The Story Behind Chemo Chic...
In Spring 2008 my beloved cousin Gaby experienced some pains in her back. They steadily got worse. In July she collapsed and was taken to hospital where she was diagnosed with metastisised cancer everywhere, including in her spine. ‘Unknown Primary Tumor’ they called it. Prognosis: grim.
On October 17th 2008, Gaby died.
She was 47 years old and had been married to her Italian husband Mikele only a year previously. The two of them lived in newlywed bliss in a fairytale Tuscan village. It all seemed so unfair. Gaby’s last months were marked by a huge amount of love but also too much pain and confusion.
After that I felt a strong need to go home and see the rest of my family. I am Australian but have lived in the UK for thirty years, the last six as a single woman.
Footloose in Sydney I met Nick (I’ve changed his name for his own good) and fell head over heels. He followed me back to London and in May we travelled together to Tuscany to attend a memorial service for Gaby. That trip was awful and yet wonderful: sad; cathartic and romantic all at once. The word ‘bittersweet’ suggests itself.
During those months I became aware of a slightly hard and tender area on my left breast. I wouldn’t call it a lump. More like the kind of thing that many girls experience just before their period, only it didn’t go once my period ended. I wasn’t worried. I’d read somewhere years ago that cancer doesn’t hurt.
By chance, I had an appointment with my GP on another matter. I mentioned the tenderness. “Better get it checked out” she said and wrote a referral letter to the Breast Care Unit at St Mary’s Hospital.
You’ve probably guessed how that went... On the 26th of May 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As often as I remember to, I thank my higher power for giving me such a prescient GP. Left to my own devices I would not have bothered to take time from my busy life to schlep to the hospital on what seemed to me a wild goose chase.
If you are reading this, I urge you to acquaint yourself with the warning signs of various forms of cancer. If you are even vaguely concerned about ANYTHING, please ask your GP for a referral to go and get it checked out. Don’t worry if it seems loopy and hypochondriacal. Don’t worry if it irritates your GP. It is your right.
I started Chemo Chic in the hope that sharing my experience will help to demistify some of the horribly frightening and confusing moments that you will be experiencing if you or someone you love is going through breast cancer. It is not my intention to give medical advice or opinions. There are many excellent and informative websites, as well as numerous crazy ones, dedicated to saving your life. This blog is about saving your sanity.
Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.
It is a fundamental tenet of many twelve step programmes that “We only keep what we have by giving it away” What I have gained from my experience of breast cancer has been love, the ability to connect with friends and strangers, courage and a stronger sense of who I am. If this blog helps you in any way then it will have gone some way towards repaying my debt of gratitude to the countless people who have helped me.
I am sincerely grateful for the acts of kindness that have carried and are still carrying me through the frightening confusion of cancer and its aftermath.
You may not know how you have helped. But, trust me, you have.
Adela Campbell; Alice Temple; Amanda Barlow; Amelia Cook; Andy Carroll; Anna Hall; Anne de Charmant; Anton Mossa; Astrid Parker; Barry Adamson; Bella Freud; Beverly Marsland; Bob Morgen; Brett Walker; Dr Camilla Ducker; Dr Carmel Coulter; Caroline Andrew; Cathy Kasterine; Chris Gration; Chris Herd; Chris Mordue; Claire Gordon; Clare Sullivan; Claudie Layton; David Remfry; Mr Dmitri Hadjiminas; Elizabeth Bowman; Emma Howarth; Emma Lyttelton; Dr Erika Chess; Eve Howard; Graeme Hill; Herman Stephens; Hilary Boyajian; Imelda Burke; India-Fire Mehta-Cole; Jacqueline Skott; James Ohene-Djan; Jane Clarke; JD Kelleher; Jennifer Nadel; Jenny Demetri; Jessy Herbert; Jinny Johnson; John Connolly; Johnny Rozsa; Julia Herbert; Karine Jackson; Kate Herbert; Kell Skott; Kumari Salgado; Lisa Ward; Lizzie Fleetwood Hartnoll; Lulu Ainsworth; Lynn Miller; Margo Marrone; Mark Thomas; Mary Parkinson; Matthew Burton; Melanie Metcalfe; Michele McQuillan; Milly St Aubyn; Mike Cole; Mitsu Sousa; Naomi Howard; Natalie MacKenzie; Dr Neil Brener; Nic Flynn; Patricia Peat; Paul Gills; Phillip Donoghue; Rachel Aubyn; Dr Rachel Garner; Radcliffe Royds; Rebecca Edwards; Ree Van Galen; Ros Tonello; Rosie Boycott; Ross Grayson-Bell; Rowan Ainsworth; Ruth Howard; Sally Curry; Sam McEwen; Sarah Sarhandi; Sarah Stanton; Simon Crane; Simon Drake; Sophie Molins; Steven Back; Susie Porter; Dr Suzy Cleator; Tanya Sarne; Tim Cole; Tim Littlemore; Tracey White; Tricia Heyland; Trinny Woodall; Vonni Littlemore; Mr Wahid Adada; Wendy Bain.
Joss, Lindy, Tash; Carol; Rosa; Sharon; Milly; Kim; Anne and all the nurses and staff at the Harley Street Clinic.
Clearly I could not do any of this on my own.