If You Don’t Want To Do Business With Me Because I Survived Breast Cancer – Tough Titty!

If You Don’t Want To Do Business With Me Because I Survived Breast Cancer, Then Tough Titty!

Five years ago, almost to the day, I stood in the shower clutching my right breast and wondering if it was going to kill me.  If you’ve been unfortunate enough to ever discover a lump in your breast (or anywhere within your body, to be honest) then you’ll know the gut wrenching fear and disbelief that courses through your body; the unmistakable liquefying of your insides as a cold terror takes possession of your heart, your stomach and finally, your whole body simply caves in to the horror of your potential imminent death.

I’ve always been a bit blasé about my breasts.  For a start, they’re a pretty good pair, as tits go. Rounded creamy orbs with what I’ve been told are large, pink tipped nipples which thankfully still point in the right direction and haven’t yet given up the fight with gravity despite some pretty invasive surgery in the last couple of years.  So I’d no more thought about getting breast cancer that I’d thought about travelling to the moon recently.  It just Wasn’t Going To Happen To Me.

Only it did.

To this day, I don’t know what made me decide, probably for the first time in my life – to carry out a self examination of my breasts.  I think I’d read an article about it in one of the Sunday papers, and there I was on Monday morning, standing in the shower with globules of water trickling around me (my shower is not a power shower.  Instead of sending a jet of water out of its nozzle, it sort of compromises with a half hearted droplet every few minutes while I stand there wondering if I’m going to have to go to work with conditioner in my hair again). So there was the water, trickling weakly out of the shower head, there was I surrounded by vast clouds of steam (I like my showers skin peelingly hot to the effect that I look as though I’ve got first degree burns when I get out) and with soap suds and hair conditioner running in rivulets into my eyes, when I discovered an unmistakeable Lump.

Cue the moment of the gut wrenching fear and me practically falling out of the shower, gasping for breath and sobbing at the same time, thus producing quite a strange sound, that whales would have envied, if they could have heard me.

Did I go straight to the Doctor’s Surgery and sit and wait for an Emergency Appointment demanding an instant mammogram and favourable diagnosis?  No. I went to work, because stupidly, once I’d calmed down and told myself that I’d probably imagined the Lump, I ignored it for a week until one day I was putting on my bra when I winced with pain.  It’s a fallacy if you are ever told that breast cancer is not painful.  Don’t listen to anyone else. Everyone is different and to me, if you have pain ANYWHERE it’s usually a sign that something is wrong.  It was the pain that drove me to the surgery that evening, having been uncomfortable all day not just from the breast pain, but from a niggling suspicion that maybe the Lump Was Real.

The Doctor agreed with me that the Lump was indeed Real.  That evening, I went home stunned, with an appointment to attend a Breast Care Clinic in two days’ time. The evening passed in what I can only describe as an out –of – body experience for me.  It felt like I was looking around at everything but not really seeing it from my eyes, but outside of myself, as if reality didn’t really exist. I watched the familiar every day scenes of home life as if they weren’t really happening, and as if I’d never seen them before.  I wondered what it would be like to die and I wept as if my heart was going to break when I thought of the pain that my death would cause my children.  I remembered how I’d felt when my Grandmother had died – she brought me up and passed away when I was just seventeen.  I’ll never forget the feeling of desolation you feel when a parent dies – it’s like suddenly you exist on your own – the invisible umbilical cord that bound you together is severed with a finality that frightens you to your core.  You cannot believe that the person who was responsible for giving you life is dead. It’s an incomprehensible isolation; a loneliness that touches your very soul – smarting and stinging like vinegar poured into an open wound and you know you’ll never recover.  The terror of inflicting this sort of unimaginable pain and loss on my children hurt me more than any of the surgery, the chemotherapy, the sickness, the post operative recovery, the subsequent infection, the cold cap treatment to prevent my hair falling out.  None of that hurt as much as that moment when I considered how my children would feel if I died.

So I lived.  I endured what can only be described as the living hell of chemotherapy – believe me, it’s not the cancer that hurts you, it’s the cure. I put up with the retching, the sickness, the horrible metallic taste in my mouth that is a present from the chemo. I went through two operations, one post operative infection which rendered me practically immobile and made me look haunted and wretched. Whenever I looked in a mirror (and it wasn’t often, I looked too bad) I reminded myself of a Nazi concentration camp occupant.  I had that same empty, skeletal look; the same grey skin dropping away from a considerably reduced body, the same haunted expression in my eyes.  I shrugged off the decaying, rotting of my teeth – another by product of chemotherapy, along with the splitting nails, the dry, itchy skin that drove me mad and made me want to rip my epidermis to bits.  I put up with all of this because I did not want to put my boys through the loss of their mother.

Here I am, five long and gruelling years later. Cancer free, at last. Now; now I am actually able to think about that magic elixir of Having A Future – a thing that I dismissed from my mind whilst I endured an incomprehensible present.  Five long years, fighting not only the original cancer, but a return bout almost two years to the day of finding the first Lump – it’s grown up cousin decided to come calling and my next surgery was more serious that the first because the word Masectomy was mentioned for the first time.  I will never forget my wonderful Macmillan Nurse, who stayed with me whilst I was wheeled into the operating theatre, and who was there in the recovery room when I finally awoke, sick and confused from the anaesthetic.  She was there holding a bowl ready for the inevitable vomit and she just whispered ‘Two – nil’ in my ear, and before I slipped back into the blackness of anaesthetically induced sleep, I smiled because I knew she was telling me I still had two breasts.

I’m incredibly lucky, I know that now every time I look at my breasts in the mirror, or check them for lumps, which I do almost daily.  I’m incredibly lucky not only to have survived, but to have done so with both breasts intact and with minimal scarring.  To celebrate my survival, I post pictures on social media of a body that I am incredibly proud of because it is a testimony to my determination to simply be here and be alive.

A couple of days ago, I approached another business owner – a female – whose skills and artwork could have made a valuable contribution to the products which I am hoping to bring to market.  The response I got surprised me because this person did not want to do business with me because of what she called my ‘inappropriate pictures’ on my Twitter timeline.  Well, Lady – let me tell you this-

My pictures are a daily diary of a small blonde woman’s absolute pride in her survival – yes, pride. I’m not a brave person. I cried when I had my first diagnosis. I wailed at the pain of cold cap treatment.  I passed out every time I vomited due to a combination of a pre- existing low blood pressure and fear. I shrieked whenever I was injected, and I cried every time a canula was placed into a vein.  I’m a coward, I admit it, which makes me even more proud of what I’ve endured.

So, let me tell you this – if you don’t want to do business with me because I survived Breast Cancer, well, tough titty.

2 thoughts on “If You Don’t Want To Do Business With Me Because I Survived Breast Cancer – Tough Titty!

  1. You’re incredibly brave. That woman could have championed you, her loss Jane , you’re worth dozens of narrow minded people like her XXXX

  2. I commend you and have a great deal of respect for you. I too am a survivor of breast and ovarian cancer, just a year now clear.
    I was fortunate to have found both early (stage 1 to 11.) Lumpectomy and radiation ( internal ) catheter in my breast, at the site treament twice a day , two times a week . Always so ill aftet the second afternoon round and pain at site.
    The goods news is we made it!! I’m a medical profrssional and no one has ever shunned me in the work place thus far .
    How awful!. In my opinion, they are unprofessional. I have followed you on Twitter, I’m @SassySubSophie. I will be strating a blog on wordpress soon. Would love a follow back.

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