could add a smiley face or a sad face and score my days. Whilst this sound REALLY childish, I cannot tell you what a great idea it was. It helped me to see patterns of good days and bad which then enabled me to plan more effectively.

 

IMG_4805
My mood board

I’m delighted to say that my operation date was brought forward to accommodate the dinner I was looking forward to on the 22nd.

 

Wednesday 20th January

What a result! FREE TITS!!!

So January 20th started with a lovely trip to the city hospital to have some dye injected into my nipple. Yes, you read that right. I can’t even begin to describe what happened simply because I didn’t want to watch. The horror of seeing the needle stabbed into a very delicate part of my anatomy was not something I needed to experience. Today’s operation is to remove a lymph node so they can send it off to ensure the cancers not escaped, the dye is to highlight the lymph node for surgery. I arrive at the private hospital having had nothing to eat all day except water. The anaesthetist, the consultant, the food nurse, the ward nurse and the ‘I’m here to help you nurse’ all paid me a visit. The anaesthetist wasn’t thrilled that I’d been drinking water – in truth, I hadn’t read the letter properly – typical me, I’m afraid. It was a bit touch and go as to whether they would operate but I managed to convince them I’d be just fine. Which of course I was.

Back from surgery within a blink of an eye – actually closer to 2 hours, but it didn’t feel like that for me. The surgeon came in and explained again what they had done and why and that we should get the results within the next week or so and for me not to worry. He’s a real sweetie. He also told me that after the chemo I’d have an operation to remove whatever’s left of the cancer and he would rebuild my boob.

“Sorry? Are you telling me I’ll get new tits?’ I demanded.

“Erm… yes Vicki, I am,” he replied, somewhat bashfully.

“Oh my God, can I pick the size?”

“Erm… yes, you can.”

“And will you make them point in the right direction?” I’m nearly squealing by this point.

“Yes, I can.”

“You, Mr. G have just made my made my day. A boob job. Oh my God, how lucky am I?”

I genuinely couldn’t be happier. Big boobs like mine aren’t exactly the prettiest things you’ve ever seen, a bit like oversized saddle bags that quite frankly have never pointed in the right direction. In fact, I had investigated and paid a deposit to have an uplift about 6 years ago but bottled it, not because of the pain but I really didn’t fancy having more scars to add to my body. What a result! FREE TITS!!!

I wasn’t allowed to leave until I’d eaten, drunk and had a wee. If they’d have let me I’d have been gone within half an hour; I’d completed all the tasks. My recovery from anaesthetic is remarkable, always has been (my life on the orthopaedic ward back in 1990 after my motorbike accident enabled me to perfect this), but they needed me to stay a further hour just to be sure. I wasn’t sore at all and felt right as rain.