There is…

1 February, the sky today.

Today the sky is David Hockney blue. An unexpected bonus. A piece of delight, of joy. Normal.

There is normal in moments, the visit to the snowdrop garden on Sunday with my friend, the joy of the snowdrops, the mooching in the kitchen utensils section together in the garden centre, the decision of buying a colander for the allotment; shall I get the dinky turquoise one, or this lime green silicone one that folds flat? It is a good feeling when you know at the time you are having a good day. There is the yellow sign flashing on the motorway as I drive home. SALT SPREADING. Are we expecting a frost? Sherbet lemons that fizz in my mouth.

Several evenings this last week at sunset the sky is clear and there is Venus appearing first, followed by Jupiter, they hang in a line with a crescent moon between them. They are where they should be, where we know they will be. I can pick a random date three weeks from now (not actually random at all, 21 February, my fifth year ‘anniversary’ from diagnosis) and I can know where they will be in the night sky. I find that reassuring. Normal. Continue reading

Bruised

My least favourite version of a hospital gown. Printed with the words 'hospital use only' - that's funny because I thought it would look good as a party dress.

Having been so open about my recent surgery for nipple reconstruction I feel it’s only fair to update you on how it’s all turned out. OK so the administration of my hospital experience was ‘not ideal’ and I’ve written plenty about that (please note just over 7,000 words, and all of them, together with Ronnie’s accompanying blog, sent hard-copy to the hospital – more about their response will follow in another blog post). But surgically this was very straightforward and has gone well. I also have the most wonderful kind and gentle and skilled plastic surgeon – Ken Graham – who I trust completely. And I know he will always do his best for me.

So for ten days after surgery I have a blue foam block covering my new nipple and dressings on the other breast where I’ve had some revision for symmetry. And a four-inch suture line on the inside of my upper thigh which is frankly, very uncomfortable. That was the donor site for the skin which was used to create an areola (which will mean I don’t need any tattoo-ing if the colour works out well). And I don’t mind telling you that having three surgical sites in particularly senstive areas do in fact hurt, I feel delicate and bruised. The effort of bending over to paint my toe nails, the tenderness, the way I am frightened that I will knock myself and hurt. Impossible to sleep on my side, too uncomfortable because of the stitches on both sides. All those things that are familiar post-surgery.

And all this healing time is frankly boring. I don’t get out much, I can’t do anything very active. I sleep long and nap often. I have some visitors who bring me chocolate and cake and we chat. I’ve been to the cinema and also went out for delicious pizza with my friend Karen, but post-surgery is a time for rest and healing.

So as I anxiously look at myself I get to see bits of stitches, dried blood and bruising. That’s what surgery looks like while it’s healing. 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