Eight years to the day, sitting in the same seat in the same place, the CUH Regional Cancer Centre.
25 January, 2011: breezing in with a book relatively unconcerned, assuming the lump was a harmless fibroid. Several hours later – after two mammograms, three biopsies and what seemed like the entire medical team prodding and poking – it became very clear (without actually being told at that stage) that it was cancer.
Home to (now ex) husband and children, aged 2 and 6, exhausted, bewildered and utterly devastated.
Eight years on, seven years clear and it’s time for the annual check-up. It’s always in January, never a great month – it’s cold, money is tight, clothes are tighter and it’s always related to cancer: diagnosis (2011), mastectomy (2012), reconstruction (2013) and check-ups (every year).
It’s not any easier doing it as a single parent – the fear of recurrence takes on a whole new significance.
The last eight years have been challenging but there are positives and it’s best to focus on them rather than the what ifs. The ‘babies’ are all grown up and don’t need a sitter. The hospital ‘maze’ is no longer a source of bafflement once you learn the short-cuts. And switching off during the mammograms and back on again when important questions need to be asked becomes part of your skillset.
Cancer teaches some valuable lessons. Expect less and appreciate more, for one. Family and good friends are everything. And while it’s a cliche, the old one-day-at-a-time adage stands true.
An old friend lost his fight against the big C last month – to be a survivor is a privilege denied to many.
So that’s it and it all looks good to go for another year. Still kicking ass. Chalk it down.