Aoife Read returns to the hospital for some devastating news concerning the lump on her breast.
My girlfriend turned from the tiny wall-mounted TV to me, and asked: “Why is Jeremy Kyle always on in hospital waiting rooms?”
“It’s to make you feel better about your own life,” I replied. “It’s like they’re saying, ‘Whatever’s wrong with you, it’s not that bad. You could be these people.”
She laughed and held my hand. Five minutes later my name was called. Five minutes after that the entire bottom fell out of my world.
There is nothing to prepare you for the transition that happens in your head when you switch from a healthy person to a sick person. In an instant I became a statistic.
“Invasive carcinogenic tumour.” That’s all I heard. I know the consultant continued talking after that, but that is literally all I heard. After that everything became warped and muffled and the walls of his office began to bend and close in on me. Panicked, I began thinking: ‘Does he know I’m not listening? Can he tell? What is my face like? What do I look like right now? Why can’t I feel my hands?’
I think at that point I smiled. This was met with a rather confused look because the consultant had been in the middle of explaining to me about after-care for a lumpectomy. Myself and my girlfriend were then brought to another room, where the Liaison Nurse explained everything to us once more. A bit more went in this time, but it felt like a whole universe of information I couldn’t navigate. Then, I rang my parents to get them to come and pick us up.
The car ride from Beaumont Hospital to my parent’s house in Kinsealy felt like it lasted a whole day. All of it began at 11.30 this morning. It’s now 8pm, but it feels like a lifetime in one day.
The Next Day
I can’t even begin to explain the feelings I am feeling. To wake up one morning okay and to end that same day as a cancer patient is beyond explanation.
Today I made the decision to push my surgery back a week. Last night I felt like I was literally going insane. Life had just done a complete about-face and I was turned inside out. I felt like chaos.
The proposed schedule was to be blood tests today, along with a general health-check in preparation for surgery. Tomorrow I would have had an isotope injection, which is a radiation injection to the breast. Then a lumpectomy and the removal of the sentinel lymph node under my arm was scheduled to take place on Friday.
The lump and an area of breast tissue three centimetres in diameter around the lump would be removed and sent off to be analysed. After the results of that came back approximately ten days later, the next steps would be discussed. This is still the schedule of events, but instead of them starting the day after tomorrow, surgery has been pushed back to that day next week.
This decision wasn’t made lightly. I’m going to use the time to find out all I can about what’s going on inside my body and to be good to myself. I’ll buy myself something, watch movies I like, eat food that’s bad for me, and go to places that calm me. Once I go for the operation my life will change completely, at least for the immediate future.
It is pretty likely that I will have to have chemotherapy. They won’t know for definite until the results of the lumpectomy analysis come back, but the nurse said that because of my age they would more than likely go ahead with chemo as a preventative measure anyway.
This will mean that for the next year I am going to be the cancer patient.
There are upsides, though. It’s the most common form of breast cancer, which means it’s the most widely researched and most curable. Based on the mammograms, it doesn’t look like it has spread.
But the most surprising upside has been the people. So many people have been kind and warm and open with me. My gratitude will never be expressed deeply enough to friends and family alike. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by beautiful human beings who are full of love and support. My survival through this will be in no small part due to the kindness, wisdom and grace of others.
But the one who has risen above the rest is my beautiful girlfriend. My Franky. She has taken all of my weak fragile parts of me and held them in her heart. She has wrapped me up in the gentlest of kisses and most tender embraces, to steel me for this coming storm. I feel cloaked in love and light and safety because of her. She has decided to move in with me in my parents’ house to look after me in the aftermath of surgery next week, and for the duration of this thing. Her sacrifice and selfless unconditional love has shown no bounds.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
As one of my friends said when I told her, “You’re too stubborn to let a little thing like cancer beat you down”. So, all that’s left to do is sound my own personal battle cry: Hey Big C, you picked the wrong dyke to mess with!
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