We are beginning a series of journal entries from contributing editor Adrienne Lawler, chronicling her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. The following is the first in the ongoing series.
8th June 2017
Cancer is a funny thing. No really, it is. At least it is when you share the news with people and see their reactions; the ones you thought of as friends become either magnificent or totally speechless/helpless. Those you thought of as just acquaintances suddenly become heroes that make you ashamed you hadn’t realised just how brilliant they were sooner. If, like me, you are really fortunate, even the semi-invisibles in your world become highly present at the moment the explosion clears and reveals the damage left behind. I can truthfully say there has only been one disappointment in that department. Someone I loved very much who won’t even respond to the one message I’ve sent him and indeed, has gone out of his way to avoid any contact with me whatsoever. Even my ex-husband sent me a text of sympathy and he’s certainly not a fan of mine!!
Generally though, friends have been fantastic about my breast cancer diagnosis, but my true supportive strength is coming by the bucket load from my two children. I say children but I think that at 25 and 28 they’d probably prefer I stopped using that term – but what else do you call the people you gave birth to; my young adults? That just sounds weird! But therein lies some guilt. Not only do I feel guilty about being ill in the first damn place, I also feel bad about dragging my beloved children into this whole episode too.
However, they sat me down early on, after I had received the initial breast cancer diagnosis somewhat bluntly from the Sonographer – with whom I was sharing a darkened room and brightly lit screen showing very large black masses in my fun pads – and made me promise to tell them everything and make sure they were involved as much as possible. So for now at least, that’s what I’m doing, not just for them, but for me too. I need help. Theirs and other peoples and that’s not something many people have EVER heard me say!
Mind you, being told you have a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer which has been quietly growing to the size of a lopsided pyramid (63 x 58 x 50 mm) when all you were worried about was the perkiness of your boobs, is a bummer. I’m sure I should wrack my larger than average vocabulary for a better word but to be honest, bummer is a vast improvement on the four letter ones I’ve been thinking and using since hearing the breast cancer diagnosis last week. Even the C word – and we women know how much we hate that – has made a treble appearance!
So today is a quiet Sunday, but next week will be another week of ‘giving.’ On Tuesday I will be in the metal tube I’ve already got to know and loath because of my MS. Oh, didn’t I mention it before? Thirteen or so years ago I was diagnosed with that too, but very early on, I made a deal with it; I wouldn’t bother it and it wouldn’t bother me. If I’m honest, it has sometimes broken its side of the bargain but I’ve largely been able to keep it a secret so that people (especially potential or existing clients) don’t fear catching it or worse, embarrassment at finding the right way to deal with it. My own embarrassment, as much as theirs I suspect, but there you go.
Next week’s exciting adventure starts with a few hours in the scanning department, first in the MRI tube then CAT ring on Tuesday. Then on Friday, I’ll be meeting up with a senior Oncologist to find out if this bugger has wormed its way into the lymph nodes as well and what the plan is for the chemo to start.
Apart from death and disfigurement of the girls (boobs) I’ve also been worried about the really important stuff. My hair. The days of complaining about the way it sits, or the cost of expensive colouring seem like a fond memory now but unsurprisingly, I quite like having my hair on my head rather than loitering uselessly on the floor or pillow. For that reason, I’ve been put in touch with a fabulous man who is behind ‘cold cap’ therapy. Guess what that is? Yep, you’re right; wearing a cold cap. A really, really cold cap (minus 5) that I’m sure has never troubled any reputable milliner with its fashion sense of style, half an hour before the chemo starts, throughout the ensuing drug fest being pumped through my veins and then for a fabulous hour afterwards. Deep joy.
I’m told it looks like a riding cap but gives the wearer no additional ability to ride anything except a drip pumping poisonous chemicals into your body. Fortunately, I know their toxicity is only short term for me but hopefully permanent for the pigging tumour. For pigging, please feel free to substitute it with any word you think appropriate. I certainly am/will/intend to at every opportunity.