And Still I Rise
12th July 2021 I was diagnosed with Grade 1 Ductal Carcinoma. I mean, if you’re going to get breast cancer, then this is the one that’s most treatable. It’s low grade. Slow growing and had probably been there for years.
Lenny the lumpy lodger wasn’t the issue. The issue was with my lymph nodes, which as far as the breast is concerned live in the armpit (Axilla). The ultra sound showed that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes, so they had to come out too. In fact, the doctor seemed more concerned with those than the lump.
But I’m racing ahead so let me back the truck up.
Lenny the lump was found through a NHS breast screening that all women are invited to take when they reach 50. I’m one of those women that obligingly go along to cervical screenings, have a regular flu jab etc, so going to the breast screening was never going to be an issue for me.
I completely forgot about it after i’d been. Just ticked it off the personal admin list as a done and got on with life – which was pretty hectic to be fair. My dad had recently come home from hospital to receive palliative care through his end stage heart failure and mum, who I had long suspected had a dementia, had a ministroke. I’m not going to talk about their issues as it’s not for me to tell their story, but it is interwoven with my own, so I will mention it from time to time. Anyway, it was pretty obvious that mum couldn’t care for dad on her own, so I had moved in with her by the time I received my letter for a second assessment. I wasn’t shocked, really. It was the first ‘on the record’ screening of my boobs, and I suspected they had picked up on an old scar / scar tissue that sits under my left boob. I had open heart surgery when I was about 6 months old and the stitches never dissolved as they should have done, and although they weren’t painful, I could still feel them just under the skin (my party trick for a lot of years was whipping up my top and ‘popping’ the stitches out of the crevis, it was gross!)
Anyway, that’s all it was so I took the husband along for moral support. The oncologist did the ultrasounds, stopped the machines, called my husband in and told it was cancer. Just like that. Oh, she was absolutely lovely and took her time, but she knew instantly what she was looking at and told me straightaway. She said that there was swelling in my armpit and she thought it had spread so they did biopsies (imagine the sound of a hole punch, except it’s in your boob!) and took samples from the armpit as well.
I left the hospital a hot mess. I was fulltime carer for mum and dad, my son was getting married in 3 days time and I had a book to finish.
Talk about a shitstorm.
I initially thought not to tell my son until after the wedding, but we are close, incredibly close and my intention went out of the window when I heard his voice. he deserved to know the truth. he could probably tell by my voice anyway as I had cried a river since hearing the news. He was brave, he was stoical, he was as I had raised him to be; supportive, encouraging and did I mention brave?
The wedding took place on Friday 16th July 2021. It was without a doubt the most magical day. In all honesty, it was the last day that I truly let myself go and felt complete and utter joy.