One year ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Even 12 months down the line – after the heartbreak and the surgery and the all-too-real treatment – I remain every bit as freaked out by that fact as I was upon hearing it. What, me? Breast cancer? Are you sure? It still feels as though I’m talking about someone else – some poor sod I’ve read about in a first-person magazine feature, or heard about in an eavesdropped conversation on the bus. It still hasn’t sunk in. It may never sink in.
Today, however, has been an altogether happier June 17th. In a spookily cyclical turn of events, I have again received a rather massive piece of hospital news; the kind that inflicts tears upon those who’ve so far heard it. But this time, however, it’s for rather more celebratory reasons…
My mammogram is clear.
Poetic or what? I feel like I ought to be taking a bow or something. Punching the air or clipping my heels or screaming from the rooftops or running topless up my street. But since it’s all bit overwhelming right now, I’ve just had a little sob instead. Not out of sadness, you understand. It was a euphoric, relieved little sob. The kind of sob that encourages your husband to kiss your forehead, buy you a lottery ticket and bake you a cake. (Ahh.)
Not expecting my test results to come through until some time next week, I’d been nervous about marking the passing of today. I mean, hell, how do you mark your first cancer anniversary? Or, indeed, the first anniversary of any shit-uation that life chucks at you? I half expected to get up this morning and find my Bullshit birthday on the TV news, hear it being talked about by London cabbies or see it plastered across newspaper placards and magazine covers. (Apparently cancer’s given me an ego the size of Brazil.) Because it is, after all, The Biggest Thing That’s Ever Happened. (Better make that the whole of South America.)
There’s been rather a lot of contact from my family and friends this week, love them. I haven’t banged on about my Bullshit birthday to them even half as much as I would my normal birthday, but everyone’s still silently made it known that they’re aware of its place on the calendar. (And with little over two months to go to my 30th, you can expect that little onslaught to begin, ooh, tomorrow. Come August you’ll be begging me to talk about cancer.)
My mate Ali gave me a pat on the back – literal, not metaphorical – and told me that I ought to mark the day by reflecting on how well I’ve done to get through my first year of a life interrupted by The Bullshit. Mum said I ought to feel proud and allow myself a horn-blow about all the things I’ve achieved. Dad said I’d done brilliantly, congratulating me in much the same way he did when seeing my A-level results (well, two of them anyway). My brother Jamie said I should compare how bleak the picture was this time last year with the altogether rosier outlook of today and hold my head high. And you know what? They're right.
Because, by 'eck, there were times over the last year when I didn't think I'd get this far. Times when I didn't think I could get this far. And the odd time when, I'm ashamed to admit, I didn't even want to. But, bugger me, I have. And yes, I know it's not the end of the road. There’s plenty more to do. (Nipple Phase Two, for starters.) Because as much as the more hardcore phase of my Bullshit experience has tied itself up in a neat 365 days, the bigger battle lasts a lifetime. (After my diagnosis, someone told me to ‘expect to write off the next year’. I may track her down for a palm reading.)
But sod all of that now. Today isn’t for worrying about what comes next, nor is it for mourning the life-changes that cancer has inflicted upon me. God knows I’ve given The Bullshit more than enough of my tears. No, today is for popping corks, feeling chuffed, moving on and partying like it’s June 18th. Today is for saying ‘fair game’ and shaking hands with my opponent, while sneakily smirking at the scoreline that’s in my favour. Today is for looking ahead to a summer – nay, lifetime – of happier memories. (First stop: Glastonbury.) Today is for raising a glass (or six) to all of the brilliant buggers who’ve helped get me this far (that means you). Today is for rising above all the crap stuff, and for celebrating the better things that have come out of my Bullshit year. Today is year zero. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me – and I’m feeling good.
I can’t guarantee I will be in the morning, mind. Cheers!