The ‘fight’

After long discussions I persuaded Tom he should go to the States for a show he was working on.  He’d already missed out on two weeks out there and it sounded like the team really needed him. He would be away for six weeks and with the prognosis of just months to live it seemed like six weeks could be precious time we were sacrificing, but in my heart I truly believed I had much more than time than just a few months and I knew it would be good for Tom to be forced to concentrate on something else.

My brother John would extend his stay to be with me while Tom was away and mum would come and visit to help look after me while I went through radiotherapy.

The radiotherapy to my pelvis made me really quite sick. The sunny summer days taunted me as I lay on the sofa recovering from being zapped.  The rays would shrink the tumour but they also hit all the organs in that area.  I felt nauseous, I was losing weight and I was getting depressed.

When you’re ill because of cancer treatment it’s hard to remind yourself that it’s not the cancer itself that is making you feel so bad.  You can’t help but weigh up in your mind if it’s all worth it.  You have to balance the illness of treatment with your quality of life.  For anyone going through this struggle I’d have to say that, from my experience, it is better to at least give it a go and stick with it for a decent amount of time to see how you react to the treatment.  You might be really ill on the first cycle of chemo and want to give up, but the second might treat you more kindly and fortunately for me, by the third I was living a relatively normal life.

I’ve read and heard many cancer sufferers say they don’t like the word ‘fight’ when talking about cancer; it’s a cliché.  Maybe it is, but I do see it as a fight.

Acceptance is easier; there’s no waking up at 3am worrying if a treatment will work, if you’ll live to see your wedding day and beyond.  Who wants to be constantly prodded and poked with needles?  To willingly put poison into your body?

When I was feeling particularly sick one day after radiotherapy – and I feel guilty admitting this – it felt reassuring to think, ‘I’m going to die, there’s nothing I can do about it and I can stop all this treatment and give up.’  To remind myself that I had that option was comforting.

To choose to live and to battle takes energy.  Some mornings I look in the mirror, take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘Come on Ellie, keep going.’ Of course ultimately I want to keep going, I really do love and cherish my life too much to give up without, dare I say it, a fight.

Rosy outlook

Professor Hope had arranged for me to visit two research centres that were carrying out Phase I trials.  Phase I drugs have previously been tested in the laboratories but never on humans. Current Consultant had told us I wasn’t eligible for any trials but it turned out there were scores of them, although they were mostly in the very early stages of testing. In Phase 1 researchers are still trying to find out the optimal dose of these new drugs, with the starting dose being very low. This is gradually increased in very small test groups of patients who fulfil the criteria, so if you join an early group the dose is likely to be so low that it won’t make any difference. But when you’ve been given months to live, a shot in the dark is preferable to no shots at all.

The three of us headed off to see the research specialist; me with my limp, John with his positive attitude and Tom, nervous but full of purpose.

Sometimes in life you meet people who seem to have it all; extremely intelligent, good looking and super nice. The lovely doctor we met ticked all three of these boxes. I’ll refer to her on the blog as Dr Rosy because of her rosy disposition.  I warmed to her instantly.  She chatted with us, asked us what we did, told us how we were in good hands with Professor Hope and she thought that someday he would be famous. Dr Rosy explained the risks of a Phase I trial and answered all of our questions.  If the Capecitabine didn’t work she had a trial for me starting in August, which would give me time to try two cycles of the chemotherapy, get scanned and have a three or four week washout period before I started the trial.

It was explained that research into cancer was now taking a different approach. When drugs had previously failed in shrinking tumours they had been tossed aside, but now the scientists were looking at not curing but managing the disease – much like diabetes. This made perfect sense to me.  Aside from the limp I had no ill effects from the cancer living in my bones, liver and lungs. If a drug could be invented just to stop the cancer growing I could live with these tumours, and some of the trials they were running were designed to ‘chop off the legs off’ the cancer cells so they couldn’t spread.

At the end of the meeting a similar feeling to when I’d seen Professor Hope washed over me. I challenge anyone to go to a cancer research centre and not leave completely in awe of the people that work there. God knows how professional footballers or film stars dare to have such egos when people like Dr Rosy and Professor Hope do such genuinely amazing things.

Professor Hope and Dr Rosy had begun the process of rescuing us from the defeatism and despair provoked by the attitudes of the doctors I’d been seeing at my current hospital. They talked about new and exciting findings, of options and possibilities.  There was no mention of timescales.  There was a mind-set of what could be done, not what will happen.

