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.

Eyebrows Tattoos & Hair Shopping

Sunday 24th January

Today was a GREAT day. I met up with Sarah, the manager at work who had left at the beginning of December to work elsewhere. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t realised just what a good job she’d done and it’s the age-old ‘you don’t realise what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ She held the team together, motivated and inspired them and, the most important part, enabled me to get on with my job, which is about growing the business. Since she’d been gone I’ve struggled to get on with my job because I’ve been too busy helping the staff and the new team leaders. It turns out that she’s struggled with her new manager because she’s so vague… hilarious.

I’m learning that this journey for me is about learning new ways to behave and digging deep into the emotional box.

I think because I’m SO direct any normal person appears vague. Sarah’s been a bit disgruntled about a few other aspects too and she wants to leave. Even though I knew she would come back at this particular part of the conversation I made the decision to tell her stuff that normally I would have skirted around or avoided saying. I‘m not overly good at sharing my feelings or feeling vulnerable and as you can appreciate I run a business and I know how to manoeuvre a conversation to get the outcome I want. But I’m learning that this journey for me is about learning new ways to behave and digging deep into the emotional box so I told her that I needed her, that it hadn’t been the same without her and I’d like her to come back. Know what? It wasn’t that difficult, and it felt quite good. She knows how hard I find that sort of thing and replied by saying she wanted to come back. So for me, it was a superb result. I have someone I can rely upon, whom I trust with my youngest baby and who won’t let me down. BRILLIANT. So that’s something struck off the list.

I’m still full of bruises on the back of my hand, under my arm and my belly where they stabbed me with the heparin. Feeling a bit battered, bruised and bit bodily abused. But hey it’s going to get worse, I’m sure… this is a bit like the calm before the storm, I think.

Tattoo Tuesday 26th January

Another day skiving off work. Off to Ramsey to get my eyebrows tattooed on. What a superb experience but yeah, it did hurt. More scratchy than hurt I guess, BUT they look amazing AND they’re perfect.

Whilst I might not be Cheryl Cole, I’m sure she puts her hair extensions and makeup artist through her business.

OMG, I can’t tell you what a great idea this was, but £450 later and a teeny bit sore, I’m sure I’ve made THE best decision. One of the things I find weird when you look at someone who has no facial hair is their lack of eyebrows and eyelashes that makes them look like Martians. Yes, I know it’s not very PC and not very kind, but it’s factually accurate and I’ll be in their club soon so I feel I can say it. Again, having this done is about me taking control of the fact my eyebrows are going to fall out and stunt double for a Martian isn’t really my thing.

Eyebrows tattooed, I’m back on with my day. I’m still trying to get my accountant to agree that I can claim things like this and my wig through my business. Whilst I might not be Cheryl Cole, I’m sure she puts her hair extensions and makeup artist through her business. Why should I be any different? I might not be as slim or as glamorous, but I am the face of my business and I doubt my clients would be thrilled to see me without hair. I’m not sure I’d be confident enough to do that anyway, this process is already making me question things that I’ve never even thought about before.

My youngest had a hospital appointment this afternoon, which always results in a MacDonald’s. This is where we were sat when I got the phone call to say the chemo starts on the 5th. It’s now becoming real.

Wig Wednesday 27th January

Today started with a day of scans. I had a CT and a bone scan. In itself, it was not a problem but I was surrounded by REALLY poorly people, this hadn’t really dawned on me if I’m truthful but that was depressing. I’m okay if I can’t see the horror of cancer. I looked seriously out of place – I have hair, I have colour in my face and I’m walking. This was distressing. I had to wait for 4 hours for one of the scans so I did some work and had a meeting with the Cancer Ward sister about fundraising and about putting her in touch with the ‘Something To Look Forward To’ charity so that was good.

I had a few tears in the car but decided to replicate my current style – not because it’s nice but because it would enable me to look the same.

