Monday 30 June 2008

I shit you not.

I'm told that when people start to show an interest in your blog, that's when you're supposed to step it up. So excuse me, then, for feeling the need to post about my bowel movements.

I mean sheesh! I'd just about reasoned with the cancer, but the constipation? Those leaflets they hand over on diagnosis should read, 'Welcome to breast cancer. Leave your vanity at the door and let's crack on, shall we?' 

Just as I'd got my head around the new way I look in a T-shirt and having to waddle about with a bag of drainage tubes on one side and a bag of piss on the other (Mulberry this ain't), today I've also put a nurse through the unenviable task of shoving a suppository up my jacksie (at the end of her shift, poor cow!) and watched P's best man wince as he was uncomfortably sandwiched in the middle of a conversation about the softness of my stools. Thank god he's no longer looking for speech ammunition.

But earlier this evening, to the televised sound of 15,000 tennis fans (and a coach-like husband willing me on from the other side of the door), I produced my own Murray-esque fightback. Thank you, Wimbledon – you were a wonderful crowd. I couldn't have done it without you.

Saturday 28 June 2008

Love is...

...finding the following sent text on your husband's phone: 'I know this is a strange message to send to my mother-in-law, but I've just seen your daughter's left breast and it looks amazing.'

And I thought the morphine was good. I might have an odd-looking, wonky mound of flesh for a left tit, a strapless-top-restricting scar on my back and a catheter full of green wee (it's the dye, not the broccoli) but after reading that text, you can stick your morphine. Now I really am flying.

Ding dong, the lump is dead! So are my lymph nodes, as it goes. The big bad bitch of a tumour had crept up into my underarm, but thankfully my smiley, sent-from-heaven surgeon whipped it all out in one go. And so I reckon I can justifiably report that, in this match, I've just scored a wonder-goal of an equaliser. (Smiley surgeon with the blinding assist.)

I'd do a celebratory Klinsmann dive, but I fear it might smart a bit.

But anyway, back to the morphine - is that what's making me feel so loved-up today, or is it the sheer good-humoured brilliance of everyone around me? I've had the World's Greatest Compliment from my husband, visits and kisses from two of my best boy mates (one of whom I delighted in freaking out with tales of my soon-to-be-tattooed nipple, ha) and day-long enthusiastic encouragement from family, friends, nurses, doctors and cuddly toys (told you the drugs were working).

And speaking of which... I might not be at Glastonbury this year but let's just say that, thanks to the morphine, I'm getting the full 'experience' just watching it on TV.

Ah, morphine.

I'm whizzed off my tits.

I mean tit.

Thursday 26 June 2008

New balls, please.

I've spent much of today staring at Rafael Nadal's bum from the front row of number 1 court. And what a view. Round, honed, perfectly peachy. You could sink your teeth into it. 

If you spotted me on the telly, you'd have noticed that mine was the only transfixed head not following the ball from one side of court to the other. I became almost as obsessed with Rafa's arse as I have recently with other people's boobs. I'm not ogling them, mind you – it's research. (And girls, that's the one time in your life when you can believe that line.) It was bound to happen. With all the chest-talk of late, I've quickly become the mammary meister. ('Next contestant on Mastermind, please take your seat. And what is your specialist subject?'  'Tits.') It's a jugs jungle out there, with so much to consider: the shape, hang, size, colour... and what the hell mine are going to look like after tomorrow's mid-op melon-twisting. (I'm really going to have to come up with some new boob synonyms, aren't I?)

During your Wimbledon viewing, you might also have noticed the eejit sweltering in the high-neck black dress. You'd think that on my left boob's Last Day Out, I'd have worn something overtly low-cut and inappropriate. Well, trust me, that was the plan. But it turns out I'm so bloody bruised and misshapen in that area (yep, already) that I'm falling out of the left side of every low-cut garment I own (which accounts for a fair old few), plus I suspect Wimbledon streakers are a phenomenon best left in the past. Not to mention the issue of who'd honestly want to gawp at my 'assets' right now. 

