Who wants a cup of tea?

It is said that everyone ‘has a book’ in them… Well I do think I have about 3 books to write but this is the one story I need to tell at the moment.

I had worked very hard in the 18 yrs before redundancy at the company i had been employed at since 16.  I had progressed my career and had a very demanding, responsible job with all the headaches & stress that go with it.  Due to me being completely career driven we had put off having children.  After redundancy my focus changed.  After a career break and change I had a part time job in an Estate Agent.  Finally, 13 years after marriage we had our son and then 2 years later I had given birth to a daughter.  We were over the moon, a boy and now a girl.  Our little family was complete.  I remember when pregnant and in the shower one day just before we moved to our new house, I noticed a small lump in my right breast.  I thought nothing more of it and just brushed it aside as a blocked milk gland due to pregnancy.  We had planned a house move to Saddleworth which had been my dream for 5 years prior to moving.  It was the 4th house we viewed and we went to the top of the garden and looked over the house and rolling views of the Pennine hills…. This was it.  The view sold it to us.

Sunny Diggle view

We moved on Whit Friday and if there is anyone reading this who is from Saddleworth that was certainly not my idea! It was also the hottest day of the year (candles melted in the heat of the removal van) but finally we got the keys at 4.30pm… It was awful.  I cried non stop for hours. We’d left a beautifully renovated house and we had it all to do again..  We literally got in and started ripping it to bits.  We had plans, new kitchen, an extension, the garden needed lots of work as it was like a ski slope, but it was do able – Jeff was amazing and due to his job as stonemason is very handy – so we started with our new life, away from family… Only 15 minutes away but to my mum, who was a active 77 year old but wouldn’t drive up here, we may well have been in Australia..

Kids - youngerThe pregnancy all went well and the birth was text book, gas & air only! I had started labour 11am in the morning when my best friend Jayne came for lunch.  I stayed at home as long as possible, even bathing our son and putting him to bed at 8pm before making the dash to hospital where 2 hours later i gave birth to our beautiful daughter.

Fast forward to February and it was our first night out after giving birth 5 months earlier to our much wanted little girl.  A friend’s husbands 40th Birthday and we had a great night with friends drinking and dancing.

We fell into bed a little tipsy and I was left for a much needed lie in the next morning.  I remember waking with a feeling to scratch my right boob and there” it” was… Was this the lump that was there in the shower months ago?  I couldn’t remember. Jo and Jeff I had a wave of fear then thought, I won’t mention anything to Jeff, i’ll get an appointment in the morning to see the Doctor.  Throughout the day I kept having a feel and thinking no, it’s just a blocked gland through breast feeding.  I had breast fed both my children.  Do the right thing, breast is best.  It was easy but I didn’t want to feel tied so after 3 months breast feeding had put both on the bottle.  I couldn’t carry on like some mums, I needed my life back…

I rang the Doctors and spoke to the triage nurse and said that I had found a lump and she immediately got an appointment to see a lady Doctor that morning.  What’s all the rush its just a lump?  So there I was, I undressed and she checked my boob and the words ‘yes it’s a substantial lump’ came out of her mouth.  Sorry? Yes, we need to send you to get some checks done.  I was in shock but I waited for Jeff to come home from work before talking face to face to him about it.  Everything will be ok, it’s just a blocked milk duct.

There was a 2 week window for women who had found a lump from referral to outcome so I had an appointment a few days later for a check.  Jeff was with me.  The children were with my family.  I had an ultrasound and a biopsy was taken.  Crikey it was sore.  There were two women who we’re doing the procedure and I looked quizzically at their faces to see whether I could see any indication of anything. You’re brave, well done, they said.  You need to come back in a weeks time for the results.  It will be fine.  I remember going back to the breast care unit and the nurse asking if I wanted to speak to a breast care nurse or MacMillan nurse.  Erm, no, what would I need to speak to them for?

It was Jayne’s son’s birthday that day and we went to their house after the appointment to celebrate his Birthday.  I didn’t say anything to them as I didn’t want any unnecessary worry plus it was a celebration.  I didn’t say much to many friends about the biopsy, just close ones a few days later.

It was a hell of a week waiting, over analysing, thinking, worrying. It will all be fine…

So a week later Jeff and I were back at the hospital in the breast care unit to see the Doctor.  We had dropped the children off with my mum and dad and my sister was there too.  We sat in the waiting room not saying much to each other and when we were called in we sat in silence waiting for the Doctor.  I didnt tell Jeff but I had an uneasy feeling that it was going to be bad news, intuition I guess? The Doctor walked in and said ‘well there’s no easy way to tell you, you have a ‘little cancer’ – Sorry…  What does that mean, a little cancer, is that better than just normal ‘cancer’? Again I was asked if I wanted to see a breast care nurse or a MacMillan nurse… Why? What for?

The shock hit in the car park, shaking, crying, head spinning, thinking, not understanding what just happened.  I had 2 children to care for… I was still on maternity leave. Have I just dreamt it? No, it was real.  Shit what the hell am I going to tell my mum & dad? They’re going to be devastated, I felt awful for them, sick.  Cancer? Where did that come from? I wanted to protect them from this shit just like they’ve always protected me as a child.  There was no way I could keep this from them.  I needed them, I needed their help and support.  We arrived back at my parents home and knew that everything had changed in an instant. One minute I was me and then I was a cancer patient.  Your life is never the same..

We sat them down saying that it wasn’t good news and I put the kettle on and I fussed over mum and dad whilst they broke down and sobbed.  Dad had to lie down he couldn’t talk & mum just cried.  I took over on autopilot being a carer not the one who had just had a diagnosis of breast cancer … ‘right, who wants a cup of tea?’