After the scans, the trip to Cambridge for hair fitting commenced. I drove down there and it wasn’t until I parked up that I actually thought about the sort of ‘hair’ I wanted. In truth I hadn’t thought about anything other than getting there, getting parked and finding the place, which is rather typical of me and how I don’t deal with things properly. I had a few tears in the car but decided to replicate my current style – not because it’s nice but because it would enable me to look the same. I met Garry (yes, I spelt that right) and he was absolutely fantastic. He listened, took the time with me and miraculously managed to find me a similar hairdo. We struggled to find the style with the right colour so he suggested I come back for a fitting after he’d ordered it from Germany. The hair was amazing it even had roots to make it look more authentic!! He also offered to shave my head, which was extremely kind of him, when I came back for collection.

I’ve been completed overwhelmed by the number of shares my Facebook page has had. Twenty-four and currently donations stand at just under £3000. How amazing are people? It has dawned on me that I’ve not really given this cancer thing the respect everyone else has. Nor do I intend to. How ridiculous. I like a battle and I always win. Nothing has changed.

Becoming Public Property

Friday 29th January

Friday was a bit confusing I arrived at the wrong hospital for an oncology appointment. Not the end of the world but I hate getting things wrong. I’m starting to feel a bit hormonal (just the time of the month) so I guess I was a bit flat. Karen the oncologist explained that the scans were completely clear other than a small cyst on my liver which she said could have been there from birth nothing to fret about. I asked her what a cyst is and she explained that it’s just a sack of fluid – I asked if it was full of wine. She laughed and said it was highly unlikely. So all good. I don’t think I’d displayed quite the right reaction. I know it’s great news and that I’m all clear and it’s not anywhere else but shit this is becoming REAL. Each day, each result, each appointment I’m getting one step closer to the bloody chemo, the nasty stuff, the real-life bits, the stuff that’s going to make me feel ill. Yes, it will fix me but I’m going to feel shit and for someone who’s always so healthy this is a mental battle. The side effects are beyond hideous. I had a couple of tears as I left, not a lot, just enough to register how I’m feeling, but it’s just part of the journey. I left the hospital drove to meet Catherine for dinner in Lincoln.

Saturday 30th January

On Saturday 30th, I met a friend at Rutland water for our 26, yes, 26-mile walk. I’d already committed to doing the Belvoir challenge at the end of February but I needed to know that my body was capable of doing it, I’ve never walked this far before. So that IF I can’t complete it I at least know it’s because of the chemo not that I can’t do it. The day was great and it took us just under 7 hours. Got home and was asleep by 8.30 and I ached…but not as much as my friend did, which offers me hours of piss-take. I’m the cancer victim, he’s a fit 40-year old that got me into this endurance walking and HE struggled… or maybe he’s just saying it to make me feel good.

Reading stuff about me on Facebook makes me feel like Mother Teresa…

So I’ve posted lots of stuff on Facebook about the charity head shave in the last week or so and have bullied my clients into parting with their cash and so far I’ve raised about £7500 for two very well deserving charities; Peterborough City Hospital and ‘Something to look forward to’. I’m sooooo pleased and it makes this poorly shit so worthwhile. People have been extremely kind and said some really lovely and encouraging things with their donations which is so kind, but I’m struggling a bit. I’m not really one to dwell on nice things that people say and in truth, there’s a collection of other things that aren’t so lovely about me, which quite honestly balances out the loveliness. Trust me, I’ve struggled quite a bit with this to be truthful. I’m just like everyone else; I get cross, I shout at my kids, I get moody from time to time. Reading stuff about me on Facebook makes me feel like Mother Teresa…it’s important to stay real, I think. I LOVE the positivity and kindness. It’s been great and there are one or two ‘sad/sympathy’ statuses to contend with, but they’ve been minimal.

