Don’t look back in anger


Five weeks ago I found a lump.

It happened when I was awoken from my slumbers by a sneeze and realised I had managed to go to sleep with my arm under me. As I shifted around and grumbled about my numb arm, I noticed something else.

Lumps aren’t generally bad when they are lumps in the bed, or the name you call your lazy brother or something. However, when you wake up with one side of your chest lightly throbbing, and feel a lump inside you it gives you pause.

Having had a good prod around (after all, it could just be PMT and more sore than normal, right? Right?) I thought “Hmm”. And prodded some more. “Surely”, I thought, “This is just something benign. Surely I’ve enlarged it out of proportion to its actual size by my overactive (and indeed exceedingly productive) imagination?”

It was when I asked someone else to check for me and they didn’t say “No, don’t be daft, there’s nothing there!” that I knew. I knew right then in that millisecond, that I was at the beginning of some kind of journey; one that I may not like nor indeed be able to predict or control.

My heartbeat picked up pace as I realised that there could be an unwanted guest planning to take up residence in my left breast. Of course, then came the consideration of what it might be. The feeling was like vertigo – something I’ve never had when leaning out over a cliff. You know that part of a scary movie where the visual effects make the hotel corridor seem like it suddenly stretches on forever, or the bit where the walls of an ancient tomb begin to rumble towards each other?

Then came the puzzlement.  I mean, for Christ’s sake, it’s not like there’s a lot there to hide in, why hadn’t I noticed? I still don’t really understand how there could be nothing there one month (that I can remember) and only a month later, something beautifully crafted by my body into an extremely well defined and quite painful clump?

Of course, then there’s the waiting. In some ways, the early days of waiting have been the worst ones. Waiting for the time in the morning when I was able to make an appointment with the Doctor. Waiting for the doctor’s appointment. Once the Doctor agreed with me that my “breasts feel lumpy” (good grief), then it was waiting for the referral letter, marked “urgent” to drop on the mat. Then, waiting for the hospital to make an appointment. Waiting rooms. Waiting for the nurses, consultants, more consultants, tests, test results, phone calls. Urgh.

Finally, the result. And there were several as they wanted to be absolutely sure what we were dealing with. And it’s breast cancer.

I knew it was. Of course, when sat on my own with a “breast care nurse” looking very sorry for me and the consultant being very matter of fact I supposed that I didn’t have a lot of choice about how to take the news. It’s not like there was someone else to take in the information whilst I wibbled and bibbled and the pathetic bottom lip went out. So the lip stayed firmly in place, and the pen and paper came out instead.

Of course, I’ve had time to get used to it a bit now. To tell family and friends, and colleagues at work. To have a bit of a cry and feel sorry for myself (though not too much… there are standards to be upheld here!) and to get through a mountain of paperwork.

It’s daft, but it’s the little things that aren’t arranged that seem to be a problem rather than the impending operation itself. I suppose it’s the equivalent of the expectant mother making the nest and busying herself before the arrival of a baby. What I can be in control of is the amount of buzzing about I can do, getting all the practical things sorted out ahead of the op. So instead of thinking about death and disaster, for example, I can instead worry about why I don’t own a sports bra and indeed what slippers to pack for the hospital.

Morbid thoughts sneak through every little while. That’s when my grumpy face appears and I fidget about a will. The will I haven’t got around to giving to a solicitor yet. Hopefully, it’s like an umbrella. Merely the act of getting one and having it handy means that it won’t rain today.

Slip inside the eye of your mind
Don’t you know you might find
A better place to play
You said that you’d never been
All the things that you’ve seen
Will slowly fade away

So I’ll start the revolution from my bed
Cos you said the brains I had went to my head
Step outside ‘coz summertime’s in bloom
Stand up beside the fireplace
Take that look from off your face
You ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out…

Oasis – “Don’t look back in anger”

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