Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Everything changes in an instant

It's strange how quickly everything can change. I've spent the last six weeks adapting to the new reality of moving to Uganda, getting stressed about everything we need to do before we go, running out of time and money, trying to see as much of friends and family as possible. And then suddenly it has no bearing any more.

Last Sunday night I felt a lump in my breast. After the weekend I had, I thought 'Just my luck'. So much stuff had gone wrong that weekend, from the smallest decorating jobs to my mum falling off her horse and breaking her ankle, that I was lying there groping my tit in the dark thinking 'To get breast cancer now would just finish this weekend off nicely'.

I was being flippant. I didn't think for a moment I'd have it.

Until I saw the screen during my ultrasound on Thursday afternoon and could not escape the big black hole in the centre of the scan. Before I was called in to the consultant's office to get my results I knew it would be bad news. That moment between knowing and actually being told was the most terrifying one I've ever had. And I spent it, feeling not very brave at all, blubbing down the phone at the boy who was still trying to persuade me gamely that I was probably just being paranoid.

Since then it's been a whirlwind of absorbing information and the implications of what this means. I had the chance to go through my own series of realisations. I have breast cancer. I need to have an operation to get it cut out of me. I might need to have chemo. I might lose my fertility. I will certainly lose my hair. We won't be able to go to Uganda.

Fuck. We won't be able to go to Uganda. That hurt more than all the others as it's more real and immediate.

Then, if we don't go to Uganda, what do I do here in the meantime? Has my job already been offered to, and taken, by somebody else? Could I get it back?

I phoned Rich, and listened to hin go through the same slow dawning of implications. I'm not the only one who's handed in their notice - he has too. I phoned my Dad, who was bravely optimistic for me. And then, third on my list, I phoned my boss, asking him whether it would be at all possible to consider staying in my role as everything has changed. He tells me he was due to make my replacement an offer in the morning but will sit on it for a few days while I work my head out. He's also flabbergasted. So am I, but the need to focus on making decisions starts to pull me out of the state I'm in.

We phoned Uganda on Friday night. Debbie, the boss to be, was brilliant. Genuinely in awe of my problem (when she of all people has had to go through so much more when her husband was killed a couple of years ago) she urged us to focus on my health and not on what she was going to do (altho, what is she going to do? she has been waiting for us for two months and while she does not blame us in the slightest, this really leaves her in the ****). What's more, she seems open to the possibility of us aiming to come out and join her to take up our jobs after all, in a year or so once I've got through all this shit and have a clean bill of health once again.

And on Saturday I was admitted to Princess Grace hospital for a lumpectomy courtesy of my work's private healthcare scheme (very very luxurious to the point of having a wine list,,. not that I indulged). Rich wrote This one thanks' above my right tit and two hours later I'm back in my hospital bed with a groggy head, a sore boob, and a blue nipple from the die they use for the sentinel node biopsy.

The good news is that my lymph nodes are clear. It has not spread. But because I am so young the chances of the tumour being agressive are so much higher that I will most probably still need chemo.

So here we are, the Monday after the Thursday i got breast cancer. It's been a busy four days. More later...


Marie said...

I am sitting in the library in Barcelona, and thinking of you and your blue breast, and how devastating it is to worry about your health while trying to reverse all the lifestyle changes you've made.

Keep thinking positive thoughts and getting treatment. You are young and strong and you will be fine. The hippo will be sad without you but he will recover, as will you.

Uganda will still be there when you're given a clean bill of health. Best wishes.

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

You are right. The hippo can wait.

But for such an untangible disease, it's the tangible side-effects I seem to be fixating on. Whether it's losing my hair or not moving to Uganda. It's selfish but it's human nature I guess...

But the shock of immediate changes is starting to wear off and we're busy adapting to the new reality. Find out what treatments I will need next week and was told today I may not lose my hair, but merely be forced into premature menopause! I think i may be ready to take baldness over hot flushes and night sweats but maybe that's just me.

You are in barcelona. Are you on your way home already? Done with Africa? I must check your blog for the latest...

Thank you, my dear, for all your words... x

Marie said...

Think of all the glamorous wigs you could wear. I think I'd prefer that to early hot flashes too, though I know someone who went through early menopause and she's pretty much fine.

My dentist had breast cancer many, many years ago (she was older and hers was more advanced). They gave her a 50% chance of making it(!). I would have despaired in her place, but she decided there was no reason at all that she shouldn't be in the 50% that made it. Years have passed now--she's so healthy and no recurrence yet.

I am in Barcelona, on my way home already. Not very happy about that. Home is full of routine and responsibility.

BTW, congrats to your man, who has stood by you! There are many weak people in the world who decide they cannot handle stress and just bolt. He's tough.

Chin up! Think how much worse it could have been, if your lump had waiting 60 days to appear. You are handling everything with grace.

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

You are right and as the week after diagnosis runs out, I am also running out of self pity (it is not my natural state) and looking forward to maybe, just maybe, having the chance to be blonde. Or red. Or curly. Or all those things my straight brown hair just doesn't do...
Hope the arrival home is not too much of a culture shock. But I'm sure, with your track record, it will not be long before you are off exploring once again.

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

P.S. For the record, I've got a 95% chance so the odds are fine. I give myself far worse odds by biking to work every day, or stepping out on to a pedestrian crossing on an average London street. I am in far more awe of people like your dentist. Or people like a friend of mine, who was given 6 weeks a year ago and is now clear of cancer and in recovery. Like me, he decided he'd be leaving town just before it got him and forced him to stay. Weird how it just renavigates life for a while. But a year is not all that long in the great scheme of things.... x