(Read my first e-news here)
I was initially confused by the unfamiliar surroundings, the lights, sounds and movement. In the distance I could hear some faint voices singing ‘happy birthday’. Then I realised where I was, it was intensive care, I had come through 10 hours of surgery, one of the nurses must have been having a birthday. My body felt so fragile, like I was just held together with sticky tape.
It was my birthday as well. I was 34.
It had been an eventful 12 months, I had lost my mother after a long battle with cancer. At the time I had noticed an abnormality in my breast, but as it wasn’t a lump, I didn’t think it could have been cancer. In fact, the C-word had never entered my mind.
After initially seeing a dermatologist, a biopsy determined that there were cancerous cells in my breast. A further, more invasive biopsy confirmed that I needed a mastectomy.
If you have ever been on the cancer-ride, you know it can feel like you are caught up in a fast-moving snowball, gaining momentum. Decisions to be made, plans to put in place. Our boys were aged 11 and 8 at the time, it was a bit confusing for us all. We appreciated the wonderful help of our family, friends and my work colleagues who rallied around.
I was a candidate for a new medical procedure called TRAM Flap, using the body’s own tissue to reconstruct the breast. I had a mastectomy and reconstruction at the same time.
This was 19 years ago.
My birthday is late November and I am reminded of this experience each time my it comes around. It is fitting that I am undertaking the CanToo challenge at this time of the year. I was the recipient of cancer research, as you, someone close to you may have been, or perhaps they are right now.
Facing a challenge like cancer changes you. I remember saying at the time, that it wasn’t something I would ever choose to do, but have I emerged a stronger and more resilient person because of it.