Sunday, 21 February 2010

That was the week that was

The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.
François de La Rochefoucauld

Surprises are weird things aren’t they? Unexpected events which can make you ... or others ... feel happy ... sad ... lucky ... unfortunate ... or maybe optimistic ...  Some have an impact that last only a few moments ... but others can be hugely dramatic ... life changing ...

Let’s take Nigel Page for example. He woke up at his home in Cirencester last Saturday ... as I expect he has done on innumerable occasions ... though he probably won’t for many more ... ‘cos on that morning self-confessed “white van man” Nigel logged on to his National Lottery account ... to discover he was Britain’s biggest ever lottery winner ... with a cool £56 million sitting in his piggy bank.

Recalling events Mr Page said: "I'd already checked my National Lottery account and had seen I'd won £55 on Wednesday’s Lotto when I decided to buy two Lucky Dips for the big EuroMillions jackpot on Friday. I didn't think about it again until Saturday morning when I was watching the news with my daughter and saw that there was one UK winner who shared the jackpot with a ticket in Spain. I logged on to my account and saw the Lotto win for £55 in my account and just below it was the £56m EuroMillions prize. I started shaking and couldn't speak." At a press conference later in the week, his partner Justine said: "It's an amazing amount of money. We could never have wished for this."

And, usually that probably would have been the most awaited press conference of the week ... but it wasn’t ... because a couple of days ago Eldrick Tont Woods, better known to you and I as Tiger, decided to stand before the world’s media and, for the first time, make a grovelling public apology for cheating on his wife Elin. During the rambling 13½ minute public confession the shame-faced sportsman admitted his behaviour was "selfish and foolish". “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules.”

Now, let’s face it, although the reports of an incident, which took place a few months ago, where top golfer Tiger was found lying unconscious outside his mansion in the early hours of morning, after smashing his vehicle into a fire hydrant and a tree, all sounded pretty odd ... the fact it resulted in claims that for years he has been playing away from home was an unexpected revelation for most us. And then ... what went on to be even more startling ... was the news that it was not just one infidelity ... but that he had been victorious with at least a dozen birdies ... including a Las Vegas model, an Orlando waitress, a Manhattan socialite and an LA porn star. You gotta admit ... he’s got an awful lot of tiger in that tank ...

Soooo ... what made our world renowned pro-golf swinger so very appealing and attractive to possibly a vast number of different women? Eldrick Tont, the poker–faced, mono-syllabic maverick ... it certainly wasn’t his witty sense of humour and smooth charisma ... or his penchant for wooly tank tops and dodgy caps. Perhaps it was that array of golden trophies ... and that billion dollar fortune from winnings and endorsements? Mmm ... just possibly.

And despite his huge wealth and fortune, as Tiger walked with confidence and assurance to the podium, in front of hundreds of journalists, photographers and cameras, who were in turn going to relay his babbling confession, his every word and gestures, to millions across the world, there must have been, even if for just a fleeting moment, a point when he thought to himself “Surely, this isn’t real. Not in a million years could I ever foresee this happening to me.”

And whilst Tiger was beating his breast ... to emphasise the sincerity of his apology to his fans and sponsors ... oh and his wife ... I was lying semi-naked in a darkened room with a tall, dark, handsome man staring intently at mine ...

Yes, Friday was ultrasound day. From the moment they called me on Tuesday with the date and time I was dreading it ... for a few reasons. Firstly, it was at my initial ultrasound scan back in August that I realised that the huge Yukky Lump in my right breast was indeed malignant ... and not “probably just a cyst” which everyone kept repeating. That visit started off OK with Dr U, the consultant sonographer, being very polite and courteous and the assistant nurse chatty and cheery ... but as the examination progressed the atmosphere in the room completely changed. Dr U stopped talking and became very quiet and appeared really concerned ... I clocked how the nurse’s face dropped when she glanced at the screen ... and then she insisted on holding my hand ... even though I had said she didn’t need to. Nobody said anything ... my whole body started to involuntarily tremble with shock.  Oh my God ... it is cancer.  “Say something!” I barked loudly at Dr U “You are scaring me.” He replied matter of factly “I am going to numb your breast. I need to do some biopsies on the lump.”

After that first scan I walked out of the ultrasound room to where my friend Nit Nat was patiently sat waiting. "It is cancer" I whispered. “Why? What did they say?” she asked. “Nothing.” “Nothing?” she repeated. “Nothing, but I know.” And I was right.

Now, another reason I was anxious about this second ultrasound was that everyone – especially Dr Oh-so-luv-ver-ley and Dr Jordan – has been telling me how pleased they are with the way the Yukky Lump has responded to the chemo cocktails. It went from something that basically filled the bottom half of my breast – about the size of small orange – to something that could not be felt between treatments 2 and 3. However, as I have not been scanned since that first time back in August ... nobody could be 100% sure what has really happened ... I was afraid this ultrasound might reveal something unexpected ... show that the lump had only shrunk a little; or maybe not at all ... or perhaps it had even grown ...

