I’m not sure if anyone watched ‘The Big C and Me’ on TV over the last few weeks. It’s a series which followed people from a cancer diagnosis, through treatment and beyond. I certainly hadn’t given any thought to be ‘The Big C’ and ME before last year, it just didn’t cross my mind. I’ve had a few people get in touch and ask me about my experience. It’s exactly a year since I had my surgery… so here goes.
It happened on a Tuesday. I’d found a lump on my neck, just below my left ear a few months earlier. I hadn’t thought much of it but after a few weeks it was still there. I happened to be at the GP with Theo and I mentioned it. I had a few tests done and they were all clear until one Friday I went for an ultrasound… and they decided to do a biopsy then and there. I had the follow up appointment on the Tuesday and that was it. Cancer. Me. 29. Holy crap.
I remember going home in a state of shock, I picked up Theo, who was only 2 1/2 and just held him. I was gripped my a fear that I’ve never felt before and I hope I never feel again. Over the next days and weeks I told friends and family, geared up for my 11 hour surgery, prepared everything as best I could. In the days before surgery I felt like my heart was about to stop beating any second, terrified. The day came closer and closer and I knew that I was going to have to head for hospital, leave Theo behind, step into the unknown.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – leaving him. Walking away, knowing I might never see him again. My legs were like jelly and it physically hurt to put him down. Trying to keep it together not to scare him. It was a nightmare, my nightmare. I woke up the next day after surgery, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t swallow. I was shocked that this had really happened. It took me a few days and a lot of courage to look in the mirror… and I was horrified. I felt lost and confused and really really sad.
After a few weeks I had recovered enough to be at home and be up and about. I was tired but adjusting to my ‘new normal’ when I had to head into the Cancer Centre in Belfast and have ‘Radioactive Iodine Therapy’. Now I had never heard of this before but basically you take a tablet that’s super radioactive and then you become super radioactive, so you get closed in a room by yourself for a few days. There was nothing painful about this at all, it was just surreal to feel so separate from other people. When the radiation levels had fallen enough I was released but I was still radioactive and had to stay certain distances away from people. I was so lucky that I had some wonderful people in my life to carry me through that time.
Time passes and life carries on. The last year has been insane for my little family, as well as my cancer my husband has lost his 3 grandparents, has changed position at work twice, I’ve been off from my job and we’ve moved house. I genuinely feel like if I can survive this last 12 months, I can survive anything. It’s left me feeling confident and inspired to live a better life with the people that I love.
After a further few months of tests and scans, I have every reason to hope that this cancer is gone and won’t come back. All along I’ve felt like it’s more important to keep looking ahead, rather than behind. If you think of the size of a windscreen compared to the size of a rear view mirror… where your going is so much more important than where you’ve come from.
Live it, learn from it, then leave it behind.