I wondered about that yesterday, while P & I snogged our way round London on an open-top bus. Will he still fancy me after the mastectomy (eew, I said it), when I'm all stitched and swollen and unnatural-feeling and sans nipple? And, more to the bleedin' point, will he still fancy me when I'm pale and hairless, and bloated from the steroids? So incredible is P that he's offered to shave his head when my hair falls out. But I've told him not to – he's so bloody handsome, it'll ruin his looks and I like him the way he is. And how ridiculous is that, eh? (I once made the decision to ditch an ex-boyfriend when he shaved his head because I stopped fancying him. That's how shallow I am.)

But back to the tennis (ish). If you continued watching Wimbledon into the afternoon, you might also have seen me knocking back a fair few drinks. What can I say? I'm getting my booze in while I can, plus I'm hoping it'll help tomorrow's anaesthetic along by keeping me well under.

My head went back to the usual left-to-right ball-following motion during Sharapova's game, by the way. Neither her arse nor boobs were that interesting to me.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Reasons to be cheerful, part one.

I've got to tell you, yesterday was a good day. Even by Ice Cube's standards. (I didn't even have to use my AK!)

Thanks to yesterday, I've been finding silver linings in the strangest things. (That said, I did just use the term 'silver linings' so it can't all be good. Apologies – at the end of the day, the bottom line is that it's difficult to write about cancer and not jump feet-first into cliché. Or brackets. You'll get used to 'em.) But back to my point. I'm under no illusions here – I'm well aware that cancer isn't always going to be this good, ta very much – but while everyone I love is doing their darndest to make the next few pre-op days amazing for me, I'm bloody well going to be chirpy about whatever I can. Besides, this'll soon be all doom and gloom (jeez, there I go again), plus I do like to take every possible opportunity to write a list. So then – reasons to be cheerful, part one...

1. A year ago this week, I had the first of two miscarriages. (Are you still there? Hang on, it gets better.) And thank Crunchie I did – if I hadn't, I certainly wouldn't be looking at the comparative bed of roses that is stage two. Instead, my cancer would have progressed in super-quick style thanks to the sudden surge of hormones. It's a good job P & I kept on trying, too ('trying'... I do love that term; basically a polite way of saying 'we're having sex all the time') because, in a roundabout way, that's how we came across old lumpy left tit here.

1a. Now that baby-making is off the agenda, P can have a bit of a rest.

2. Last Saturday (AKA The Most Miserable Day Ever), my folks delighted in telling my future sister-in-law about the time I sampled the contents of my potty as a toddler. (Oh get over it, it's not like I still do it. Well...) Ordinarily I'd be in bits about such an admission, but on that day they got away with it, the cheeky shysters. Believe me, in my mind's current embarrassment stakes, shit-eating is far preferable to total hair-loss. This revelation, however, is as good an example as I can give you of my parents' ability to crack a joke in any situation – and, by 'eck, am I grateful.

3. Thanks to my left'un (perhaps it'll get a more glamorous pet name, post-reconstruction?), it was looking like I'd miss out on Wimbledon. I had tickets for two days of the tennis, but I'll now be wired up to morphine (see, it's not all bad) during both of those, plus I'm not sure whether pyjamas are suitable AELTC attire. Anyway, in their infinite brilliance, my amazing company have managed to get tickets for P & I to go this Thursday, in order to take my mind off the following day's boob-removal (sorry to be blunt, but 'mastectomy' has fast become another word on my Most Hated list). And to keep me occupied tomorrow, P's organised a Secret Day Of Fun for just us two. If he's lucky, I might even let him have one last go on the left'un.

There. Three-and-a-bit reasons. It's not my style to bombard you with happiness, so I'll leave it there for now. And anyway, it's far easier to write cynically than chirpily, as I once discovered while doing a music review for my student mag. It was late, and my mates were waiting in the union with pints of something toxic and purple-coloured, so I chose the fast route and slagged off an actually-pretty-decent single. Forgive me, Dandy Warhols, for I have sinned.

Sunday 22 June 2008

Free Brazilian.

Well I was never the sharpest, but I've only just figured out that it's not just the hair on my head that'll be doing a bunk. Ooer.

I spoke to my old boss, Skips, last night and she scared the shit out of me. (I'm glad, mind - I needed that kick up the arse.) She was diagnosed with The Bullshit in 2006 and gave me a no-holds-barred account of what a bitch it's going to be for the next few months. It reminded me of the conversation I had with her after she'd given birth, when I foolishly asked for all the gory details. (You should know that myself and Skips are two in a line of three subsequent former editors of the same magazine who have since got cancer. Begin a career in home-interest mags at your peril.)

