Monday, 3 May 2010

One small step ... one giant leap ...

Work like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ve never been hurt
Dance like no one’s watching
Sing like no one’s listening
Live like there is no tomorrow
Mark Twain

Friday ... and the Sloane Ranger came over to Funky Town and we strolled into the high street. After a spot of lunch (thank you Hun) we had a bit of a wander around the market and the cute little shops. It was in one that I pointed out a little plaque, you know the sort, brightly coloured, a bit kitsch, the type that people hang in their kitchen. The verse on it was the one above. “I think I should buy that and hang it on my desk at work” I joked with the Sloane. “Oh yes ...” she laughed appreciatively.  I am sure she feels some camaraderie with my current colleagues ... and empathy ... and sympathy ... after all she spent a number of years listening to my 'beautiful' dulcet tones ...

Later that evening, tucked up in bed, I was reading a magazine which featured an interview with Joseph Fiennes ... the actor ... best known for wearing breeches and doublets ... When asked “What do you think is the most important lesson that life that has taught you?” He quoted the exact same poem ... surely someone somewhere is trying to tell me something ...

It has been a busy week ... my diary has been so full even Bridget J would be envious. On Monday I met with Mr Campbell to discuss my return to work ... before meeting up with over a dozen of my girlie friends from work for a pub grub evening (thank you Lindyloo for organising). It was great fun ... lots of giggles and raucous laughter, in fact as if we could neither be seen ... nor heard. No, Cornish Cous, I am not going to repeat what happened at that Divorce Party you attended and what you actually did to those vodka jellies! Then on Thursday I had lunch with Hoops and Margarine ... before attending the staff awards ceremony ... where I boogied for hours ... like no one was watching.

Wednesday was the day that I went into work ... to discuss my return with HR. My half hour meeting was followed by cruisin' around the office getting up to speed with my friends and colleagues ... which took four hours. Yeah ... I know ... four hours ... but I had a lot of catching up to do!

Whilst meandering around the building I bumped into PG, a colleague who I haven’t seen since I was at work back in August. We started chatting and she asked after my health, what treatment I had received (chemo and surgery) and what further treatment I am to receive (radiotherapy). She went on to say that a friend of hers had been diagnosed at a similar time as me, but that the chemo had no impact on her tumour so they terminated that treatment and undertook radical surgery instead. I said that I empathised ... that I know of women who had received chemo and that their tumour hadn’t shrunk ... or even continued to grow. I explained that I appreciate that the treatment worked for me ... that initially things were definitely not looking good ... a 6cm grade 3 stage 3 tumour ... but thankfully the chemo had reduced Yukky Lump to less than half its original size ... and fortunately it appears it has been caught before it ventured any further.

PG said that her friend had not felt a lump but had made an appointment to see her GP after seeing a dent in her breast ... and that she didn’t realise that this was something to look out for ... that when she checks her own breasts she is only looking for a pea-sized lump. Which, of course, was an opportunity for me to give my little spiel ... so I explained ...

You need to feel your breasts for changes... any lumps ... small or significant. Look in the mirror ... for any dimpling ... puckering ... or indents. Inspect the nipple for discharge. Some women do experience tenderness and soreness ... either immediately before their period ... or during the middle of the month ... and this is sometimes accompanied by ‘lumpy breasts’. Breast cancer doesn’t usually hurt ... though I should point out that mine did as the Yukky Lump was so large it was pressing on a nerve. And ... at the end of the day ... anything that does not go away after a week or so should be followed up.

Thanks to my friend MackieC who has recommended the Embarrassing Bodies website where there is a great video demo on the best way of examining your breasts. Sermon over.

After I had finished my health promotion talk PG leant forward and whispered “Can I ask you a personal question?” Now, as I am sure you appreciate, I am a pretty upfront kinda girl ... yeah, in more ways than one ... but that request does unnerve me slightly. “Go ahead”, I responded, wondering what she was going to ask. “Well ... having said all that ... how come your lump was so big by the time you found it?” And that is a very good (personal) question.

