Cancer is shit. There are no two ways about it. Even the word itself Can-cer sounds horrible. Caaaan- ceeeer; nothing nice about it whatsoever. Imagine it had been called Candyfloss. ‘I have just been diagnosed with Candyfloss…’have you heard that Tom/Ailsa/Josh/Jayne has got Candyfloss?’ It just sounds so much nicer and far less like a multi-toothed creature that is going to jump out of the sea and consume you and your boat all in one go.
Anyway, name aside, I, like a million plus other people, have just been diagnosed with Cancer. Breast Cancer to be exact. Which is good, because we all know that everyone survives breast Cancer, at least everyone we talk about.
It all started off innocently enough. I got out of the shower and was brushing my teeth and, looking at my boobs in passing, I noticed my left boob looked to be slightly out of shape. (Strangely, maybe or maybe not, I find telling people that I was brushing my teeth naked when explaining how I ‘’discovered’’ it- (again- very odd terminology, because it’s not like I am Christopher Columbus and have found the New World) to be a bit weirder than telling people I’ve now got Breast Cancer).
I didn’t think that much of it, but when it was still noticeable a couple of days later, I figured the time had come to take a quick trip to the doctor.
Vive La France…
I have the joy of living in France. Where we have what is known as a partly social, partly private medical system- the state pays 65% of our care and we or a top-up insurance policy, pay the remaining 35%. The reason I am telling you this is because I think it works. People here do not go to the doctor for a prescription for Calpol for their kids. As a result, when I rang my doctor at 9.00am on a Monday morning, I had an appointment, no conversation around ‘’it needs to be an emergency”, or ‘’you’ll have to speak to the triage person first’’, for 11.15 that same morning.
At my 11.15 appointment, my lovely doctor screwed up her face and raised her eyebrows when examining my left boob. ‘’mmm’’, she said, giving me that look that I have since begun to recognise as being ‘’the look’’. ‘’It seems like something. Better to get it checked’’.
The ‘’checking’’ came just 48 hours later at a specialist clinic 20 minutes drive away where they just do mammograms and biopsies, all day everyday. While my boob was being squished into a machine for a mammogram, I kept my eye on the diagnostic person’s face as best I could. Were there any giveaways there? A raised eyebrow or slight intake of breath while looking at the scan? There was nothing. I had a good poker player on my hands here. Subsequently, I needn’t have worried, because the doctor who then carried out an ultrasound on my left boob ten minutes later, clearly had no interest in playing poker.
This is my poker face…
‘’No family history?’’ he said to me. I could have pretended he was talking about our wide-ranging but bizarrely small Irish family and that he was terribly interested in genetics, but we both knew what he meant really.
‘’No, nothing’’. I explained. Again, ‘’Are you sure there is no family history?’’. Given that my mum was an only child and likewise my dad was one of two boys, I really didn’t have much to go on, especially as the generation before that still used a stick to find water in Ireland, let alone do much about healthcare, but no, I insisted again, no family history.
His poker face was non-existent. ‘’There is something there- cancer. You’ll have to have a biopsy’’.
And that, as they say was that. During the short space of three days, my life and that of my child’s had gone from ‘’what will we do this summer?, to ‘’what the fuck will we do this summer?’’ Breast cancer had come to stay.