The Whole Truth

“We can also see cancer in your liver and very small spots in your lungs.”

Current Consultant was in Chicago for the ASCO meeting and so were seeing another oncologist at the same hospital. Fuckety fuck. We’d all been so positive since seeing Professor Hope but now, as I was trying to skip down the path sign-posted ‘positivity’ the cancer seemed to be grabbing hold of my arm and yanking me back.

“I know no one wants me to ask this,” I said, avoiding eye contact with Tom and my brother and staring straight at the consultant, “but how will the cancer kill me?  Does it grow so big that it’ll take over my organs?”

“You just become very weak and lose weight. You’ll get weaker and weaker.”

I had a feeling that this was the child-friendly, fairy tale version of death. My experience of cancer sufferers on their deathbeds isn’t of people simply ‘slipping away’; they look like they’ve been slowly tortured, each breath more difficult to take, their previously healthy glow washed out of every pore.

I explained that in my previous appointment Current Consultant couldn’t guarantee me six months. The doctor looked at me, his head tilted at a sympathetic Princess Diana 45-degree angle. I suspected this was his well-practised, ‘you’re totally fucked’ face. “I would have thought it would be more than six months, but we are talking months here, not years.”

He showed us the scans of my lungs and liver and attempted to point out the spots of cancer on the scan. I stared at the screen, nodding knowingly, but the black and white images on the screen meant bugger all to me. I had cancer in my lungs and liver; this was not the time for a biology lesson.

So there we have it, my full diagnosis. Shocked? Still think I can make it past a year?  Because I do, I’m sure of it. I can’t deny that I left that room with my confidence battered, but at that point it would have been harder to lower my hopes. Before the appointment my brother had said it didn’t matter what they said or what bad news we might be given; it was about the solution. They may not have told us what we wanted to hear, but what could we do to fix it? To fix me?

The plan was to start on the IV of bone strengtheners (Zometa) and the Capecitabine chemotherapy tablets. After two cycles or six weeks of the Capecitabine I’d be scanned and we’d decide if continuing with treatment was worth it or whether I should just opt for a trial drug; the latter would be a complete shot in the dark.

The evening after I start taking the chemo I had a terrible sense of déjà vu, the same aches and feelings of nausea which had overwhelmed me the first time around. I couldn’t get out of bed, I was sweating, I wasn’t eating. If this was what my life would become I decided that I may as well give up, stop the tablets and enjoy what time I had left.

Luckily, that assessment proved a tad dramatic as two days later I felt fine! The Zometa had surprised my body and when it was wearing off I was back to ‘normal’ – the chemo was treating me well. In the self-pitying throes of sickness I had told my brother that I might as well hurl myself in front of a tube. Forty-eight hours later, as we sat on the sofa watching The Apprentice he looked over at me chomping on some salt and vinegar Pringles and asked, “still throwing yourself under a train, then?”

“Not just now, I want to see if this prat gets the boot, first…”

Bumps in The Road

Not to spoil the surprise but I’m getting married next year – all the girly details on the proposal will follow, I promise.  Anyway, today I sent off for ‘save the date’ cards.  June 2012.  As it came to clicking the ‘purchase’ I paused, hovering over the button that would deduct the money from my bank account.  A thousand thoughts ran through my head but they all lead to one big question, will I be here for that date?

Three months ago Current Consultant couldn’t even guarantee I’d be around for six months, here I am planning a wedding scheduled for a full 13 months after that prognosis. Taking a deep breath, in an act of defiance I double clicked the mouse and I bought the cards.

A cancer diagnosis in your 20’s gets you thinking about things that you shouldn’t even consider.  It sounds pretty gloomy but often when I’m listening to my iPod a song might come on and I wonder whether it would make a good funeral song. Most women who are planning a wedding would be thinking about possible first dance tracks, but instead, despite myself, my first thought on hearing a slow or moving song is; could this be played at my funeral?

During my morning routine I’ll catch myself looking at how much moisturiser is left in its pot or how heavy the shampoo bottle feels.  Will I need to replenish the products or will they ‘outlive’ me?  It sounds silly really, hardly the most major of concerns; hoping the half tub of body moisturiser won’t be your last.

