Sunday, 31 January 2010

Climb every mountain

Right, we are going to go down here. Walk across the field. Then we are going to climb up over there”, I said in a rather bossy manner. Our eyes gazed over at the enormous hill in the distance, with a steep diagonal path carved out of its side. “But don’t expect me to converse at the same time”, I laughed.

I was talking to my friend Peaches. Now ... to say that she and I chatter is an understatement. We wouldn’t talk the hind leg off a donkey ... we would decapitate it. On Thursday she arrived at my house at half ten ... we managed to scrape ourselves off my squidgy sofa by about half twelve. What did we talk about? Absolutely no idea.

We were going to go for a walk up on the moors but it was a grey old day so I suggested that we go down to the coast instead. Once I found out that she had never been to Bantham then my mind was made up ... and we jumped in the car and headed south.

We popped into The Sloop, as is customary when I go down to Bantham with friends. We arrived just after one and for a weekday lunchtime it was very busy, which gave the place a nice atmosphere. We decided to have mushroom (super food!) soup served with some chunky bread ... and kept talking. At about half two I looked up and realised the pub was totally empty and suggested that we had better make a move ... after all this was our fourth attempt at going for a walk ... and this was the day that I felt we should fulfil our intentions ... rather than natter all afternoon ... drinking endless pots of tea ... nice as it is. I wanted to get some fresh air and exercise ...

We walked down the track adjacent to the pub and crossed the field. Things started off well ... until we hit the swampy corner ... which we needed to contend to reach the bottom of the hill. Now this might surprise you ... but I do actually own a pair of walking boots ... OK so they are red ... but I can assure you that I don’t mind getting them dirty. Which was just as well as the mud was thick and gloopy and we ended up getting stuck ... laughing hysterically more like four year olds, whose mum had momentarily turned her back, rather than 40 year olds who really should have known better.

We eventually reached the base of the steep incline and started climbing at a steady pace. We only made it about of a third of the way up and I had to admit to Peaches that I needed to stop. I had flippantly said that I wouldn’t be able to talk whilst walking up the hill but in fact I was joking. Normally I can walk and talk up there ... though perhaps a bit puffy. My infamous 'cocktail parties' may have come to an end ... but up until that point I really hadn’t taken on board the warnings that the effects of Killer Chemo could last for up to nine months. Yeah ... you heard right ... I went to see the lovely Dr Oh-so-luv-ver-ley on Wednesday and he said no more chemo.

The afternoon didn’t start off so well. Just before leaving to go to the hospital I went in to the garden to put some flowers into the recycling bin. As I turned around I saw a flash of black and white ... and there on my lawn was a magpie. Typical ... where is his partner ... one for sorrow ... two for joy ... but there was no wifey in sight. I dismissed it ... until it happened again ... on the way to the hospital ... a second single magpie flew in front of the car. Once more I saluted my feathered friend and wished him a good afternoon ... and tried to shrug off any thought of a jinx ... Until I got to the entrance of the hospital and a third, single magpie flew across my path. By this time I was really fed up. Instead of wishing him a good day I said something rather naughty which began with an ‘f’ and ended in an ‘f’ and instead of tapping my cap I gave him a two finger salute. I wasn’t in the mood for three dollops of bad luck.

As it turned out the afternoon went swimmingly. The waiting room was surprising empty and I was called to see Dr O punctually. He walked in to the consulting room and smiled and said: “Last chemo then.” I looked at him quizzically. “Do you mean that I have had my last chemo, or that I will be having my last chemo tomorrow?” He shook his head and said: “No, that’s it. I am cancelling the chemo tomorrow.” He went on to explain that he was now going to refer me back to my breast surgeon, Dr Jordan, who would arrange an ultrasound so as to determine what kind of surgery will be necessary.

