I’m writing this post from sunny southern Spain. Tom and I have been out here for a week now, staying in a villa that my friend Jess’s very generous parents have kindly let us have the run of, and we fly home later today.
To feel the sunshine on my skin and to get away from the grey of London was literally just what the doctor ordered. In our last consultation with Professor Hope he strongly urged us to take a holiday, as he has had to come up with yet another new plan and I shall soon be hit with an almighty chemo bomb. We’re rolling out the big guns because the cancer on my chest is starting to creep up towards my neck, stamping its vicious mark on my body for all to see and a couple of weeks ago I found a lump in my right breast.
Well, Professor Hope isn’t standing for it and I will be starting a large dose of Gemcitabine/Carboplatin. I’ll have to see how I go but from my research I’m sure this isn’t going to be pretty. “You’re ok with this?” The Prof asked, and to be honest, at the time I wasn’t. The chemos I’ve been on in the last few months have been totally doable; I’ve still led a relatively normal life, but I’m worried that this one will reduce me to a flat-bound depressive.
I doubted the Prof’s decision – why couldn’t he wait to see if the current tablet chemo I’m on is working first? But as each day of the holiday passed I knew he was right and I was foolish to question him. The cancer on my skin is a fierce red shade and it’s starting to hurt; it mocks me when I look in the mirror and I need to do all I can to stop it in its tracks, even if that means the possibility of signing my life away for the next few months. I read recently somewhere that finding the right chemotherapy is a lot like buying shoes – you have to try them on first before you know if they’ll work for you. I don’t care if it’s a Louboutin, a Blahnik or a Baratts special; I just need the perfect fit.
Now that we’re on the last day of our holiday I feel ready to take it on; the cancer has had free reign for too long and it’s time to get some results – we deserve them. The new drugs are IV so I will be getting a PICC line put in my arm. I’m going to need a truck load of Valium to get me through that procedure but I know that despite the scars (mental, not physical) from the port saga, I can do it.
The holiday has also provided time to reflect. I have shed a few tears but mostly we’ve just laughed and loved each other. Tom and I made a rule that for every hug we give each other a tumour shrinks – I reckon I’ll be cancer free by April!
Because it’s so unusual to have this disease at my age, it can feel very lonely at times. When you see friends progressing in their chosen careers, having children, travelling to foreign places without a second thought for the quality of hospitals and it’s difficult not to feel envious. Of course I’m not alone; many bright young women with so much to offer are fighting this hideous disease; Fran, Lisa and Kris I’m thinking of you in particular, but I know there are so many more out there.
The other day I was emailed by a woman I’d met online on the Breast Cancer Care Forum. Like me, she is triple negative and has cancer in several sites. She is in her thirties with a young child, and this week she was diagnosed with brain mets. I understand her fears because they are my fears too and at times I’ve found solace in reading the stories of others sharing my experience; providing support to others even though they are suffering themselves. Because that’s what you do isn’t it?
That’s why I was so disappointed to find out that someone on Twitter had been lying to me about having breast cancer. She was only 19, well that was how old she claimed to be, and she started to message me for help and advice while she was supposedly going through chemo. Despite being tired and ill from chemo myself I spent time sending her messages of support – she even asked for advice when she knew I was in hospital getting my port removed.
I have since found out that this was all a lie; she hasn’t got breast cancer, she’s not giving up uni to concentrate on ‘getting better’ and she certainly wasn’t admitted to hospital for a week when she said she was – her timeline on Twitter had her complaining about a traffic jam she was stuck in.
I’m not angry with her, though it is annoying that she had the cheek to appeal to me for wise words when she knew I was going through a hard time. Mostly I just feel sorry for her and think it’s a bit weird, but as my friend Matt said, for the thousands of lovely readers I get, one oddball isn’t bad going. And that reminds me – to all those who’ve left comments lately, I read every one and they always bring a smile to my face – please accept this heartfelt thank you.
Finally, talking of thank yous I’d like to say just that to one of the most amazing women I have ever met. My friend Miffy will be shaving her hair off next week for Professor Hope’s charity. Not only is this a massively brave and generous thing to do, it will also provide me with hair to use for a made-to-measure wig.
If I don’t end up with hair for the wedding the plan was to invest in a real-hair weave that would be stuck on; they look more realistic but it’s very expensive and quite difficult to source good hair. Because of Miffy’s amazingness I now have the hair, and once her locks are chopped off my good friend Julie (of eyebrow tattooing fame) will get the wig made. So thank you Crow – you’re one in a million.
If you’d like to donate please go to Miffy’s page, and it’s worth a visit because in doing so you’ll get to find out Prof Hope’s real name!