Thursday, 24 April 2014

Back to the start

My surgeon recently asked me to write a piece about my diagnosis and treatment for his website. Of course I agreed; he is a lovely man, and the skilful way in which he put me back together again is something for which I will always be truly grateful.

I know that the piece I write will be straightforward, warm and full of praise for the team who worked so hard to rebuild me. It will, however be only a small part of my history; edited and homogenised to remove the turmoil of the true narrative; to soothe the reader, and in doing so reassure them that, in the end, everything will be okay.

The reality is more stark.......

I felt it in the shower, a lump, hard and unyielding beneath my fingers; in stark contrast to the soft surrounding flesh. I ignored it at first, knowing that I was soon to go for my annual scan; I put it to the back of my mind, and carried on regardless.... but the lump remained, a solid nugget under probing fingertips.

At the clinic I smiled through the scans, the biopsies; willing this to be a cyst, a mistake, a figment of a hypochondriac's imagination......and then the nurse walked into the room with the specialist, and at that instant I knew.

There is that sudden moment of clarity when you hear what is to be said before a single word is uttered. The look between specialist and nurse confirmed what in truth I had known all along.

I went into preservation mode, poker faced; discussing the practicalities of the surgery to follow.  Lumpectomy or mastectomy?One breast or two? 'Like ordering tea at a posh cafe,' I remember thinking in a wry moment of black humour.

 Words flew over and around me, I watched hands  sketching quick drawn diagrams, weighed up the pros and cons. The specialist was kind, attentive; giving me time to ask questions, double checking I had understood the mechanics of the procedure. I smiled, I nodded, whilst all the time my unspoken thoughts were spinning into free fall.

On the drive back from the hospital reality hit, as it surely must. I pulled my car over to the hard shoulder and howled, then, mindful I was heading to work, wiped my eyes, gave myself a stern talking to and found my poker face once more.


  1. A very moving post. Brought a tear to my eye. x

  2. Very good, Alex. Having finally got a bit of response to my post (only Kate has shared it) I was thinking couldn't have happened to a better person. (Meaning you (your mum and Sarah too) would be best equipped to cope with such a disaster). More fool me for not applying don't believe what you perceive about good people as well as bad people. Reading this reminded me you are soft at heart - like the rest of us.