Tuesday, 3 July 2012

I'll do it my way

Tomorrow is a very big day - I'm back at the hospital to find out exactly how big a threat this cancer is. When they operated, they took out three lymph nodes to test to see if it had spread, and it had, so they then removed all the right armpit lymph nodes to test the rest. Having read everything I can find to read about it, I now know that there is a direct correlation between how many lymph nodes are affected, and my likelihood of survival. It's all terribly exciting really.

I'll also find out if they got enough of the lump out during surgery, or if they need to go digging around again to find any more cancer-contaminated tissue. Straight after surgery they told me it was bigger than they had thought, and that they "didn't like the look of" the surrounding tissue, so I'm fairly convinced they'll want another go at it, and also that maybe this time they might want to go the whole hog and do a mastectomy. 

Then, just to ensure that they do what they can to completely ruin my day, I'll be told what treatments they're planning for me. Isn't "treatment" a funny word?  I think of treats as ice-creams and trips to the theatre, or a decent bottle of red wine, but I think they're more inclined to "treat" me with therapies of the chemo, radio and hormone variety. It's debatable as to which would do me the most good. 

I'm actually really looking forward to knowing whatever they are going to tell me tomorrow - at least then I'll have a much clearer idea of what's going on, and where we go from here. This no-man's-land of uncertainty is much harder to deal with. Whatever the truth is, I can deal with it far better once we have tangible facts to think about. 

Apparently I'm just like everybody else who gets a cancer diagnosis. When they say the word "cancer", we all initially hear "death sentence".  Our close family and friends also fear the worst, but then follows several weeks of quite hilarious dancing around the subject. In my case, I wanted to acknowledge that death was at least one of several possible outcomes, but no one else wanted to have that conversation. Instead, everyone was annoyingly upbeat and dismissive of any negativity at all. I could see that fear in their eyes whenever I tried to manoeurve the conversation towards my possible early death, and I could almost hear the cogs in their brains working in overdrive as they invented new and creative verbal dance-steps in an attempt to outwit me, so they could bring the subject safely back into the realms of happy, nice, sunny, positive thinking. 

Positive thinking is all well and good, but not at the expense of dealing with the here and now realities of the situation. I'm a single parent with three disabled children, and it would be the height of irresponsibility not to at least make rudimentary contingency plans. My own mother died when I was only 19, so I know how devastating it is to lose a parent far too early. If there is anything I can do now that might minimize the effects of my potential premature death, then let's do it. 

So the week before surgery, I wrote a will, with clauses to protect the financial interests of T, my profoundly disabled child. Complicated, but it felt really good to tick that box. It's ridiculous really, it should have been done years ago, but this has galvinized me into doing it. When the final draft of the will had been agreed and was ready for signature, I was actually very nervous crossing the road to the solicitors office in case that proverbial bus with my name on it decided to visit. That really would be pants, to have cancer AND to fall under a bus. Then there were one or two other, tediously boring but essential bits and pieces to do, just so I could give myself a little bit more peace of mind.

When I'm good and ready, my positive thinking will have me flying,  and will terrify any last little cancer cells into submission - I'll have them running for the hills like they never knew they could run. However, it will have to be on my terms, after tomorrow when I not only know the full facts, but I've come to terms with them properly. Until then, I reserve the right to screech like a wounded animal if I need to over the next few days, and to behave like a perfectly disagreeable human being, and then some. 

This whole possible dying malarkey is fascinating really. One day it will definitely happen, I just hope to be in my nineties when it does. Meanwhile, there are loads of things I can do to make my longevity much more likely, and I've read up on loads of stuff that really can help to increase the odds. There are no absolutes with cancer - some people who seem like they have cracked it don't make it, and others whom the medics gave up all hope for, are still around decades later, like my aunt. 

One thing I really hate is the semantics surrounding cancer recovery or otherwise. It's all so military and aggressive. I have absolutely no intention of seeing myself as a "victim" who has to "struggle" to"fight" and "battle" this "bravely". Whether I win or lose this thing, this vocabulary is really unhelpful, and the inference is that those who didn't make it were in some way "losers" or didn't "fight" hard enough. 

I am not brave, and I am certainly not a victim. I have cancer at the moment, but that is only a tiny part of who I am and what I am. I'll find a way to handle this that's right for me, however odd or quirky it might look from the outside. 

Just a quick update on how I've been - totally lousy until today. Won't bore you with the details, other than to repeat what WM said to me this morning,  "Oh my God you must be better, because you're being really annoying". Ha ha ha I must be back in business!


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with us Yvonne, you do it so brilliantly. xx

  2. Mary Poppins Dad3 July 2012 at 20:41

    As Woody Allen said "I don't mind dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens!" Just in case you need comfort read 1 Corr10 v13, just remember that the way out will be for the best but not necessarily your prefered option! Any help needed just ask.