Now I have to confess that the thought of doing this head shave is beyond distressing. I seriously do NOT really want to be bald, I don’t really want all the garbage that goes with this bloody long arduous journey of chemical warfare I’m about to endure, where my body is not my own anymore. Nothing is sacred now. I’ve had my tits out more in the last 6 weeks than I have in the last 6 years!!! PLUS I’m struggling with being ‘public property’. I’m not a fan of everyone knowing my business, it makes me feel vulnerable, but I do need to feel like I’m in control of this cancer thing so by doing this and not having the horror of big clumps falling out in bed or in the bath. As I said, it’s the best option for me to be able to cope.

I was mortified. Comments appeared like wildfire.

For a gobby bird, I’m actually quite private and do not like to share my innermost feelings with the world (you’re now wondering why I wrote this. Yes, I know – me too, but I’ve done it for you). So you can perhaps imagine how traumatised I was when one of my friends took it upon herself to post something on my Facebook wall for everyone to see. I’ll give her the benefit of doubt and say it was with the best intention. As we explained to people on my behalf that the fundraising wasn’t a publicity stunt, she explained how distressing I would find it and virtually started a petition to stop me from doing it saying that I didn’t HAVE to do it. I was absolutely livid, not because she hadn’t told the truth but because I felt like she’d exposed my innermost feelings and thoughts. Facebook for me is about the fun stuff, the nonsense of life, and I simply DO NOT share my real thoughts and feelings with the bloody world. I win by fronting this cancer thing out and stay emotionally detached from what I’m doing. I was mortified. Comments appeared like wildfire, all very lovely but discussing me, making decisions for me, suggestions about what I should or shouldn’t do. I know people mean well but I honestly did feel like my life was not my own. And because I hadn’t worded the post I wasn’t able to control what they were saying in their response.

I am unsure about shaving my head. Christ, who wouldn’t be.

All my posts had been VERY carefully worded to encourage a happy positive comment not some droany negative shit and my wording did not create an open forum. I TOLD them what was happening. I had no idea how to take this new post down – I’m not overly technical and I didn’t want to upset her either. I felt a bit stuck. I did totally overreact, but I couldn’t stop the flooding; I cried a lot and couldn’t work out what to do for the best. It’s weird how much I feel like I need to control this and what people see. I don’t mind my innermost feelings being shared with my close friends but not Facebookers – they are all people I know but they’re people I’ve worked with, met on nights out, etc., not all proper full-on friends. I guess we all know that. I am unsure about shaving my head. Christ, who wouldn’t be. Yet I know it’s better for me than the other option of it falling out. I need their money for the charities, not their sympathy or opinions about what I should do for the best…ggggrrrr.

Cancer Means People Make Room for You at the Bar

Well, they said I’d suffer with insomnia. They didn’t lie. I think I’ve managed about two hours sleep tonight. I purposely didn’t take a sleeping tablet because I don’t want to rely upon them… epic mistake!! And I’m supposed to be testing out my new walking shoes tomorrow with the 26-mile crew. Still, I guess that being awake rather than being ill is a bloody bonus. Oddly, I feel great.

I’m simply overwhelmed with people’s kindness.

My cough doesn’t seem to be shifting but it doesn’t seem to be getting worse either. I’m keeping an eye on it. I’ve no desire to be in the hospital. The nursing staff have explained that because my immune system is getting blitzed that the chances of me catching something is really high and the last thing I want to do is be ill. The cacophony of drugs seems to be working but the nausea remains.

I’m simply overwhelmed with people’s kindness. I’ve had texts, emails, phone calls and cards. I can’t tell you how touched I am by how lovely and supportive people have been. It’s also really hard to keep up with everything and feeling this rough, I don’t feel that inspired to communicate, but I think if they’re kind enough to contact me I really should get back to them. I’m also bright enough to recognise that people naturally get bored after the excitement of a poorly friend wears off. A bit like when you have a new baby. The communication will diminish and I’ll be left with the die-hards, the ones that truly love me. I don’t have a problem with this – it’s natural – but it’s something to watch out for. I’ve been here before with the excitement of the near-death experience from my motorbike accident. People genuinely mean well but lack in consistency sometimes when the drama wears off and the monotony arrives.

