I really love my woolly hat
I wore it during chemo
to keep my bald head warm at night
(It’s not my favourite green, though)
It has the word “POW!” on the front
which was a funny thing
a friend of mine would say a lot
when work was full of WIN.
I had a painting with that phrase
hung on the office wall
And tried to find fun things to do
when work was still *my* call
But I became a ball of stress
as work and love unravelled
and needed to escape the mess
of problems that we juggled
I struggled with unhappiness,
but after a long while,
a renewed hope for the future
was the reason for my smile.
So you may understand
my sadness that the time was brief
before my diagnosis,
and how I shook with disbelief –
I sat alone in hospital,
being brave and sturdy
as the bottom fell out of my world:
“Breast cancer, in my thirties”.
Keeping calm and writing notes
did help me process better
the great stream of information,
from consultants and their letters
“Is there anybody with you”
Became the warning sign;
The news not good? I understood
and greeted them wide-eyed.
“The cancer’s spread to the lymph nodes”
“You’re on the chemo list”
“How soon?” I asked, and in a flash,
sat with the oncologist:
“Four each of FEC and Taxotere,
another op and Radio…”
The nurses were all kind, and said
“You’re being very brave, you know”
The hat? A simple gesture of
support from “Nice Young Man”.
(I think it came from Etsy;
He’s an arts-and-crafts big fan)
I made the most of time before
my course of treatments started
With trips, and friends, and family,
at fun and lively parties.
Informing all the teams at work
seemed the best thing to do:
I didn’t want it getting weird
when it’s obviously not ‘flu
As calm as anything, I sat,
explained the situation:
The chemo, hair loss, wig and then
avoiding all infections.
I worked as much as I could stand
(which was still quite a lot)
though it was sometimes difficult
with concentration shot.
The needles took their mental toll
and tears became more frequent,
by August I was glad to have
a third week between treatments.
I took Nice Young Man with me
to walk along the Seine,
a trip I’d longed for many years
to undertake and plan.
Paris was a stunning trip
and whilst it wasn’t easy,
I took pics from the Eiffel Tower
and walked the Champs-Élysées.
Then the chemo-brain kicked in
at work, during September.
Stood at a colleague’s desk, red-faced,
struggling to remember
what seconds earlier had been
a such important question,
that I had waited minutes
for her to end her conversation
For several months just eating right
took lots of motivating
(When *your* food tastes of rusty socks,
you’ll understand my meaning!)
The “POW! ” hat was pulled down at night
to cover up my eyes;
They watered with no eyelashes,
and made me want to hide
By October there were very few
hairs left on me at all;
The cold winds whipped my face
and made my eyes a waterfall.
I staggered blindly when outside,
had help to cross the road,
and gradually it seemed
I was becoming my own ghost.
It became a struggle
just to function normally;
My bathroom breaks a horror…
although I tried hard not to scream.
Finally, I reached the end
Of chemo’s devastation,
and took the BRCA blood test
to uncover my mutation.
It was no great surprise to me
(young relatives had died).
My cancer had genetic cause;
I was glad it was defined.
The Nice Young Man? We said goodbye
with much regret and sadness;
He’d been my steady anchor point
Through all the cancer madness.
I went to Cornwall at New Year
to recover from it all;
and asked a friend if she “and I
could run away, at all?”
“In a little VW camper van?”
And both of us were longing
to drive across America,
with very few belongings.
And then… my job, the stumbling block,
no longer was a problem!
So taking time to make some trips
would be my compensation.
I booked my op for February:
Mastectomies / reconstruction.
Had lots of friends to visit me,
to aid recuperation.
I still do grieve for what was lost
and now replaced with saline
It’s cold and strange but hopefully,
in a while, they will feel fine.
Tamoxifen’s a daily chore
to help prevent more cancer:
Bones ache and I’m hot and cold,
or have inexplicable anger
Last night I tried my trusty hat
to cover up my eyes,
but my brain was having none of it
and wide awake stayed I
So tears fell on my woolly hat
at 7am today
because I haven’t had a wink of sleep
for lack of aromatase
But I really love my POW! hat
‘Cos I wore it during chemo
It kept my bald head warm at night…
(It’s not my favourite green, though)