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.