I am far less concerned about next week's mastectomy than I am about the subsequent chemotherapy and radiotherapy (get me showing off with my new-found cancer lingo), and all the shitty side effects they entail. In many ways it's the timing that's riled me most. J, my kid brother, is getting married in October - slap-bang in the middle of my chemo. And, from what I've discovered, by that stage I'm going to be bald, bloated, barfing and seriously lacking in eyelashes. I'm supposed to be doing a reading for them too. Perhaps the registrar should introduce me with the line: 'What are the scores, George Dawes!' and a little drumroll, just like on Shooting Stars.

Saturday 21 June 2008

The longest day.

Summer solstice, longest day of the year. I've been up for an hour and a half and already I know that this is the bleakest, lowest, blackest, most miserable day of my life. ('Good morning, readers. Today we're coming to you from the depths of hell. Today's 'Alright Tit' is brought to you by the letters B and C and the number 2.')

Last night I sent my parents home, thinking that P & I needed time alone. Turns out we do need it, but actually with the safety of knowing that they're around too, fussing in the background. We're heading up to theirs immediately.

Today I'm struggling to locate my fighting force. I literally cannot cope. I've probably said that sentence sometime before – perhaps after the death of my dear Nan & Grandad... revising for my A-levels... just before the play-off final... or when I once discovered my boyfriend in bed with his ex. Whenever I've said it before, I didn't mean it. I did cope then. Right now I'm just not.

I find myself actually looking forward to surgery next week. I WANT THIS THING OUT OF ME. Cut me open, take my nipple, take the lot, scar me right up. Just get. it. out. 

As terrifying as it seemed yesterday, right now I want to be in chemo, feeling like shit and losing my lovely long hair. ANYTHING must be better than being in the midst of these dark, pathetic, can't-do-anything-about-it days. And please don't take that sentence about my hair lightly. My hair is my everything (ironically, I've always said that my boobs are the only other thing I wouldn't change about myself, but sod that now, they can go). My hair! My wonderful, wonderful hair! My hair is where I carry all of my confidence; the top line in my personal appearance. Anyone who knows me will tell you what a pain in the arse I am when it comes to my hair. Nobody's even allowed to touch it without prior warning, I'm always that conscious of it being nothing less than the best it can be. I'm really not overstating this – my hair is great. What's more, I've finally got it to the right colour and the right length, and I've found my fringe groove, too. But all of it can go now, and the sooner the better, because that'll mean that something's getting fixed. I can't believe I'm even typing this, let alone completely serious about what I'm saying. This is my hair, for crying out loud! But right now, in the miserable meantime, n-o-t-h-i-n-g  i-s  h-a-p-p-e-n-i-n-g and it feels like it's destroying me, tear by salty tear. I need to get this show on the road.

I wish it was last night, when Al brought round videos of the drunken karaoke session on my hen night. For one tiny moment, while laughing at a clip of myself rapping (yes, rapping), I forgot about all of this bullshit. Only for 3 seconds, but it was magnificent. 

Friday 20 June 2008


Invasive, stage two.


How did this 'harmless cyst' become such a huge fucking deal? It wasn't supposed to work this way. Even my GP said so. 'Oh, it'll be nothing to worry about. Go and enjoy your holiday and it'll have disappeared by the time you get back.' So I did. And I forgot all about the supposedly-harmless lump, instead concerning myself with the celeb-spotting I could do in LA, and the margheritas I could sink in Mexico. Even when my lump popped out the side of my bikini, I blamed it on the number of nachos I'd been scoffing. It was hardly going to be anything to worry about, was it?

But a week after getting back, and it still hadn't buggered off. My GP said I could have it drained, but that they'd have to take a 'routine needle biopsy' at the same time which could be done in about six to eight weeks' time. Hang on there now – a biopsy? Eight weeks? 
Alarm bells.

Even though every part of me knew that the chances of breast cancer were super-slim (zero family history, no suspicious symptoms, twenty-fucking-eight), I knew it made sense to be seen privately for the biopsy to get a quick answer. And, short of saying 'yes' to P's marriage proposal, it was the best decision I've ever made. Within two days I'd had my needle biopsy. Within five, I'd had my diagnosis (I'm lucky that P was there with me to take it all in – I heard the words 'breast cancer' and the rest was white noise). And within just over a week, I was booked in for a mastectomy and knew exactly what I was up against.