Hello again,” said Dr U in a friendly manner. “Hello”, I said. Again? Oh dear does he really remember me? Why? Because I was the girl who had previously strolled in with what she thought was a little harmless cyst but walked out with a grotesque and aggressive malignant lump? Or is it because there are not that many patients who end up shouting at their sonographer ...

I see from your notes that things seem to have gone well?” I explained that it has not been possible to feel the lump since October. “Well, if you could lie down we can take a look.” I took the familiar position on the couch, as I did before, with my right arm crooked above my head, nonchantly observing the ceiling. Dr U was studiously silent as he rolled the probe across my gelled breast – every now again stopping and typing something and then starting again. Then he got up and walked across the room ... he flicked a light on to see or read something ... and then switched it off ... and returned to his seat. Oh God, no. This is it. He has gone back to check my notes. Something must be really wrong ...

You can sit up now,” he said. “Well, there is a lump.” “Oh right,” I croaked. “But it has shrunk dramatically,” he smiled. “I want you to go and have a mammogram and then when that is done you can come back here and I will write the old figures and the new measurements down so you can take them away with you. It is good news.

I did as I was told and sure enough when I returned he had written down the measurements of the Yukky Lump. “The figures on the top are the original measurements back in August, the largest being nearly 5cm. The figures underneath are today’s measurements, the biggest is now only 1.5cm.” “Where is it?” I asked, “is it deep into the breast?” “No, not at all, it is quite near the surface. Look I will show you.” And  he eagerly pulled out images from the first and second ultrasound and mammogram scans and secured them against the light board. He pointed to the two on the top, “These are from August – you can quite clearly see the lump. And these are from today.” “Is it behind the nipple?” I asked. “No”, he replied and pointed to one of the latter scans “it is below.”Why can’t I feel it then?” “Basically it has been beaten down by the chemotherapy, it is now just a small palpable mass.” “Will it be possible to do a lumpectomy?” I asked rather pleadingly. “We will all gather on Wednesday to discuss your results and then you will meet with Dr Jordan to hear what we feel are the next best steps.”I am meeting with Dr Jordan next Friday,” I chipped in. “Excellent” he replied as I opened the door and thanked him for his time.

You are going to have to help with this one,” said My Little Friend, when I spoke to her on the phone a bit later. “I don’t feel comfortable congratulating you on finding a lump.” “Well, the thing is”, I explained, “if they couldn’t see anything on the scan it didn’t necessarily mean that I no longer had cancer. Instead we would have to assume that it had fragmented, what Dr Jordan illustrated as ‘hundreds and thousands’, and if I that was the case then I would definitely have to have a mastectomy. However, now there is a definitive lump he may be able to do breast conserving surgery, a lumpectomy, so although it sounds a bit odd, for me it is good news.”

So I am currently sitting on tenterhooks until I find out on Friday what Dr Jordan and the posse think is the best way forward for me. Now, I don’t like to describe myself as a half-pint-empty kind of girl, ‘cos that makes me sound negative, and I don’t think that is necessarily true. But I do tend to curb my optimism ... to protect myself from mind blowing disappointment. So I am not assuming that because they have found a lump that Dr Jordan will say that a lumpectomy will definitely be possible ... after all it might be the wrong size, in the wrong place, it could be the wrong shape, or have the wrong flavour ... just the wrong ruddy something ... 

But on the other hand this is what we were aiming for in the first place ... for the Yukky Lump to shrink from the size of a lemon to that of a small grape ... a little lump that could be easily removed. So surely it isn’t wrong for me to have an open mind and positive thoughts that things might go plan?

Isn’t life about weighing things up and trying to tailor your hopes and expectations accordingly?  For example, you wouldn’t do the lottery if you really felt you had absolutely no chance of winning ... and let’s face it someone has to.

However, on the other hand, you might want to think carefully before putting a sizeable wager on Wicked Woodie’s willy not going a-wandering once more ...

Though ... as we all well know ... life is full of surprises ...


  1. Hugs and hang in there. Sounds like the glass is more than half full and filling up. I do hope you don't need a mastectomy, but if you do, I had one and if I can answer any questions about my personal experience in having one, please ask. I'm doing AOK. Take care...Betty

  2. Honey it's definitely sounding a long way from last August. Keep moving forward & know how much people are thinking of you-wherever I go it's "how's Paula" "have you read Paula's blog" love

  3. So it's Friday. What did you find out? I guess that I'm on tenterhooks too. I've been thinking about you a lot.

  4. Anxiously waiting to hear how Friday went Paula..... big fat hug and sloppy kiss.. Sharon B

  5. Life is full of surprises. Some we want, some we don't want. Hang in there & we'll be thinking of you!

  6. some great writing from the heart- love this it's so uplifting to read.


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