Then there are the things I think I might miss out on. On holiday recently I spotted a small scar on Tom’s arm that I’d never noticed before, how had I not seen this before?  What else hadn’t I noticed about him? What might I miss out on?

Last night as we were kissing I held his face in my hands and was lost in the moment, but then a cancer rudely interrupts and I think how many kisses do we have left? Is there a predetermined number we won’t get past?

If I die I want nothing more than Tom, my family and my friends to heal and move on but I have to admit something I’m a little ashamed to put into words.  It upsets me to think of my loved ones living on without me; the people I care so much about getting on with life, and me becoming a memory.  It is so incredibly selfish but it hurts to think of being gotten over.

Cancer has forced me to contemplate the consequences of my death at a young age but while I have to process these thoughts and fears, I know that the most important thing is to get on with living.

Bella or Vogue?

In the meeting with Current Oncologist after our frenzy of research I told her I had made an appointment to see Professor Hope on Harley Street. On hearing his name her eyebrows sharpened and she adopted a sceptical expression; her immediate concern was that he would charge us a lot of money, and that he would recommend a drug called Avastin which was as yet unproven and whose cost could run into the thousands. She certainly didn’t seem to be a fan.

I asked for her recommendations for second opinions and she gave me a list of names but said I was unfortunate because the following week was the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting and many oncologists based in London would be in Chicago. It felt as though the progress we were determined to make was being frustrated once again.

Current Oncologist went over the list of questions we had raised in our email. She said that she felt we’d gone away on the previous visit with only the ‘headline news’. No shit. She seemed to think we’d simply blocked out the part where we discussed a treatment plan, which certainly didn’t reflect our recollection of events. Putting aside the urge for recriminations we then discussed a tablet form of chemotherapy called Capecitabine. If I were lucky I would tolerate the drug well, with few side-effects. The big bonus would be that I wouldn’t lose my hair.

My brother John had arrived from Australia and would stay for the next eight weeks while we formulated a plan.  As John, Tom and I sat in the waiting room in Harley Street there was a stark contrast with the central London hospital I’d been attending.  Pristine copies of Vogue and Tatler were scattered on the side tables; no piles of outdated Bellas and Take A Breaks with incomplete crosswords awaited this type of clientele.  I kind of missed those articles about how someone’s obese mother-in-law married her one-legged aunt. Of course anyone can get cancer, rich or poor, but you probably won’t be reading the same magazines.

Meeting Professor Hope for the first time, he shook my hand and told us how sorry he was. Despite his lofty position he seemed a genuinely empathetic person. His initial instincts were that Current Oncologist had put us on the right track with Capecitabine, but wanting to learn about all the options we asked about Avastin, the expensive drug Current Oncologist predicted he would try to ‘sell’ us.

He dismissed it immediately. “I’ll only ask this once, do you have enough money to go private?” “Not really,’ I replied. ‘But we could find the money if we need to.”

“In that case let’s not discuss money again. I’ll see you here and I won’t charge.  Now, let me think.”

He swivelled round in his chair, scratching his head and picking up the phone only to put it down again. He scrolled down his blackberry then tapped it on the desk. We were either watching a very convincing mad man or a genius at work; when you’re in my situation you’re really hoping it’s the latter. “Let’s see if there’s something a bit more funky out there,” he announced. He picked up his mobile and called a colleague who worked in research, explained my situation and arranged for me to go to a centre where they were doing trials on patients who had hormone sensitive cancers that had relapsed despite chemotherapy.

Professor Hope’s plan would be to start me on Capecitabine and in the meantime he’d arrange a couple of meetings with research centres to see if I could get on any trials as a back-up. If the Cape didn’t work there were alternative options out there.

Before we left we arranged to meet Professor Hope again. ‘I can’t do next week as I’m in Chicago,” he said. “But you’re lucky. The meeting next week will give me chance to discuss your case, get some new ideas.”

That kind-of sums up the difference between Current Consultant and Professor Hope. He saw the positive in a situation, he gave me alternatives, avenues to explore, a plan. Current Consultant had given me a death sentence and sent me away: there’s not a lot you can do with that, aside from give up. But with a course of action, with different options available, you have reason to hope and reason to keep going.

Our mindset changed, the world didn’t look pitch black anymore. When the three of us walked out of that building into the sunshine an enormous weight had been lifted. You can’t bottle that feeling. The future wasn’t written; we could yet play our part.

