Saturday, 11 May 2013

My first year of cancer

Guess what I did this week? I had my first haircut for over a year! Yes it's growing back at long last! I was really lucky and found a post-chemo trained expert who has a salon less than half a mile from my house. What do you think? 

Today is the first anniversary of my diagnosis. This time last year, like virtually everyone else who is told they have cancer, I never expected to still be alive a year later. Now that I understand so much more about breast cancer and its treatment, I can see how crazy that fear was, but at the time it was very real indeed. I can recall every tiny nanosecond of that day in full technicolour and bose surround sound, and in some ways it seems like only yesterday, and in others, it feels like it was hundreds of years ago. 

Yesterday it was 34 years since my mum died, and again, some parts of that day are still so raw and real that I can almost feel and taste them, but in other ways it seems so long, long ago. It's funny how we measure our lives in easy-to-manage blocks of time and bestow certain feelings of sadness or happiness on certain dates of the year depending on what happened to us on corresponding dates in previous years. Of course I thought of my mum yesterday, and I thought of my diagnosis today, but I actually think of both my mum and my cancer everyday, so that's nothing special. If a year with cancer has taught me anything, I think it's taught me to grasp and cherish every moment of happiness whenever I can, with no guilt or fear whatsoever, providing it doesn't hurt anyone else, . So, despite the dates, I've had two very lovely days. 

A year ago I was on the floor in shock and disbelief, fear and sadness. I couldn't even have begun to realise how things would be now, exactly a year later, with a comedy show based on my first year with cancer from what I've written in this blog, with me being well enough to play myself, and to be having the time of my life doing it. 

This week has started to go a little bit crazy,  with interviews on radio and in the local newspaper, being recognised by a stranger because of the newspaper photo, my story featuring on websites, and even complete strangers twittering about it. People have been so enthusiastic and warmly supportive of what we're doing with the play, it's actually very humbling. I suppose it is a bit unusual, maybe there aren't that many funny plays about cancer performed by the person they are about, but I suppose cancer has made me see it differently. Having cancer has in some senses been liberating, I am now longer held back by what people might think or say, because it does give a sense of focus, a sense that time may be running out, and you have to live and enjoy and experience whatever comes your way. 

The coming week is going to get progressively crazier still. There are several medical appointments, various appointments for the children, two nights' rehearsal, a stack of beyond urgent paperwork to get done and dusted, lines to learn, facial expressions to master to go with the lines I'm still learning, a very fancy and rather exciting reception with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, on Tuesday, and a dog to care for too.

The dog. Oh he is a naughty one. He's picture-box gorgeous to look at, and 80% of the time he is adorable, great fun, affectionate and lovely, but at 5 months he still has some very aggressive moments and still bites sometimes, which considering how big he is going to be, is a complete no-no,. I have had most of my lymph nodes removed from my arms, so I'm at a very high risk of any cut becoming seriously infected very quickly, which is a bit of a worry. We've had a dog trainer in, we attend dog obedience classes in the park every week, and next week, he is going to live with the trainer for 5 days, a sort of "doggy boarding school. We're doing everything by the book, being consistent and focussed on training, but he is a particularly lively and dominant little fella, so we haven't quite completely cracked this dog-owner malarkey yet. Maybe things will get better once he has his bits chopped off, and he really does happen to be probably the very best looking dog in the whole neighbourhood. Perhaps he just came with more personality and character than we were bargaining for, but in the end, hopefully that will mean he fits even more perfectly into this funny little family of mine. 


  1. Hi Yvonne,

    I want to honour you on the first anniversary of your diagnosis. Youv'e been through so much, and achieved so much in 12 months! xox

    I've been following all your recent media and PR activities on Facebook...and I'm so happy that your forthcoming play and your blog updates have captured the hearts and intrigue of so many people around the world!

    I believe that the play will have a much longer life than the 3 upcoming shows.

    My Mum died 28 years ago on 29th May. I can really relate to your memories of that fateful day. I just have to think of that day, and it feels so real, surreal and ancient history, all at the same time!

    Steve, the big, beautiful, naughty dog!...cute photos! I'm glad you've got him in training classes. I'm sure the doggy boarding school will make a big difference...and then it'll be so important that your family can consistantly apply the techniques the trainer shows you, so you can enjoy Steve in a much more relaxed way.

    My poochio, Emmett still goes ballistic any time he sees or hears a skateboard (thousands of many skateboarders here in Ottawa!)...and he and I had training classes!!!

    All the best Yvonne, and I look forward to more blog updates.

    Sharon, Ottawa xox

    1. Thank you Sharon, and also for the comment below about my hair. It really a bit of a whirlwind at the moment with the show on Saturday - so much to do and so little time.....! It's funny how even after decades, the death of a mother still feels so acute, I'll be thinking of you on the 29th. xx

  2. I forgot to say...I love your hairdo!!!
    Sharon xox

  3. Love the hair do - really chic :-)

  4. Sounds like it's been quite the year for you. I think your new haircut looks very cute. Good luck with all the upcoming craziness.

    Here's a post I wrote about my first post-chemo haircut in case you're interested.

    1. Hi Nancy, thanks for pointing me in the direction of your "haircut post" - it resonated and really made me smile with all that indecision of what shall I tell or not...! I'm quite pleased with my haircut outcome although I would never normally have been brave enough to go this short. The wierdest thing is that I haven't worn a hat or wig since I had it done on Thursday, and I'd forgotten how very cold the wind can be! xx