Just my luck

The two lumps that had appeared on my chest would need to be tested.  Professor Hope wanted to see if the cancer was still hormone receptive or if it had ‘flipped’ and was now triple negative. We were told this occurs in less than 15% of cases and I pushed the team at my current hospital to check the receptor status.

As I lay on the bed being injected with local anaesthetic I heard a snap. Something in the needle had broken and my breast care nurse and I were sprayed with the numbing fluid. I couldn’t feel my cheek. Laid on my side, naked from the waist up with a face like a stroke victim, Jeez Louise, can I not just get a fucking break here?

After four attempts the trainee doctor managed to clip enough of the tumours out to be tested. I wanted those little lumps cut out of me altogether, but what was the point when the cancer had spread so far in my body? It would be like plugging a small hole in a boat full of leaks, and the doctors had made it clear they believed my ship was sinking.

As the nurse bandaged me up I couldn’t stop the tears. Not full-on shoulder shakers, just small drops streaking slowly down my face. I felt so bloody unlucky; there’s only so much prodding and poking and scanning and drug-taking a girl can take. I often find myself trying to rationalise my illness. Was this supposed to happen to me or was it entirely arbitrary? Is it egotistical to think cancer happened to me for a reason? Maybe, but for me it’s easier to deal with something if you can find a logic to it.

When I take my seat in the chemo ward I very rarely see anyone in my age range.  When I spot old women with bald heads I feel sorry for them like anyone else, to have to go through this torture when you’re not at your fittest, when you’re already tired and sapped of energy. And yet part of me can’t help thinking, ‘you’ve made it to this point, you’ve reached your 70s’.  Of course I have no idea what hardships they may have suffered and what their stories are. There are many subplots within the genre of ‘tragedy’ and cancer is merely one of them.

You could argue I’m luckier than some. What about babies born with cancer? Or the teenagers struck down with the disease who haven’t had the chance to move out of home or go to university? Then there is my group, young adults; careers are stolen, the chance of having children wiped out.

Three weeks later we got the results of the biopsy; the cancer had indeed flipped. Surprise, surprise! With less than a 15% chance of it now being triple negative I was once more defying the odds; to get breast cancer in my 20s, for it to spread, for it to turn from one cancer to another. What are the chances? But as I type these words I realise that this is exactly what I want to continue to do, to defy the odds.

In a perverse way the emergence of those lumps had been a blessing. If they hadn’t appeared then we would never have found out that the cancer had changed. We now really know what we are up against. Something that at the time had appeared so awful and frightening had actually turned into a positive. Without those little tumours the doctors would be treating a disease I didn’t have. Thank God for those cancerous tumours, right?!

The discovery that the cancer had ‘flipped’ got me thinking about what appears unlucky and a challenge but turns out to be a nudge in the right direction. If the cancer hadn’t spread to my pelvis and made it difficult for me to walk I would never have been scanned and the small tumours in my lungs and liver would have been allowed to go unnoticed like a silent assassin.  If Current Consultant hadn’t been so off her game on the day she gave us the secondary diagnosis I would never have sought out Professor Hope. If she had been less fatalistic and had suggested a treatment plan I wouldn’t have put in the research that led us to a man who opened up a whole new world of research and possibility. A world that ultimatley may offer me a longer life.


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Becoming herself
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 14:23:17

    Hi, Ellie
    I just wanted to say that I always read your posts and am always left full of admiration for your determination and spirit, as well as for your writing skills; you shine through your words.


  2. Peas and Cougars
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 18:19:59

    I’m still amazed by how beautifully and candidly you write. I’m rooting for you in my little corner of the world.


  3. Ann
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 09:04:26

    I too, always read about you – I tend to dip in to my cancer buddies as and when I can sit down and be peaceful. I’m usually running around (trying) after my family – I have bad health but they still treat me like cinderella – maybe that’s what keeps me going! Anyway, please keep on writing as you are giving us a special gift which is yourself. Whatever happens, please don’t give up – live with cancer don’t die from it and I wish you all the strength in the world to walk this road. Love Ann x


  4. Midge
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 09:13:57

    Thank you for being so generous.