I know you want a lumpectomy, and that is of course what we will aim for if we can”, said Dr O. “But if that isn’t possible then we will be looking at a mastectomy.” I nodded and replied “Mmm ... I think that is where me and Dr Jordan might have words ...”  It was Dr O’s turn to look inquisitive. I went on to explain “Well, if I have a mastectomy then I want immediate reconstruction but I know that there are clinical reasons for not going for this option. But psychologically I couldn’t handle only having one breast ... you see I am rather big busted ... it would be a significant issue for me ...”  I looked up at Dr O and he was nodding ... I tailed off .... I realised I was trying to convince somebody who knew full well that I am rather well endowed ... after all he has firsthand experience ...

Actually,” he interrupted, “it is us oncologists who tend to be against immediate reconstruction. But ... Dr Jordan makes a very good case for doing it ... and if he recommends that for you, then I will support it, as long as you are aware of the consequences of taking that option.” I smiled at him appreciatively ... and thought how lucky I have been to have such a luv-ver-ley oncologist.

As I walked out of the hospital and into the car park I cried. Not hysterically, just little tears of relief. The pressure and the worry of another round of chemo had been swept away. I could now recuperate. My white blood count will now have chance to come back up so I will no longer be at risk of infection. No more steroids my bloaty moon face can deflate. My hair, brows and lashes will return. I will start to look normal again. There are three stages to my care pathway trek ... chemo, surgery, radiotherapy ... I had finally completed the first and most arduous part. One gargantuan mountain down ... two to go ... Dr O had been so upbeat with my progress that his positivity had rubbed off ... as I got into the car I felt optimistic and buoyant.

Peaches and I eventually made it to the top of the hill ... slowly and steadily ... and as is often the case with challenges that face us and which we overcome ... the reward made it well worth it. “Wow, look at that view!” she gasped. I nodded, glad that she appreciated it as much as me. I have stood and looked at that beautiful seascape 100s of times and it has never failed to impress me. Making me stop and stand back and acknowledge that I am so lucky to live where I live.

Or should that be I am so lucky to live ...

Alive to take on my next challenge ...

Twin Peaks ...


  1. And Round 2 to come!! More tea, giggles, chat (lots of chat!) and maybe even some exercise...well if getting chased out of a pub at closing time counts! Love the memory, makes me smile just remembering the mud...still cant believe we escaped with our boots still on!
    Big Hugs P


  2. These 'mountain top' moments give us the strength to muck through the rest of it, doncha think?

  3. Fantastic!!
    I'm thrilled!

    big hugs

  4. This might sound strange. I'm (was) big busted too. Breasts were important to me - I thought it was my best feature. I fought for a lumpectomy but couldn't have it and immediate reconstruction was impossible - but they did place an expander which wasn't inflated for weeks. I was adamant that I didn't want to wake up breast-less, but that was not to be.

    I did not react to no breast the way I thought I would. It was surprising to see, but I was prepared and not distraught.

    What I wasn't prepared for was my recent cyst(s) aspiration in my remaining breast. It deformed my remaining breast and I believe that is permanent. That upsets me more than the mastectomy. Even though I will have an implant in that side eventually for symmetry, I can barely stand to look at it now. The missing side is better.

    Weird, huh? I just want to let you know that whatever they say to you - you will surprise yourself with your strength and ability to deal with it. Just as you have with chemo.

    Congratulations on chemo being done, and on enjoying your view. A "moor" sounds so romantic to this California girl. Of course, I have no idea what it is. :)

  5. The last paragraph is this entry is so touching and inspirational! That's why we hold our event, Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast honor the lives of women with breast cancer and join together as a community in support of them.

  6. Just want to send a cyber hug x

  7. Paula, just catching up on your last couple of blogs (been away and before that work getting in the way!). As usual your blog made me laugh and cry. I really laughed picturing you giving the magpie the two finger salute, priceless!!! So pleased you didn't have to have your last chemo, and fingers crossed for the lumpectomy. Hope to see you soon, take care and big hugs. Debbie L xXx

  8. So I'm not the only one who counts magpies then!!
    Delighted about the chemo, such a milestone for you.
    Must go to Bantham and explore, I was just checking if you can take dogs on Bantham beach before i read this, it's a sign...
    Take care
    Faye x


I love to hear from you ... even if it is just a 'hi'!