Right, for those of you that have just joined me this is a potted history on how the Yukky Lump and I became reluctantly acquainted. I woke one Saturday last summer ... and as I lay in bed ... I could feel a funny tingling in my breast ... like one of the first signs of pregnancy. I knew that definitely wasn’t the case ... so wasn’t too concerned. However, a few days later my breast felt solid ... and then a few days after that I started experience some pain ... so I called my GP. To be truthful I wasn’t too worried to start with ... because the mass was so large ... sitting right along the cup of my breast ... I didn’t think anything so big could be that suspicious. I too, at that stage, naively thought that nasty lumps were petit pois sized. Sadly ... I was proved wrong. Very wrong. And for a long time I kept kicking myself ... beating myself up for not seeing it ... nor feeling it ... much earlier. How could someone who is usually pretty in tune with their body allow a lump to grow to 6cm before spotting it?

Now, I have told you about them infamous red shoes. Yeah the ones I used to wear to work and that everyone loved. “They are chilli red, with peep toes, a Cuban heel and shiny buttons. A bit sexy, a bit cute but def not OTT. When I wear them I get at least half a dozen comments. I often say that if I had a pound for every compliment that I have received then I could have bought another three pairs ... or more”. But what about their less glamorous and more practical cousins ... my little pink crocs?

Just before I found the lump, and whilst I was still at work, I had one of those late Friday afternoon chin wags with The Poet. We were talking about our plans for the weekend. “You know if people could see me at the weekends they would be horrified” I confided in her. “I don’t wear a scrap of make up ... I just wear something that is comfy ... no heels ... just my crocs.” “Don’t worry” she said “I am just the same.”

And that is how I was ... that afternoon in June. Saturday ... the day I spend most of my time doing household chores ... cleaning ... tidying ... washing. On that oparticular day the weather was warmish ... with a breeze ... a great opportunity to empty the laundry basket and peg everything up outside ... which is what I had done. It was about 5 or 6 o’clock and I had just started cooking supper, when I heard a tapping on the window. I turned around to see it had started raining. “Oh no, my washing!” I exclaimed. So I grabbed the wash basket, ran out into the garden and up the steps. But I didn’t make it ... just as I got to the top step my croc hit the damp surface ... and I slipped. But, because I had the basket in my hands I couldn’t put them down to protect myself, and instead I fell, very heavily, onto my chest. No kidding, it was full pelt. I lay there for a few seconds ... shocked ... and in pain. It is probably the closest, as a female, that I will get to understand what it is like for a guy to be kicked in the b...s

I thought such a heavy impact would, after a day or so, leave me with multi-coloured bruising ... but it didn’t. And in fact I didn’t think much about the incident until I was referred to the Breast Care Unit. It was only at that point that I thought that maybe the thickening in my boob was in fact internal swelling as a consequence of the battering ... but of course it wasn’t.

However ... it may still be relevant as I have since learnt that cancer can feed on inflammation ... inflammation that is fuelled by our environment. This maybe what we eat, drink or smoke. The amount of exercise we take and the amount of stress we endure. It is also believed that a number of cancers that develop are directly linked to a chronic inflammatory state ... for example cancer of the colon and rectum is linked to inflammatory bowel disease ... ovarian cancer is linked to pelvic inflammatory disease. Not only that, but studies undertaken as far back as 1863 showed that patients developed cancer where a shoe or tool had rubbed repeatedly, or at the exact spot on their body where they had received some kind of trauma, such as a blow.

Now I am not saying that my fall was the cause of my breast cancer – but what I believe may have happened is that the inflammation, which was a result of my fall against the step, fuelled a small but malignant tumour that was already there. A tumour which otherwise may have grown at a slower pace, which would have been less noticeable, and so possibly a greater opportunity to roam to more vulnerable places. Mmm ... perhaps I have a lot to thank those practical but unflattering little pink crocs for.

So what is in my diary for this week? Well ... Tuesday 4th May says ... “Return to work”. Yes! After nearly nine months of horrid gruelling treatment and its nasty side effects ... the nail-biting angst ... and lonely solitude ... I am about to take a significant step to resuming normality.

Live like there is no tomorrow.

I did.

But I sincerely hope there is a tomorrow ... ‘cos my red shoes are sitting here ... polished and shiny ... ready to dance around the office ... whilst I sing a little song ...

It really has been far too quiet there ... for far too long ...

1 comment:

  1. Very thought provoking, and so true about awareness of symptoms other than a wee pea shaped and sized lump. I had that exact tingling feeling but it came when I was looking for menopause signals and I totally mis-read it.

    I hope rads started well and that your return to work has gone smoothly and you are enjoying being back.

    Hey is that a flag counter I spot ;) - I have added the Thailand flag. Great minds think alike ;) ;) ;)
    Hope it is all going well


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