The dust settles

I thought it would be literally impossible to ever think about anything else but it turns out it’s actually impossible to think about my diagnosis 24/7. The almost palpable anxiety that pervades this house has lifted, or shifted slightly at least.  However cliched, life has to go on, and on it goes. I have resumed my role of new mum (or an impersonation of one anyway), despite being so dire in the early weeks following diagnosis, Super Ted still knows and wants his mummy. There’s a lot of myth-busting going on along the way. Being a mum and having something to “fight for” hasn’t helped in the way I and others assumed it would. At times it is almost physically painful being around Ted, the what-ifs and uncertainties smack me in the face as I watch him developing. “He won’t remember this” to my ear sounds like “he won’t remember you”. Now though I am more able to drag myself from under the surface of self-pity and get on with some semblance of normality.

My long-suffering and amazing mum has gone home, 200 miles away. We couldn’t have coped without her acting as live in house keeper, personal chef, child carer, wig advisor, emotional support. Driven by boredom I have taken to terrorising her by text. Me: Mum, we need you please come back. Mum: what’s wrong? I’m getting in the car. Me: There are THREE items in the laundry basket…. Me: mum I’m sorry we’re just not managing… Michael didn’t cut the crusts off my sandwich … etc

All the cancer

The most recent news is that I have two cancers. My original scan picked up abnormalities in my thyroid, suspicions were confirmed by biopsy. Cue jokes about not doing things by halves etc etc… turns out I also have completely coincidental, unrelated thyroid cancer. The good news is that it is very early stage and small, and the excellent news is that it is not metastatic breast cancer which may have “changed the outcome” ( scary doctor speak). Symptoms might not have developed for years. Hopefully we’ll one day be saying breast cancer saved my life.  Unfortunately chemo is ineffectual on this veritable gnat bite of cancers. Treatment plan is unchanged but at some point they’ll be whipping out my thyroid and there will be more nasty hormone therapy I expect. The fact that we responded to this diagnosis  positively shows how far we have come in the last few weeks.

Wig shopping

The hair is shedding thick and fast. The biggest issue is a practical one, it gets everywhere annoyingly, horribly. I don’t think I’m particularly vain and my hair care routine previously involved whatever shampoo happens to be in the bathroom and a comb. However hair loss is an emotional issue, it’s a badge,  naturally drawing unwanted attention whenever you leave the house. It’s hard to know whether to ditch the cold cap (hair saving device which prolongs the length of chemotherapy by 2 hours) or persevere. Hair is now very thin on top, and the Friar Tuck look is no good for a woman within touching distance of 40.  After a bad experience with the wig ladies at the hospital (despite your prediction ladies that you will be seeing me again, you won’t. You can shove your nasty wigs up your arse) a lovely local lady was recommended and a syrup is on order. (Note to lovely lady if reading this: after our email discussion about my nervousness and your reassurances of compassion and discretion, I was not expecting a fucking sandwich board outside your house to “Welcome Alys!!!” WTAF?!?!?!) Sorry mum I couldn’t cut you out of the photo


The positives

There are surprisingly many.  The overwhelming kindness of people who have contacted me with their thoughts and more, gifts literally from around the world, meals, time. I am innately shy (which can be misunderstood as aloofness maybe) but I am embracing these connections with gusto. There have been reaffirmations of friendships old and new. People genuinely want to help and are relentless in their offers. What a bloody marvellous world, how lucky I am to know so many generous and selfless people. And other stuff; watching my other half and Super Ted develop a relationship which would have been so different. I’m sure he didn’t expect fatherhood to be quite so hands on at 48 and third time around but what a beautiful thing it is! A closeness and sensitivity among my ever supportive family, for all our foibles we stick together in a crisis (my heart breaks for my extended family who somehow manage to think of me during their own tragedies). New friendships formed via online communities with whom I can share feelings and thoughts which can’t be expressed elsewhere (Cancer friends! Like New Mum friends but they moan less) Thank god for the internet. And the jokes. I am now privy to  a whole new world of bad taste jokes and gallows humour, accessible only by meeting a rather crappy set of criteria. I can still make my best friend laugh, she can still make me laugh, even about cancer. Long may that continue.


The first six weeks

Howdy to anyone out there interested in following my journey. Weird word “journey” . I used to hate it being used in any other than the literal sense -i.e a physical process of getting from A to B. Particularly  irritating way to describe pregnancy/new motherhood (nah- that’s just a thing and then a job to do, I wish I’d realised at the time!) both of which I have recent experience of. However I’m learning that it’s an apt metaphor for this cancer stuff. I suspect I’ll also describe it as a nightmare at various points but “journey” seems right for now. I’m at the beginning, there will be various stages and landmarks before I get to the end, whatever the outcome may be.

I wish I’d kept a diary from the first day of diagnosis but have only just discovered the strength/motivation. For this first post I’m just going to rattle through these first few weeks, there’s a lot in my brain so hopefully I’ll be able to keep going with this and go on to talk about other stuff in more detail at later dates. Top topics currently include 1. Nice, kind people 2. Bloody annoying people 3. Annoying dogs 4. Annoying teenagers . 5. Feeling like you are completely mental. 6. Developing weird OCD and superstitions i.e “if England don’t beat Croatia I’m dead (oops) . All thoroughly useful themes for people in all walks of life I hope.

So in summary, when my little boy was six months old I found a lump in my right breast. Having a history of breast cysts in the family and breastfeeding at the time I didn’t freak. Made a doctors appointment, got a bit fobbed off, made a fuss and got referred to a consultant. Breezily attended  examination. Didn’t flinch when referred to another hospital in the trust on the same day for ultrasound, and if needed mammogram and biopsy. Didn’t twig when during the ultrasound the doc reassured me that the consultant wasn’t just a nice man but an excellent surgeon (ahem, yes I am an idiot).A week later I was sat in an office on a Monday morning being told I had invasive ductal carcinoma, (a fuck off huge tumour) with other pre cancerous cells and would require immediate chemo, mastectomy followed by radiotherapy.  I went into immediate shock which has taken weeks to subside.

I haven’t yet dealt with the trauma of having to immediately stop breast feeding my baby who was six months at time of diagnosis. That’s for later. I was underwent Positron emission topography scan to check if the nasties had spread. This involved being injected with a radioactive die which meant I couldn’t even see SuperTed for 8 hours , breast feeding was over. The fussy frommit who a day earlier screamed in the face of a bottle spent the night with daddy and by morning he was a convert, he’s now a bottle guzzling machine, we have to go to huge lengths to stop him spotting the bottle before it’s ready to shove in (various analogies for his behaviour similar to unfortunates with more hardcore addictions) . So a weight off my heavy, wide awake, completely melted down mind.

Fast forward.. I’ve transferred my care to the Royal Marsden. My cancer has been described as “eminently treatable” (not quite as reassuring as you’d think- I’ve managed to abstain from googling the technical definition of eminently). Awaiting results of thyroid biopsy which looks dodgy. Lymph node involvement which hopefully will be zapped by the whole treatment plan. I’m 2 chemo cycles in and faring ok so far. Hair coming out.  Full of medication, particularly stuff to deal with anxiety and depression and lack of sleep. I’m working on that.

Enough for the first post. I’ve got plenty going on in my brain and writing it down will hopefully be good therapy for me and may chime with others going through similar stuff. It might make my friends and family understand why I have turned into a complete nut job and will encourage them to stick with me through this pesky little journey.

thanks for reading, or pretending to 😜

alys x