It all comes back

November 2007, picking Sarah up from hospital after her oopherectomy

Today’s guest blog, from guest Editor, Ronnie, picks up on Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic article ‘Welcome to Cancerland’. This one’s about ‘Carerland.’ It’s right next door.

So, it’s Monday evening, this week. Sarah’s just gone out boxing and the phone goes. It’s the hospital, offering Sarah a cancellation slot for her next surgery, this Thursday. ‘Do you think she’ll take it?’ I’m asked. ‘Well, I think she’ll hit the roof, blame me for the short notice, stomp around the house for a few minutes, and then agree it’s probably best to get it done now,’ I tell her. And an hour or so later, this scenario plays out, more or less precisely. Sarah takes the appointment, and immediately begins her blog about it, published on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning for me, I’m out on what’s becoming my regular run. From our house, ten minutes down to Sefton Park, once round the park, twenty minutes or so, then back up to our house – bit more than ten minutes, mostly uphill. Monday morning I’d skipped round this. But Tuesday’s different. In the end, my times are pretty much the same. But there’s a heaviness in my legs and in my heart. Skipping it isn’t. And half way round I realise I’m running through previous preparations for surgery, previous waiting rooms. And it all comes back. Welcome to Carerland. Continue reading

Good enough. For now.

The view while waiting; in the consultation room. 

It’s the time of year when the sun has started to noticeably slip lower in the sky. It shines through the leaves of the trees making alternate golden light and shadows in the car as I drive home from the allotment. The year is turning.

Today I have had my ‘routine’ check with my breast surgeon, Alison Waghorn. A mild anxiety has been with me for most of last week. The usual feeling, even though I have nothing to worry about. But we always have something to worry about; fear of recurrence, even if there are no symptoms. And I go to the hospital with Ronnie, it feels like I have been in this lift a million times. The same waiting room, the file that is mine that is heavy and full. We sit there, and then we sit in the consultation room and wait, reading the notice about the Barium Enema referral procedure for the thousandth time. This room where I have spent so much of my life, or so much of my life where I am in a heightened sense of awareness.

And when Alison Waghorn comes she says she is sorry to have kept me, and she flops down onto a chair and smiles at me. She is the same age as me. We’ve become friendly during the last four and half years. We talk about my book – she liked it, says she likes the honesty in it, that it’s helped her to see things ‘from the other side’. She’s bought copies for her mum to help her understand what she does, and also for her aunt who works in a hospital too. And we chat about my recent trip to Buckingham Palace (she was impressed), and look at the photos, and chat about our latest camping holiday in the Lake District. And then we get down to the medical bit. I will spare you the details of a full breast exam, of the discussions of my reconstruction, the exclamations about my rub-on nipple transfer, how realistic it looks. All is well. For now. Continue reading

The surgery that wasn’t

Friday 22 April, Thurstaston. Spring is here.

I feel I’m on a long road. I thought I could see the end. But, it’s not over yet.

Last week, on Thursday the 21st April, which is exactly four years and two months to the day since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was in hospital for what I hope is my last surgery for breast cancer. My seventh operation. A nipple reconstruction. This will be the third plastic surgery operation, and I am feeling the usual combination of nerves and excitement. Because mostly surgery is about taking things away, but these reconstructive surgeries are about giving me something back. But I am strangely more nervous than any of my other surgeries, because this one is ‘only’ a local anaesthetic. That means I’ll walk into the operating theatre, I’ll see all the staff and the equipment, and I feel nervous about that. But I’ve been pretty low key during the run up to the surgery saying, ‘Well, you know it’s only a local.’

So it’s ‘only’ a local, it’s ‘only’ a nipple, it’s ‘only’ minor surgery. Well, I think I’m coming to realise that nothing is ‘only’ in cancer treatment.

Since I was last there the hospital have moved into a brand new building. It’s clean, modern, the ward is spacious. The windows are open to the lovely spring day and it feels exactly like healthcare should feel. Ronnie leaves me and I sit and wait. Continue reading