Bah Humbug!

09 September 2021

On 09 September 2021 (five months before William’s diagnosis), my oncologist told me “you have a small cancer.” Those five words cemented the fact that the Humbug size lump nestled next to my right nipple wasn’t simply a cyst, but an invasive ductal carcinoma that had spread into my lymph nodes.

The enormous meaning of my ‘small cancer’ is what initially got me searching the internet for breast cancer blogs I could relate to. Blogs with humour, hope and a dogeared determination to hold onto dear life despite an uncertain prognosis.

Here I was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer which according to Dr Google is more aggressive and more likely to recur than any other type of breast cancer. Whilst I was thankful it had been found relatively early, I wanted, needed to find real-life stories similar to my own.

I was especially interested in reading about breast cancer patients who, like me, are on the cusp of turning 50 with all the responsibilities of being a partner to a worried spouse and working parent to children who are almost grown, but still living at home.

Although I found many moving and inspiring stories amongst young bloggers battling breast cancer, they didn’t quite accomplish what I was searching for.

Cancer is unfair and as dismissive as this may sound, my focus wasn’t about being catapulted into an immediate menopause before the age of 40, or worrying about the chances of conception after aggressive chemo. Nor was it about being forced to slow down the pace of life at a time when you should be starting out.

Instead, my focus was (is) more on how my husband is coping in his new role as carer to a now asexual, bald, pasty-faced sometimes tearful, sometimes irrational but more often exhausted husk of a wife. Worrying about paying bills when my statutory sick pay ends. Managing my fear of catching a virus whilst being immunocompromised during Covid-19, and fighting the overwhelming urge to hose my 20-year-old daughter down each time she returns home from a slippery night on the tiles.

So at the youngish age of 49, I began charting my own breast cancer story to digest and reflect on how far I’ve come. The experience continues to pull something a bit different from me which is not always easy to articulate, but very cathartic.

At the moment, I’m halfway through chemotherapy and about to start a new regime in combination with a novel drug called Phesgo which targets the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

Although anxious about long-term side effects which are themselves too long to list, I’m very lucky to experience the latest treatment in HER2 positive breast cancer, including surgery and radiotherapy.

Right now, things are looking pretty positive but this is just the start of my story. So, get yourself comfy and please join me because I might need your hand.

(Credit: Dreamstime)

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