  5. Geoff Major
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 03:13:27

    Hey Ellie, it’s me again (Geoff, the North Pole guy).

    I wanted to say I whole-heartedly agree with Peas and Cougars’ comment, to tell you I’ve added some of your blog to mine (http://a-reet-yorkshire-adventure.blogspot.com/2011/09/its-2am-but-i-have-to-write.html) and that the final comments on my blog are “And I am truly blessed that in some small way I feel closer to people like Dr Jon Hastie, Aaron Pask, Daniel, James Golding and the lovely Ellie.

    Ellie if you’re reading this, I don’t know you but I hope that over the coming months and years I get chance to know you, and Tom and John. You are amazing! You are an inspiration.”

    I’ll be reading your blog every week and will continue to offer you words of support, love and belief.


    • Ellie Jeffery
      Sep 11, 2011 @ 18:27:51

      Thanks Geoff. I’m glad you can use the blog and I’m sure your belief and the good wishes from everyone who has commented on here will make a difference to my outcome. I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog and your progress, Ellie.


  6. jeni pringle
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 14:06:20

    Hi Ellie
    Such a privilege to read your blog. I read it this morning just before doing a preach – and it was inspirational. Unfortunately preach wasn’t on Ezekiel ( but on forgiveness and 9/11!!!) From my point of view though – the story of your visit to that church – faith affirming.
    I have been praying for you daily,.
    Now then is the ring a diamond or a sapphire? (Eye match)?
    The relationship with your brother appears similar to that of me with mine. I have one deep scar on my finger where he encouraged me to cut a conker with a sharp knife ,and one on my head where he hit me with the butt of a toy gun – toy guns made of heavy metal then! But now he is an absolute rock,
    I said this morning that sometimes life seems dysfunctional and unfathomable – but you have such courage and such an unwavering spirit in facing up to this disease- very humbling.
    I learnt something else this morning – when deciding to give white surplice (great white floaty thing you wear over cassock) a quick tumble to get creases out, best not to do it after you’ve just put pink hair dye on hair!!!
    much love jeni


    • Ellie Jeffery
      Sep 11, 2011 @ 18:33:28

      It is lovely to hear from you Jeni, I often think of you. Thank you for reading the blog and your prayers – I can’t express how grateful and touched I am by everyone’s warm wishes. Keep rocking the pink tie-dye look, love Ellie x


  7. Eric Flett
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 15:37:46

    My dear friend you are truly an amazing,courageous, beautiful young woman,our hearts and prayers are with you every step you take along this unknown path.
    Lots of love
    Eric and the Belasis crew


  8. Ann Bradford
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 16:39:28

    Hi Ellie, I have now read all of your blog and have never felt so inspired by someone. You are an example of what is good in the world. I have had updates from my son ( Brady), but you say it so much better. If you receive back just half of the hope, love and will that we get from your blogg, then you will have a long and full life. It has been a pleasure to read such heroism. Our love and best wishes to you and your family, from all the Bradfords.X


    • Ellie Jeffery
      Sep 11, 2011 @ 18:37:03

      Thank you for such a lovely message Ann and taking the time out to comment. I felt a bit weird about starting the blog but have had such positive and encouraging messages that I can’t imagine not writing it now. I hope I’ll be keeping you updated for a long time to come, Ellie x


  9. Lorraine hughes
    Oct 22, 2011 @ 09:54:42

    People can be so weak and negative, myself included, until you are faced with such struggle and adversity. From where do you get this strength and optimism? Your family must be so proud of you.
    You write from the heart, with such honesty and reflection. Only someone of your nature and calibre could draw positives out of these tragic twists and turns, but you’re right. My god you ate amazing.

    Keep going gorgeous girl



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