Sunday 14th February

Sunday! What a great day. I woke up about 7 am and I’ve not had to take an anti-sickness tablet all day. I’ve felt amazing, although I do appear to have a bit of a rash on my right hand and my neck. They did say my skin might be sensitive. I’m seeing the nurse tomorrow so we shall see.

They make room for you at the bar, give you the reserved table and are very smiley and lovely.

My mouth feels better today. My friend Karen drove over from Rugby with the most amazing chocolate cake. We walked for 8 miles, ate lunch at the local pub, and I chilled out the rest of the day. I feel well!!! Oh, and my hair’s not gone yet. Oh, the irony if I don’t lose it. Know what though? No regrets from me. My final tot up of charity donations was just under £8600. Not bad for someone with shit hair. As my eldest said: “Who would have thought your hair would have been worth that much money?” He’s right.

24 July

It’s odd. When you’ve had your head shaved that people behave very differently towards you. In a good way, I might add. Both last night and today at the pub people seem to clock the hair and make a mental calculation that no one would do that from choice, so either I’ve had cancer or getting over it… and they make room for you at the bar, give you the reserved table and are very smiley and lovely. A little ‘pity’, but I guess that’s normal on the basis that it’s not the best thing to have. I’m not used to people being soft with me. It’s quite nice, actually. I think I quite like it. It makes me softer too. This process is making me less aggressive, I think, which is not a bad thing.

So I’d like to list for you the positives I’ve got from this so far:

• Enabled me to release the reigns at work and to trust the team and Sarah to get on with it. This means I’ll have more chance of being able to sell it within the next couple of years.
• I get new tits (beyond excited), new underwear, my bikinis will fit better – size Fs like mine are a challenge to cram into the triangle bikinis I like to wear
• I’m getting softer, less irritated by things
• I don’t feel as ‘angry’ about life and I’m swearing less (have you noticed?)
• My hair will grow back thicker – which is awesome my hair has never been my finest asset

Monday 15th February

OMFG it’s Monday! Back to work for me; how fabulous. I feel GREAT. Normality – wooooo-hooooo. Had a fab day, although I only stayed for the morning. Back to earth with a bump, though. I had to hold a disciplinary meeting. I’m disappointed about this. I know everyone has their issues but I really could have done without this sort of thing on my first day back. I had the nurse in the afternoon and also had a new TV arriving (the first one I bought recently was damaged so had to go back). I’m learning that some things are more important than work and whilst I’ve got a superb and supportive team behind me, I don’t need to be breathing down their necks and I can leave them to get on with it. So I did. And I had a stream of visitors before I went for my hip scan to see what my ‘hot spots’ are all about, then it was dinner with some great friends. Feel sooooooo happy.

Tuesday 16th February

Tuesday was another busy day of hospital visits and work. Sat at the hospital, there are two ladies yakking on and on and on about world politics. Donald Trump. It’s funny really, who gives a shit? How can their opinion impact the world? What will they do about it? How will they make themselves heard?

Why in God’s name do some people DECIDE for you that it’s the bloody end?

Oddly, this brings me nicely onto the decision I made yesterday about how I’m going to change the way people react to those three little words. “I have cancer” has inspired me to think about how I can change people’s reaction to cancer. It’s so easy to see how cancer sufferers end up feeling depressed, sad, down and convinced they’ll die. Lost in a spiral of negative thinking. I cannot tell you how many people have made comments to me like, “If anyone can beat it, you can, Vicki,” “Stay strong,” “Are you sure you’ll be ok?” and “I THINK you’ll be fine!” These, by the way, are NOT positive comments, they’re not helpful and are fucking aggravating. At no point when I got my diagnosis did they say “It’s touch and go” or ” You have a 50/50 chance of survival,” so tell me why in God’s name do some people DECIDE for you that it’s the bloody end? Now if I’d have said “I have mutating cells and need treatment,” no one would decide my days were numbered. So I’ve decided I’m going to change the world and I’m thinking of contacting GMTV at some point, that’s after I’ve turned this into a mini- book/blog.