Cancer Won’t Happen To Me, Until It Did

Cancer Won’t Happen To Me, Until It Did

Cancer won’t happen to me, until it did.

And it did last June.

I discovered a little nodule in my left breast, purely by accident when I was resting my right hand on the top of my left boob – something I now realise I do when I’m reading in bed at night. Must be a comfort thing, not dissimilar to the hand resting down the front of one’s pants that many males opt for while watching telly. I’m sure that’s a comfort thing too. 

Anyway, thank the lord I do do the hand on boob comfort thing. And thank the lord, or whoever was looking out for me on Wednesday 10 June 2023, that I happened to rest my right hand on my left boob that very night. And thank my guardian angel yet again that, for some unknown reason, I pressed down on that particular spot to feel a little hard lump.

I immediately checked on the right side that it’s not something that’s just there and I missed the memo. But after checking 57 times that it was in fact there at all and my imagination wasn’t playing tricks on me, my first thought was ‘Oh shit.’ But it was a surprisingly calm ‘Oh shit’ as opposed to the panic stricken one I’d assumed I’d feel should this situation ever arise.

I presumed it would be a cyst or some other easily explainable thing. Zero to worry about. Besides, I was feeling really fit and well and basically, the alternative just wouldn’t happen to me.

Having chemo

Nevertheless, my gut instinct was to get it checked asap and was fortunate to be offered an appointment the very next day.

‘I’m sure I’m being silly and wasting your time’ were the words, that stumbled out of my mouth in true apologetic British style, when I met my consultant the next day. ‘Don’t ever think that. You’re never, ever wasting anyone’s time,’ were the words that came out of his.

A mammogram, an ultrasound, a week later, and he was right.

When I walked back into his room this time a cancer nurse was sitting next to him. Her presence caused it to dawn on me that perhaps this might not be the ‘hunky dory, off you go you healthy, young (ish) thing and enjoy the rest of your life’ outcome that I’d quite expected.

Sure enough I was right. I was told I had breast cancer. A moment nobody who’s been told they have cancer will ever forget. 

I was lucky after an MRI that there was no sign of cancer cells in the right breast and I could keep my boobs. My gut instinct had been to please whip them off to remove any risk of more cancer, it’s not as though they’re really what they were anyway. But having talked to anyone who’s had to go through a mastectomy, I think it’s fair to say I got off lightly with a lumpectomy.  This did show, however, that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and I would need 8 months of treatment: 6 months of chemo followed by radiotherapy.

I surprised myself with how much I accepted it all. The big girl pants came out in an XXXL. I guess in life you never know when you’re going to need to get them out of the drawer and whack them on.

Some friends asked ‘Why you?’ Well, why not me when around 1000 people in the uk are diagnosed with cancer every single day. Others have felt angry for me, but without wanting to sound cheesy, I’ve never felt anything other than gratitude that the cancer was found in time. But I’m also very aware that it’s easy for me to say that, because it was.  

I did go through the obligatory game of guess the cause. Was it the binge drinking in my 20s? Too many Haribos? The chemical hair straightening treatment I’d been nonchalantly slapping on for years? I soon realised this crazy guesswork wasn’t going to get me anywhere and wouldn’t change a thing. The healthiest people on the planet can get cancer, while some 100 a day Benson and Hedgers who’ve not done a day of exercise in their lives can live to a grand, old, cancer-free age.

A recent trip to New Yor

So now here I am, a year on and adjusting back to normal life. The new normal for me anyway. I’ve likened the past 10 months to a lockdown, it’s just that no one else was on it. It’s an incredibly lonely time no matter how much love and support you have around you. Just as with any challenging, life changing event, nobody can ever know what you’re going through, unless they’ve unfortunately been through it themselves. And even then, we all react in different ways.

But I’m so very grateful to every single person out there, my family and friends and many people who I’ve never even met, who have reached out with such love and kindness. One of the many positives that has come out of my diagnosis is that I’ve never felt so loved in my life. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

And by sharing my cancer journey I hope it can help normalise the conversation around this disease which affects so many of us and our loved ones.

The C word is indeed still a scary one, but if caught in time there is so much that can be done through ever advancing treatment. So please check yourself regularly and if you notice anything unusual, don’t think you’re just being silly and probably wasting everyone’s time. As my dear consultant said, you’re never ever wasting anyone’s time. It could well be nothing, but also, it could just save your life. 

The #itsoktofeel4cancer T-shirts and hoodies are available here with 100% profit going to Cancer Support UK, a brilliant charity who offer practical and emotional support to people with cancer, during and after their treatment period.



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