Talk about post-holiday blues. My tan has never faded so fast.

The hired help.

I'm answering so many emails and calls and texts that I'm starting to feel like I'm running a fan club. That's not a whinge; it's actually brilliant. Fan Club Manager has always (and by 'always' I mean 'since the Bros days') been pretty high on my Dream Jobs list. The only downsides in this version being that (a) I'm having to talk about cancer a lot and (b) I'm not getting close to Matt Goss/Jordan Knight/Gary Barlow. Yes yes, that's a tragic admission for a cool-conscious 28 year old, but I fear the friend-of-celebrities aspect may be something of a theme in my Dream Jobs list. (What I really wanted to write after that last comma, by the way, was '...but fuck it, I've got cancer'. Nothing personal, you understand – it's just my rapidly-darkening humour, and my current can't-fail answer for everything. Someone's reluctant to give way on the road? I'll pull out first anyway: 'Fuck it, I've got cancer.' One slice of pizza left? 'Fuck you lot, I'm having it – I've got cancer.') Anyway, I digress. Back to the Dream Jobs list...

1. Editor of Smash Hits (RIP)
2. Autobiography ghost writer
3. Interviewer/gig reviewer for Q
4. London cabbie (oh come on, we've all heard the 'guess who I had in here this week' stories)

See? All jobs with chances of meeting celebs. What a sad, sad git I am. Maybe florist should make it back into the top 5, then. (I can hear my family rolling around with laughter at the thought of me getting up for the necessary early mornings.) Nah, Fan Club Manager it is. And anyway, I'm getting pretty shit-hot at juggling such a suddenly-very-busy life.

Perhaps if the juggling becomes too much, I could make like Carrie Bradshaw and hire my very own 'Louise from St Louis' PA to sort my shit out for me. But rather than organising neat lines of designer heels and replying to glam party invites, she could arrange all my flowers, hang up my Dorothy Perkins online bargains and RSVP to my Christmas 2008 press preview invitations. ('L will unfortunately be unable to attend the Woolworths press event, but looks forward to receiving the Christmas catalogue.')

Actually, sod the PA. The plentiful contact is a welcome distraction from all the boob bullshit (despite said bullshit being the reason for the contact in the first place), and it's keeping me busy. We're usually a happy-to-sit-on-our-arses family (well, Mum aside), but if you could take a look inside my flat right now, you'd have never seen a more productive bunch of people. That noise you can hear in the background is the sound of P sawing branches off a tree in the garden, Dad cursing while trying to put together a flat-pack Ikea side table (with the obligatory key piece missing) and Mum ironing at a superhuman rate. We've given the cleaner a week off, she'd have nowt to do.

(By the way, during the course of this post, I've received 12 text messages, 7 emails, 3 cards and one House of Fraser press pack. Beat that, Bradshaw.)

Thursday 19 June 2008

An apology.

From a lack of decent conversation and a curious tendency, my first (unsuitable) boyfriend and I fell into a routine of rarely speaking and instead using each other for experimentation. It didn't always feel good and wasn't always done right, but we were 15 and fed up and keen to impress our mates. One over-enthusiastic afternoon in an otherwise empty house, I somehow ended up with a hurt right nipple. How? God knows. But the subsequent few weeks were experimentation-free, while the far-from-attractive scab healed and, I suspect, my unsuitable boyfriend found someone else to experiment with.

13 years on, and I still silently blame this episode for my right boob being my least favourite. Not by a long chalk, mind – I've always been happy with my lot boobs-wise, and reckon that the few people who've seen them have been bloody lucky to do so – but we all play favourites, right? (Or left?)

And so today, I'd like to make an apology to my right breast. First off, for calling it a 'breast' just then. 'Breast' is just one of those words that I inexplicably hate, hence the inverted commas. (While we were engaged, I wouldn't let P call me his 'fiancee' for precisely the same reason.)

But mostly, I'd like to apologise to my right boob (ah, infinitely better) for always preferring the left, when that's the one that's gone and got cancer. 

Is it too late to switch sides?