Note to Cancer…

Not over yet

Tom and I returned to London on a mission.  I called the Breast Cancer Care helpline and the nurse who took my call recommended I seek a second opinion. She told me there are women who have been living with secondary breast cancer for years. Then, as if to reinforce the message, that night my brother texted me from Australia; ‘It’s not over yet, let’s get a second opinion.  I’ll be there in a few days.’ Slowly we were recovering from the initial shock and we were now thinking of ways to deal with the damage.

I then posted on the Breast Cancer Care website and the response nurtured those initial shoots of hope I had felt in the church in Suffolk.  There were women who had secondary bone cancer who’d been living for ten years with the disease. For a third time, now by the women on the forum, I was urged to get a second opinion and so Tom and I gathered our strength and began to research the internet, write lists and compile emails.  We worked like my life depended on it.

We found out who the best oncologists were in London and emailed them, emailed their secretaries; even their colleagues.  We wrote a list of questions about treatments that might be available: chemotherapies, Cyberknife, trials and studies. Words and names I’d never heard of offered further hope.

I thought back to what the consultant said – we could try chemo if I wanted to. Wanted to. I’m 28, of course I want to try chemo, I’d try anything to give me more time.  In the days following the consultation I struggled to comprehend why I wasn’t offered a course of action. To this day I still can’t understand what happened in that room.  I run it over and over in my mind; how could I at 28 be written off?  How many other people are told the same thing as me and don’t have the support or will to challenge that verdict?

I’m a person with a partner I love, with friends that I cherish, with a life that in my view is pretty fantastic, but to me it seemed that to the people I was relying on to make me better I was just a hospital number; the treatment didn’t work on that one, she’ll be one of the statistics that doesn’t make it. Is it a funding thing? I guess the NHS has to draw the line somewhere. Sorry, we couldn’t fix her, next please.

Yet amidst all these dark thoughts, our fight back was beginning to yield results. One Professor who had been recommended by a member of the Breast Cancer Care Forum replied to my email immediately. I’d explained my situation and he said he’d be happy to see me, so we made an appointment to see him on Harley Street that week. Insurance wasn’t an option but we were willing to pay to get another opinion. For the sake of the blog I’ll call him Professor Hope.  Meeting him would transform my outlook and I believe ultimately my outcome.

Dem bones

The classic 'thumbs up' after the church service

Tom and I were on our way from the hotel in Pakefield to the beach, a five-minute walk– or hobble, in my case, thanks to the cancer eating away at my pelvic bone– when we spotted a church perched on a cliff-top above the dunes.

Neither Tom nor I are religious, but it’s what you do isn’t it?  Well it’s what we did anway.  We wandered in past the sheep slumped idly amongst the old and weather battered graves, intending just to sit for five minutes and try to find some sort of solace.

As we took a pew at the very back of the sparsely-occupied church a lady in the congregation asked us if we’d like to join the evening service. We looked at each other, each telepathically willing the other to find an excuse to remain by ourselves, but when neither of us did, we agreed half-heartedly. I have a habit of getting the giggles when singing in church, a nervous laugh that recalls my six years old self in Mrs Bartram’s class, trying to suppress a face-reddening laugh when being told off.

We duly moved forward to a seat nearer the ten or so worshippers. A ruddy-faced man of around sixty who looked like he could have been a local farmer began to give a reading. He had a Suffolk accent and initially kept tripping over his words.  I was about to zone out when I heard the word ‘bones’. Suddenly he had my full attention. His nerves eased, his shoulders seemed to straighten and he read out a passage from the book of Ezekiel.

Now, I’ve never been Christened, I go to church about three times a year (mostly as a tourist), and have to admit to being fairly ignorant when it comes to the bible.  I know the basics; the one with the animals on a cruise, the one with the riot in the market and the one with the fully booked hotel! You get the picture.  I’m not religious but I do try to abide by the old cliche treat people how you would like to be treated.

Anyway, I digress. The story (as I understand it) was about Ezekiel who finds himself in the valley of dry bones and God asks him if the bones can live.  A doubtful Ezekiel says God alone knows. God then breathes life into the dead bones and tendons and flesh appear. God then tells Ezekiel to do the same, which he does successfully. The vicar went on to explain that even in the most hopeless of situations there is hope; even in the most desperate times you have to keep believing.

