A year ago, on 25th March 2015, my husband and I were on our way home from West Suffolk Hospital, trying to digest the news that I had breast cancer.
After I found a lump in my left breast a couple of weeks earlier, my GP had referred me for a mammogram and ultrasound. The doctor carrying out the ultrasound lingered for what seemed like an eternity, passing the probe backwards and forwards over my chest and armpits.
“Do you know what it is?” I asked her quietly.
“Yes, I believe I do. How much do you want to know at this stage?”
“Everything you do” I replied.
“I think it’s cancer” she said. I knew that she had looked at enough ultrasounds in her time to be certain of what she was telling me; no doctor uses the word ‘cancer’ lightly. She added “I will do a biopsy and that should confirm it.”
And it did. One week later, on April Fools’ Day, the diagnosis was verified. I wrote about that day in a very early post on this blog here.
So began the most bizarre, exhausting, stressful and at times horrendous year of my life. Anniversaries may be man-made and meaningless in many ways, and a cancer experience cannot be conveniently contained within a year; it’s reach goes far beyond the 12 pages of a calendar and, to a greater or lesser extent, it’s with you for life. However it feels pertinent to acknowledge and quietly reflect on my first year as a canceree.
Time has seemed both compressed and expanded. Some episodes were in slow-motion, some flew by and, looking back, the whole year was on fast-forward.
It is no exaggeration to say I was taken to the limits of what I felt my body and mind could endure, by the treatments and complications thereof. On the flip side, I experienced love, nurturing and support from my husband, friends and family that was beyond anything I could have imagined. I’ve probably learnt things about myself too but I am not sure what they are yet (other than I am rather fond of the salt-and-pepper grey short hair that is the legacy from my chemo.)
This afternoon I read through all my blog posts, from the beginning. It turned out to be quite a revelation because I don’t recall writing many of them. It wasn’t a case of ‘I’d forgotten I wrote that’; I truly have no memory of ever seeing them before. Chemo-brain, chemo-fog, chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment, call it what you will, it has a lot to answer for. Fortunately it hadn’t caused me to write gibberish, and the posts I had no idea I’d written turned out to be quite readable.