The waiting days - a cherry tart and the recall (11 June 2021)

Having had some wonderful highs at the end of May and beginning of June (a sky-dive from 15,000ft with my youngest child, a lovely trip to Kew Gardens with a friend) I landed with a bump when an envelope came through our letterbox inviting me back for further assessment following a routine mammogram. I'd not been checking my breasts - I do wonder who does remember to do this?

I've got a fabulously supportive family and an incredible amount of friends and colleagues who have all offered something when I've told them about my lump. So if any of them actually read this they'll probably already have an idea of what's been happening. They may also have read very similar paragraphs in texts / correspondence already. My apologies to them for repetition, just makes writing this a little easier and I'm ashamed to admit I'm inherently lazy!!

And the moment I received the recall letter I checked and could feel the lump, of course. The consultant who carried out my biopsy on 9th June told me he was seriously concerned and the word Cancer was mentioned.  I was to be referred directly to a Breast Surgeon (rather than go back to the Assessment Clinic) and was told it would be within two weeks. I feel I already know what they're going to say so it won't come as a shock. I'm now waiting.

These things get absorbed slowly, though, information, facts and various emotions them hit at different times. Never sure I can remember everything that I've been told when I'm sharing things with people who need to know. Never really sure when my eyes are going to well up or what the waves of emotions are about: sometimes it's because they've led me to dark places and others it's because I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and generosity from those I've told. I actually found myself brimming up with tears and waving my hand in that funny way across my mouth (under my mask, of course) when a kindly nurse at the assessment centre asked if I wanted tea or coffee and a biscuit!  I just choked up and couldn't answer! Wonder how often she sees that, poor woman? What a job!

As I've reassured people close to me, most of the time I'm okay, after all nothing's really changed since before my mammogram when I was totally ignorant. And although I've not yet received a formal diagnosis I've had to start letting go just in case to explain why I might not be as available as I should, attend family events (Covid-restrictions permitting) or take up bits of work over the next weeks / months.

I'm pretty open about things, but it's still been hard to share my news with some people. And I know it's not fair to feel annoyed by their concerned tones of voice when they phone up and interrupt one of my robust and positive moments (or denial) with their well meaning and genuine sympathy. They can't possibly know what's going on in my head but it's probably not always what they expect and sometimes I feel less generous about giving them the kind of response they want. Can't help it, I'm not always miserable or thinking about the lump... but I know I can't have it both ways, I wouldn't want people to avoid talking about the lump with me, I don't want there to be secrets, and actually I really appreciate people's care and concern for me. I guess I'm just being a bit contrary.

Has my lump made me bolder? I'm starting to call people out, but feel a little guilty when I do this. Chatting with a friend the other day about how debilitating old age can be she said "I hope I never live that long" and I retorted "I hope I do!". Fortunately she was generous enough to laugh. I'm having to start to learn how to say "no". I know it's going to be good for my wellbeing, but it's really difficult after decades of being a people-pleaser. Any hints would be gratefully received! Does being more closely in touch with your own mortality make you meaner? To counteract this mean streak, I thought I'd share some cakes. Baking brings me joy, takes me to a world of creativity, generosity and kindness.

Sitting in the shade of our Cherry Tree in hot early June, salivating whilst contemplating what to bake next is one of life's pleasures.  I managed to pick a load of cherries before the pigeons finished them off and this was the first recipe I blogged during the waiting days.  If you fancy making one yourself have a look at https://kathiescakes.wordpress.com/ 

Anonymous
  • Totally get where you're coming from about peoples reactions. I have one family member (I'm very close to her) and she talks to me like I'm stupid....."try to talk about other things not just the cancer"....."keeping yourself busy is the best thing". We go for days where we don't even talk about cancer in our house.

    She's helped two friends through breast cancer so considers herself an expert - but SHE has not had breast cancer. She hasn't got a bloody clue. She sent me long messages detailing her friends cancer diagnosis and treatments. I wanted to message her back and say I AM NOT INTERESTED!

    Other friends look at you with pity in their eyes and expect to have some sad, depressing conversation and I refuse to engage with that and change the subject to something else.

  • Hi Jacala, thank you for reading this and your comments! 

    What an irritating friend!! I've had people give me all kinds of advice - all coming from a good place - but some of it is just plain stupid!

    I like to think of myself as a nice person, but some people's responses to learning about my breast cancer really irritated me and it's so hard to hold back!

    I've wonder about the connection between years of repressing stress and negative emotions and developing cancers and how much this played a part in what happened for me.  This experience is teaching me that I need to become kinder to myself and in the future will need to sometimes express things out loud and put myself first. It's a hard one, though. 

    I hope all is going well for you, Jacala. I've only just discovered this outlet for sharing my thoughts and reflections and am looking forward to reading things you've written. 

  • Hi Kat

    I know what you mean. One of my mates rang me and cried to me over the phone and I had to console her. It took her all of 3 weeks to come to terms with MY diagnosis enough to call and then proceeded to tell me about another friend's sister who died from BC ...Nice!

    Needless to say I told her off to not put an expiry date on me, how dare she!! I am never this mean but c'mon! 

    Other colleagues seem to be supportive but I do wonder if they are just ticking the PC box. Told my colleagues just treat me as normal is all I ask. Some even moaned about having to isolate 10 days for catching covid, and I said hey let's trade then....cancer for covid isolation?? Some just don't quite understand the severity of it. I think there are days where u feel everything is wrong with the world...hah that is where then cake comes in and makes everything alright and good in the world again! Am still hoping I can go to the Company Chirstmas lunch. I just need some normality!!

    C x