Tom and I kept looking at each other as these words were being read out. Maybe this was all a coincidence, maybe the church we happened to stumble on just happened to have a story about bones (where my cancer had spread to) and the Vicar was telling the congregation that we should seek out hope no matter how difficult times get.  After all, without hope you may as well just give up and at that point that’s exactly what we had done; we had accepted that within months I would die.

Looking back to that day I chose to believe that we were meant to hear that sermon. Tom and I were at our lowest but the random hour spent in that church by a beach in Suffolk gave us the first shoots of hope. It was a turning point, a nudge towards a much more positive path…

The day they wrote me off

Tom and I at the Baftas

I’d like to point out that the following entry is my recollection of events; the consultant involved might have a different view of how things went, but the fact remains that I left that room with no treatment plan and no hope of a future.

My mum had come down to London for the results. The smiling consultant called us in.  The smile soon evaporated.  “The scans show there is cancer in the pelvis.” The cancer was back and no one could ever take those words back or the consequences of what that meant. Tears pricked my eyes but I stayed calm, I knew that the spread of breast cancer to the bone wasn’t an immediate death sentence; I’d read of women living for twenty years with this type of disease. You can’t die of bone cancer, but it does mean it’s more likely to spread to organs in your body.

The consultant said it would be up to me if I wanted to try chemo and I’d need scans to see where else the cancer had spread.  I looked over at Tom – it was as if someone had punched him in the gut. He was stunned, lost for words, before stuttering “What’s Ellie’s prognosis?”

I wasn’t even thinking about timescales until the consultant said, “We don’t like to give timescales.”

“Well what? Six months? Three months?” I blurted out; I opted for a severely conservative estimate so she could reply ‘more like five years’.  Instead she replied in a low voice, “more than three months.”

She can’t even give me six months.  Fuck. Our plans and hopes were being viciously wiped out – like paint being manically thrown over a mural – with each bit of news she gave our future together was disappearing, desecrated by cancer.

I wanted out of this room.  I wanted to be held by Tom.  There was a mixture of shock and in a strange way, relief.  The fear of ‘will it come back’ had been realised.  It was back, and according to the doctor the prognosis was bad.  No more worrying about the ‘ifs’ and how it might feel, it was happening and in a perverse way I felt relief.

The consultant prescribed five days of palliative radiotherapy to my pelvis to help with the pain and hopefully the limp.  I would also be given an IV of Zometa, a drug that would strengthen my bones.

I wanted to call people – I felt a need to let my loved ones know what was happening.  No two people’s reactions were the same.  Some didn’t believe it, automatically going into denial, “I know it’ll be fine, I just have a feeling – you’re going to be okay.”  There was an, “I’m so sorry”, and many “I love yous.”

Tom and I decided to go away for the weekend, escape London and the confines of the flat.  Tom couldn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep. We’d be sitting across from each other at a restaurant and we’d start to break down.  We walked along beautiful beaches in Suffolk and I made him promise he would be able to cope without me.

The idea of dying didn’t really scare me. I knew the process of becoming weaker and losing weight as the cancer takes over would be an horrific one but for that weekend, in the wake of the initial shock, it was the thought of Tom in the flat by himself.  Coming home and sitting down to dinner alone, no one to meet him with a cuddle when he came through the door and to talk over the day with.  Strangely, it was the thought of my clothes having to be cleared out that really got to me, an empty wardrobe that would taunt him.  It was these visions in my mind that were breaking my heart and would lead to impromptu tears. I called friends to make them promise to me they’d look out for him when I was gone. I asked my mum to make sure she would clear out my belongings and not leave it up to Tom.  I was planning for my death and the thought of leaving Tom was, and still is, utterly unbearable.

On the Sunday morning, waking up in a cosy Suffolk hotel I instinctively reached for my chest, just above the line where I’d had radiotherapy. I felt a lump and then another. Shit. Where did these come from?  More cancer, the doctor must be right; this disease is fierce, it’s everywhere and it’s spreading fast.  It felt like such an insult, how could I try to muster any resilience when the disease was mocking me all the way? It was reminding me of who was really in charge.

Guess who’s back?

The day before the Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey, producing for ITV News

I finished chemo on 30th November 2010. I was elated. I’d done my stint, got through the barbaric treatment and I was ready to rebuild my life.  I’d be taking Tamoxifen for five years, a drug that can stop cancer coming back or spreading.  My cancer was strongly hormone receptive so I was hopeful this drug would keep the cancer at bay.

