Today is World Cancer Day. A day marked to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection and treatment.
Friday 31 March 2017
“We have had your results back and they are positive……”
As I stared across the table at the breast consultant, I was momentarily confused. “Positive” I thought, that’s got to be good surely? However, out of my mouth, came a very shaky “what does that mean?” His response….”I’m afraid it’s cancer.”
Every sentence we all fear. Me included.
How did this happen? I was a healthy 42 year old woman. I have two little boys who need me and a husband who equally needs me. How could he cope with this, when only 1 month ago he had spoke at his own dad’s funeral after he died of cancer?
It felt like a bad dream. However, sadly, it wasn’t. It was real. No amount of pinching myself was getting me out of this – my life changed at that moment and I knew even then, it would never quite be the same again.
One week before this life changing conversation, I attended an emergency appointment at my local gp. For a week or so, I had been experiencing pain in the central part of my chest. I don’t know why I felt it might be something serious, but sitting in with the doctor – I realised I had been subconsciously worried about it. She wasn’t concerned, thought it highly likely inflammation of my chest wall from the crazy press ups I’d been doing courtesy of ‘Joe Wickes’ (little did I know that I would have a lot to be thankful for good ol’ Joe further down the line).
However, she saw I was worried and after putting me on anti inflammatories, she sent me off for bloods and an x ray. My wonderful friend met me and supported me through the remainder of the day and off I went to wait for 2 weeks for the results.
Now. Let me be clear at this stage. I was not a ‘boob’ checker. Why I hear some of you cry? Probably, because I was fearful of what I might find (bonkers I know) and perhaps part of me thought that it wouldn’t happen to me? I honestly don’t know.
Anyway, I digress.
2 days later – Mother’s Day. My chest was now very painful, burning. I didn’t even know I could be anxious but I was literally shaking from head to foot, couldn’t eat and then, excuse me being graphic but I started to pass blood. Holy shit. I was terrified.
My hubby took me to A&E, I was seen quickly and because I was so obviously anxious – they sent me for an ECG as well as more bloods and an x ray.
A wonderful doctor looked after me and the results came back all clear. I was fine. He sat and reassured me and again said he agreed with my GP, likely cause was inflammation of chest wall. A virus that to this day, I can’t recall the name of. The passing of blood likely to be because of the anti-inflammatories.
However. Something in me – said, I’m just not sure. I asked him to check my boobs. Hilarious when I think back. There was I, my hubby and this male doctor – and I’m insisting he checks my boobs.
Important point to note here. I was standing up when this ‘check’ took place.
He checked. Said “all is ok”. There isn’t anything to be concerned about.
Off we go. I’m slightly calmer, reassured. As a result I stuff my face with food. As a person who loves to eat, feeling as anxious as I had been had played havoc with my appetite.
Then the weird thing happens. I think I might actually be a witch. No, joking aside -Trust yourself. Listen to your instinct. I’m bloody glad I did mine.
I go off upstairs on my own, I lay on the bed and I check my boobs. Instinct made me do it, that’s all I can say really. Thank you to Joe Wickes for giving me chest pain. I wouldn’t have probably even got to this point without him.
Note – I’m laying down. Not standing up. I have not checked before.
Boom. There it was. A lump. My heart sank.
The next few days pass in a flash. I’m back in with the same GP, who lays me down. Finds the lump immediately. I am beside myself at this point and after being told it’s a 2 week wait to see someone on the NHS, I thank god for hubbys private health care.
2 days later I’m seeing the breast consultant at a private hospital local to us. He confirms it is a lump. He isn’t concerned. Thinks it is a cyst.
1 day later, I’m having a mammogram and an ultrasound. I need a biopsy. It isn’t a cyst.
1 day later – its 31 March 2017. You know the rest………
Today is World Cancer Day. A day marked to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.
I count myself as very lucky. 11 months on and admittingly, my journey has been far from easy and I’m well aware it is far from over.. however, I am here and it has gone and for that I am forever grateful.
Sharing my story was a tough decision. It’s a very private journey to go on and I felt and still do, very vulnerable being so honest with strangers. However, given the number of women who have since reached out to me asking for help, Its obvious to me that many women (and I’m sure men) continue to need support outside of their ‘treatment plan’
There are so many tips I can share, so much perspective that I have gathered and by sharing, I know can really help anyone get more from each and every day. I can tell you that when faced with adversity, you really are stronger and braver than you feel. I can tell you that your mind in troubled times can be your friend, or your enemy and that the investment in this, has been one of my greatest learnings. The growth in me has been a big chunk of how I could cope through some very dark days.
However, for today, for the benefit of World Cancer Day, my message is in appreciation to catching my C early.
My message for you all is:-
Check your bits. Whether you are male or female. Healthy or not. None of us are invincible and leaving it because of being scared just means we could lessen our chance of recovery. Only yesterday I saw the stats of prostrate cancer survival rates in decline, whereas breast cancer survival rates are increasing. I wonder how much of this is down to checks? Who talks about it? Who pretends that all is ok for fear of facing it? Is our fear really worth our life?
Trust your instinct. Our NHS is amazing. Fact. However, they are massively under pressure and with 1 in 2 being the cancer stats – don’t rely solely on someone else to know if you need further tests. Know your body and be brave in standing up if you think something isn’t right. That isn’t easy but we owe it to ourselves to do it.
Raise awareness. I don’t mean by sharing a on your fb wall – what the actual f**k is that anyway?! I mean by facing it, by talking about cancer. If we continue to be consumed by fear over it, it will beat us all. By us understanding what we could do to prevent it in the first place, by knowing what to do to try catch it early, by knowing both the conventional and alternative ways to treat it and by seeing how many positive stories there are of people surviving it – maybe, just maybe we can start to improve some of these stats and stop feeling terrified every time one of us hears “it’s positive”.
If you do want to grab a spoonful of my perspective or need help on a personal journey of your own, feel free to pop on over to me and say Hi via my Facebook page or website.
With love and light
Leigh and the two little boys who help keep me strong.