Saturday, 3 October 2020

Facing fears in October


Just one of those days when you want to coorie in. It’s already October with the vibrant autumnal  colours arriving so soon after a sunnyish September. Strange that it comes with the inevitability of more lockdown restrictions, pushing our heads a little lower. I’ve socks on and out come the boots again. A benefit of not really being able to walk any distance outside means your shoes don’t wear out. There you are, jealous now? 

October 1st, I was tidying ( oh stop...I have been known to tidy) and found my printout from the genetics department. No one expected it to be positive for a BRCA gene. BRCA2 with all the accompanying percentage risks. A 45%-85% risk of breast cancer. Well that train left the station and had a few stops along the way. Then I saw an article on BRCA2 and it dawned on me, it’s the start of breast cancer awareness month. A weariness settled over me. I’ve put the cancer to one side of late. I’ve donated my breasts and ovaries to the cause of ridding my life of that gene so I think I’m entitled to try to forget about it. After most cancer diagnoses I’ve had, I’ve gone up and down the roller coaster of denial, overwhelm, fear, then that unstable path to integration into my sense of who I am. The path is unstable because each spell of pain, of fatigue, of headaches, of coughs bring back the paranoia and the cold fear. I taught myself to control these impulses to seek medical advice. Because that could result in more fear. A bone scan, an MRI, a CT and off we go. A gnawing fear covered by the logical and usually correct claim that it’s nothing to worry about. But when you are in that scan and during the wait for results the fear sits like a dragon guarding the cave, knowing that if you find yourself in the grim  cave of cancer treatment, life will never be the same. 

Adding Covid-19 to the mix of health concerns means we’re distracted. In the week President Trump is in hospital because of Covid-19 ( if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing!!!!!......) the reality of the risk is clear. And our lives shift so quickly. Mine shifts in a wheelchair or scooter. I started to read about the percentages of disabled people who died from Covid and I quickly put it to one side. Another one to pack away, follow the advice and get on with life, masked and turned away from human connection. It’s so all consuming.

It has occurred to me that I might not notice any changes that would previously taken me to a GP.

Or to the breast clinic. Those late diagnoses with cancer and heart disease so easy to understand when we re focussed on trying to survive Covid with all its tricks. 

BUT it is October and breast cancer or any other hasn’t disappeared just because we want it to.

So here are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, an early diagnosis is still the best predictor of a good outcome. 

Go well, stay safe and find a way to make a virtue of this aberrant winter. But we must still remember to bring our compassion and help to those who are taking the brunt of this vicious virus and who feel the cruelty of a state unwilling to financially protect its most vulnerable. My greatest fear this October is for them. 

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