By March I was ready to go back to work.  I love my job, it sounds cheesy but it’s more than a job, it’s a way of life.  Journalism to a large extent defined who I was.  I would happily talk careers to new acquaintances, the, ‘what do you do?’ question was never dreaded.  I’d worked hard to get where I was and I loved what I did.

At the end of March I went back at ITV News working for three or four days each week. On some shifts I was a field producer at Westminster, interviewing politicians, helping political correspondents gather material for the evening or ten o’clock news. I felt lucky on every journey to work, riding on the bus over Lambeth Bridge with a view of the Houses of Parliament. This is where I work! I get to see history happen.

By the 27th of May I’d be giving up work once again.  My few months of a normal life, working, meeting friends in the pub, behaving like a normal 28 year old, would come to a sharp and cruel end; the cancer was back.

I’d been complaining about a pain in my lower back since January. It wasn’t there all the time, only when I went running; I was certain it wouldn’t be anything serious.  The mere fact that I’d been practically bed bound for five months and now I was up and running around suggested I’d just overdone it.  But I’m a sensible girl (if not occasionally neurotic!) and I took myself off to my consultant. A bone scan was ordered and something showed up, a slight ‘hotspot’ in my pelvis area.

“We don’t think it’s anything to worry about,” the registrar reassured me, but an x-ray was ordered just in case.  The thing about a cancer diagnosis is, it never ever leaves you. As I lay on the bed to be given the x-ray the fear hit me, my chest tightened.  On the simple act of lying on a bed I felt the tears coming to my eyes, a painless procedure but with gargantuan consequences.

Were my bones being eaten away by cancer? Was the pain the weakening and fracturing of the bones as an army of disease attacked?  Or was it a simple muscle strain and the x-ray would reveal clean, strong and bright white bones free of any deadly dark spots.

The results, to my utter relief, were the latter.  No bone cancer for me.  I scolded myself for being such a worrier, all the scans that I initially had before chemo had come back clear so I’d be pretty unlucky if the cancer had managed to grow just a few months after finishing a course of chemo that poisoned me half to death.

Even though I could carry on as normal, feeling grateful for every day, at the forefront of my mind I always knew that every morning when I got up and felt well there was someone out there going through chemo. They’d be waking up, looking at their clock and wishing the day was already over, praying for the sickness to end, pulling at a clump of hair and amazed that it could fall out with such ease.

The pain went away for a while; I really had been worried about nothing. Then in early April I noticed it again. This time there was shooting pain down the inside of my left leg. I told my consultant again. “Is the pain there all the time?”


“Then it’s unlikely it’s cancer.  The scans were clean, keep an eye on it, see how you go.”

You don’t challenge it because it’s what you want to hear. I want to be told it’s nothing so I take those answers and grab them with both hands and head for the door.  The doctor says I’m fine so I must be.

Then it becomes difficult to walk, I’m hobbling around and limping. I go and see the registrar. It sounds like sciatica, let’s order an MRI to be sure.  In the meantime Google becomes my best friend, typing the same thing in over and over again, willing the information to fit what I want to read.  ‘Symptoms of bone cancer’ – a list of ailments, some of which apply to me, some which don’t.

The same goes for ‘symptoms of sciatica’ – another list and I know all too well this process is futile but I can’t help it.  In the early days of diagnosis I called this habit of Googling grim stats and survival rates as cancer porn.  I knew I shouldn’t be looking at it but I couldn’t help it.  It did me no good and got me nowhere.

Something shows up on the scan. The doctors don’t know what it is but they need to do another MRI.  I’m driving and I pull over and my heart sinks. How can this be?  I dial Tom and I tell him, trying to recount the conversation word for word; was there any hint in the doctor’s voice that it was cancer? What exactly did she say? What did she know but wasn’t telling me?

I’m tearful and full of worry, the kind of worry that tightens your chest. I spend the weekend shopping. As shallow as that sounds it was a very real distraction. We had the Baftas on Sunday night; Tom was up for an award for producing a comedy show.  We had a fantastic night, despite Tom’s show not winning.  We drank too much, danced (despite the pain of my leg) but when we got home in the early hours the threat of the returning cancer tapped me on the shoulder and I burst into tears, the cocktail of anxiety and alcohol churning in my stomach as I sobbed over the toilet bowl.

Monday morning brought the grim reality of the MRI scan, then a week of waiting.

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