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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To mark it, we've collaborated with some of our previous guest bloggers to bring you a series of personal stories, all from those affected by a diagnosis.
Jo is 51 years old, married with two adult sons, and lives in a small village in North Warwickshire. She is a Client Manager, looking after university graduation ceremonies. She was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in August 2017. Just a few months after her diagnosis, she relives the mixture of emotions as she starts on her year-long treatment plan.
Find out more about Jo's diagnosis through her blog.
It feels so strange to write this, to recall everything I have felt over the last few weeks, good and bad. As you will have read from my biography, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer just a few months ago. It seems hard to believe that it was only in August, as I feel as if I have been stuck in this world for many months, if not years! There have been the usual ups and downs, but nothing and nobody prepares you for this world, this torrent of abusive emotion, confusion, and absolute terror.
I was one of the lucky ones though, as I found the Macmillan Online Community even before I had officially been diagnosed. I remember feeling like a fraud, reading the stories of others, and joining in with their discussions, knowing that I might not have that one, horrible curse in common with them.
I had found a lump while in the shower at the end of July, and was referred to the breast care unit. I tried to carry on as normal, but my mind was constantly focussed on the dreaded ‘lump’. I managed to get an appointment for the Friday of that week and the day couldn’t arrive fast enough! I was desperate to know, but I dreaded the outcome; something told me I wasn’t getting off lightly. We went into the consultant’s room and came away knowing it was to be bad news; their reactions and the biopsies taken weren’t good. All we lacked was the detail.
The next ten days flew by! I thought it would drag, that time would crawl unimaginably slowly, but it was the opposite! Before I knew it, it was 2nd August, my son Jack’s birthday, and we were off to get my results. I was ready for this, I was going to stand tall and be strong, to face whatever needed to happen, to fight and win. Within seconds of sitting down, the consultant had said the words. That was fine, I was ready, I was determined to stay strong. The phrase ‘grade 3’ shook me, but I was still fine, I could do this.
Next came the awful task of telling the people I love and should be able to protect. We had made a ‘tell’ list in preparation for this, but that didn’t make it any easier. How could I upset people’s lives? Was it selfish to share this? If I had thought for a second that I could get away with it, I’d have kept it from everyone. My younger twin sisters, one just returning from her 10-year anniversary cruise, the other planning her wedding. My older brother, who had been through this with his wife. My baby sister, who was just about to give birth!
I told the twins first and the devastation really hit home. They cried so much and I was distraught that I had caused them so much pain. Then came my sons, Jack and Jim. That was the hardest, the most traumatic moment; the rest came easier. The barrage of appointments, tests, and uncertainty followed this, being convinced that every set of results would bring yet more bad news. I felt that I had no control over my life, as if I were in a snow globe and the flakes of my life were swirling around me, dropping randomly, or flying past at speed. Time dragged; now that I knew, everything dragged. It was as if I were daydreaming, reading a book, or watching it all on a film, just imagining what it would be like to have this happen, but I had to keep reminding myself that it was real, it had happened. This was my life, my reality, my future. I went back to the Online Community and updated my profile; I was a fully-fledged member! How I wished I had been a fraud, knowing they would all have been so relieved for me, so happy to say goodbye and never hear from me again, but I was there to stay.
It is now two months on from my diagnosis and my chemo has started. It is rough, a lot worse than I had ever realised from the TV; I have had severe lows that I struggle to come to terms with, but I am getting there. I know that I can fight this, I know that I can win. My friends on the Community are always there to advise, support and remind me that I just need to take it one day at a time. My husband and family, friends, and neighbours remind me that I am not alone. My cat reminds me to stay in a routine!
I will get there, the snow will settle, and the air will clear again. I can and will beat this.
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I love your sense of humour. You will get there, O.K. it is a rotten journey, but with all your supporters you WILL WIN THROUGH
I used to scribble down my experiences after most of my treatments, and now the Lumpectomy is five years behind me.
Lots of hugs and keep positive,
You sink and rally, sink and rally,
Like a fairground show Aunt Sally.
It’s hit and miss, and hit and miss,
You reach the hills and then the valley.
It’s like a Helter Skelter ride,
You climb up high, then down you slide.
You’re sometimes well, and sometimes rotten,
You know when you have hit the bottom.
When I’m feeling bright and well,
It makes up for the time in Hell,
The problem is, I do not know,
How much further, I can go.
Life is like the Helter Skelter,
First you’re up and then you’re down.
Sure it’s better to keep cheerful,
Than have grumps and wear a frown!
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