Tae a lump….
I’m not sure when I noticed you. I do remember thinking I will wait until after Christmas to mention it. But you know that feeing when you have a hole in your tooth or even an ulcer on your tongue, you have to constantly revisit it. As you avoid calling the dentist your tongue tells you how foolish that is. Exploring every tender point at every time you are trying to avoid thinking of it, yet the tongue- the traitor-finds it everytime. Making a mockery of denial, so does my hand. In the shower I check it out, in bed I notice it’s contours, applying my favourite moisturiser I feel it clearly. I’m confused and yet at the same time my heart is sinking in recognition that this is serious.
Of course it is, you cry. But you see I’ve already had breast cancer four times and I have had two mastectomies, one reconstruction and a whole lot of grief since 1994. To be fair most of my diagnoses have been in the last 10 years. Just when I thought I was safe from breast cancer, just when I had moved back to my favourite city, Edinburgh and a couple of years into working as Scottish director of a breast cancer charity which was at that time Breakthrough Breast Cancer ( since merged with two other breast cancer charities to become Breast Cancer Now). Honestly I’d got a bit smug. I was through it and could use my experience to set up the charity in Scotland and make a difference for others. Knickers on top of the tights ( super woman style) Audrey would do her utmost to improve things for people affected by breast cancer. I did the moonwalk, I spoke at events from village halls to parliaments, my passion was there for all to see, I had a super team ( take a bow, you know who you are) and we worked our socks off. I was due at the breast clinic as a new patient then go on to a national meeting of experts on breast cancer. I never made that meeting. The routine mammogram as a new patient showed that I had a recurrence in the breast I had treated in my thirties. I can do this I thought…..and I could but after reconstructive surgery fatigue eroded my well being. Every early fight to London, every late night home or spent in a soulless hotel stole my well-being a little at a time. And -long story short- I decided to leave the job I loved. I described all of this in this blog which you can read from the beginning.
I had my right breast removed in 2019 after more cancer was found. It was then we realised I carried the BRCA2 gene. So in February 2020 I had my remaining ovary removed and that should mean I was at much lowered risk of recurrence. 2020 would be my year I decided but as we all know now, coronavirus had other plans. I’d developed a fuckit list, to be honest it isn’t a bucket list but more a list for someone who has had to seriously compromise but still wants to make the most of this reduced life.
So back to January 2022 I told my husband about the lump and he encouraged me to tell the oncologist the next day rather than wait until my annual appointment at the breast clinic the following month. His reaction led to an early appointment with Prof Dixon and he told me he was sure it was another cancer. So today you find me waiting for scans ( bone scan one tomorrow) and biopsy results ( on Monday). I remain hopeful it’s yet again a localised recurrence and surgery will be the mainstay of treatment. Indeed I’m wondering if I could seek an entry in the Guinness book of records. Not sure that would compensate but it’s something??
I know my family and friends have read this blog at times over the years and I will commit to writing more regularly and sharing this next stage. I hope it helps others understand a little more of what this experience is like for me and mine. I’m still in the phoney war stage of this journey. I haven’t started treatment and I’m still working hard to persuade myself that this new diagnosis won’t change things in the long run. But just today I realised something. In the north east of Scotland the word bosey is used to describe a hug into the breast. Now my grandson loves a bosey and today it struck me I really won’t have a bosey to offer anymore- and for the first time this new diagnosis felt real. And my soul is aching.