Blog: The Big J vs The Big C

Making the breast of a bad situation ...
On 4 October 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This blog will chart my progress through treatment, and continued enjoyment of life, love and friendship.
​Expect humour, irreverance, occasional sadness, and staunch defence of the National Health Service.
​Btw, that picture is not me. :-)

Guest post: Veronica writes from her bed ...

The first of what I hope will be a regular feature, this guest post is from Veronica.

I just wanted to say how very much I am enjoying your blog.

I was diagnosed with grade 3 invasive ductal cancer in my left breast on 13 October so your story and experience are similar to mine - although I have just completed four cycles of pre-surgery chemotherapy which has been every bit as vile and debilitating as I feared. I am typing this from bed fully eight days after the last treatment and very annoyed not to be able to muster the energy for a gig tonight for which we bought tickets ages ago.

You don’t notice a lump growing in a big breast, do you, until it’s a real problem? I had the sentinel lymph node biopsy op on 4 November though and fortunately that was clear so I feel I have dodged a very big bullet.

Measuring Up to be Microwaved

Yesterday was my radiotherapy booking-in appointment. So, off I went to the basement of Bart's hospital to be fitted and measured.

Some more forms to fill in and consents to be signed - this time, consenting to have permanent marks made on my body. Until now, I have avoided having tattoos: it just doesn't appeal to me, though I've sometimes thought I might take it up in later life. Never did I consider that the design would be three small dots. But there you go: I'll think of it as abstract art.

Strip to the waist again, and put on this gown. I share the waiting area with a hairless woman and her two kids, a young adult daughter and a teenage-ish son. She's having radiotherapy to her brain. I ponder on how lucky I am.

Then it's off to the radiotherapy room, past a door marked "Mould Room": I think I'll stay out of there.

My team of three radiotherapists - two women and a man - are all friendly and kind. When I mention I'm a poet, they ask for an ode, and the only one that comes to mind is Jeremy Hunt. Really, you can't go wrong  having a go at Jeremy Hunt to NHS staff. My joke about sending my tumour to the USA goes down well too. "We've got a comedian here", they advise colleagues.

One Thing After Another

In my last treatment update post, I told of the two mysterious appointments in early January. Mysterious indeed. I turned up for the first one and discovered that both of them had been booked by mistake! 

Keen for the trip to Bart's not to have been a waste of time, I managed to come away armed with more test results, some pamphlets, a 3-month sick note and an invitation to a free massage whenever I want one. Result.

Reading one of the pamphlets - on food and drink during cancer treatment - I discovered that I have not been consuming enough alcohol. As an obedient and sensible patient, I resolve to address this shortcoming.

The tiredness, dizziness and headaches that began a week after starting Tamoxifen continued unabated. I ended up phoning the cancer nurses, who got back to me saying that the doctors want me to have a brain scan. I await the appointment. But of course, no sooner had I phoned up moaning about my side effects than said side effects abated!

Am I Fighting Cancer? Yes, But ...

"Fighting cancer"? It's a term often said but a matter of some discomfort and debate. I have been pummelling the punchbag of the issues, and here are my thoughts.

Yes, I am fighting cancer. It's a battle, and if you survive, you go through blood and bruises and can come out injured, physically and psychologically. And like a fighter, I spend a lot of my time stripped to the waist being attended to by medics!

You'll SHARE if you CARE

Today, little hearts have been appearing on Facebook walls. No message, no explanation, just a heart. Apparently this will help the fight against breast cancer. Huh?

Some undoubtedly well-meaning friends messaged me (and probably all their other friends) asking me to post said heart. Instead, I posted this:

Bllleeeuuurrrggghhhh Humbug

In my 20s, I would have spent most of New Year's Day in bed because I didn't go to bed until the Day was well under way. A little later, a hangover might have kept me in bed all day. Then with the advent of kids, no days could be spent in bed, least of all New Year's. Now I'm 50, New Year's Day has been spent largely in bed dealing with cancer treatment side effects.

Result!

Finally, my results are back from the USA, and at an appointment at Bart's hospital this morning, the oncologist set out my treatment plan.

The good news is that I don't need chemotherapy. Although I quite liked the idea of all my hair falling out, the idea of months of feeling rubbish and running to the loo to puke several times a day did not fill me with excitement. So, no yodelling down the great white canyon for me. Hurrah.

Battle Scars

Penicillin
is killing
the infection.
Inspection
revealed
it's healed.
I brandish
the bandage
removed
from the wound.
My breast
undressed.

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