This post was published in June 2012.
On Friday 22nd June I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought I’d write about it on Facebook because you’ll all be asking me the same questions over the next few weeks and months and I might as well keep the answers all in one place. And, well, since I’m working at Facebook nowadays, it seems fitting. Plus, I’ve always wanted something to blog about. I probably could’ve written about my Endless Quest to Find a Man and Not End Up a Lonely Old Cat-Obsessed Spinster, but the world doesn’t really need another Bridget Jones.
Before you start to panic, I am feeling absolutely, completely and utterly fine. I’ve had the most incredible show of love and support from my close friends and family in the last few days and am feeling more positive than I’ve ever done in my entire life. I know so many people who’ve beaten cancer and other serious illnesses and I am 100% certain I’ll be back to full strength in no time, and maybe even running marathons again before the year is out.
So, it’s a Big Scary Word, Cancer. But if you take away the ‘C’ word, all it is is a lump in my breast that needs to be taken out before I start getting treatment. I don’t think it’s too different from having a broken leg and needing an operation and a recovery period, but because of the Big Scary Word and the fact that everyone knows someone who already had breast cancer or another cancer, it’s easy to be shocked. I apologise to anyone who is reading this for the first time here: I’ve tried to contact as many people as possible personally but there’s only so many times you can say it in one weekend.
I discovered the lump in February while on holiday in Brazil. As soon as I got back to Argentina, I got it checked out immediately and had a mammogram and ultrasound, and the doctors determined it was a fibroadenoma – a harmless lump with smooth edges that moves around. The doctor told me there was nothing to be concerned about, but said I could get it double checked when I moved to Ireland if I so wished.
Four months later, after the GP in Dublin and the consultant at the hospital had both repeated the diagnosis of a fibroadenoma and put me in for tests just in case, a second ultrasound detected something a little more sinister and I was immediately sent for a second mammogram, another ultrasound, a lymph node test and a core biopsy, where a needle was inserted to take a tissue sample. The results of this came back on Friday and I was told it was a cancerous tumour. An Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, to be precise. It’s an inch big and feels like a small golf ball but it’s never caused me any pain or discomfort.
I don’t blame the doctor in Argentina for misdiagnosing me. The consultant in Dublin said that in 99% of cases with a lump of these characteristics, it is harmless and can be left untreated. I just happened to be in the 1%. But the fact is, if I’d stayed in Buenos Aires, I would never have gone back for further checks, so I’m extremely grateful for the people closest to me for encouraging me to get it checked out, and for St. Vincents hospital for insisting I repeat the tests.
My maternal grandma Hetty (yep, that’s where the name comes from) had breast cancer at 36 and died when she was 42. Her own mother had cervical cancer much later on in life. My own fabulous Mum is here with me right now and is very well indeed (as demonstrated by tonight’s pic of her involved in a vigorous exercise class on the roof of Facebook Dublin – and might I add that this class took place within an hour of her landing in the Irish capital for the first time ever!). I am assuming breast cancer runs in the family, because it is relatively unusual for a woman under 30 to get it. (8 out of 10 people with breast cancer are women over 50, according to the NHS.) But medicine has moved on a hell of a lot since then.
Now, at the risk of sounding like Samantha Brick, I do have great boobs. And I am a tiny bit worried about losing half of one of them. But I’m looking on the bright side. The immediate reaction of a charming American male friend, who shall remain unnamed for the purposes of this blog, was “At least you can use it to get a bigger rack, right?!” So yes, think positive!
I’m having a bone scan and a CT scan at St. Vincent’s hospital in Dublin tomorrow and the mother has flown over to hold my hand. On Thursday I’m heading to Manchester, where I’ll have surgery and the rest of my treatment at Christie’s Clinic, which I am assured has a fantastic reputation. I am looking forward to eating lots of chocolate and catching up on lots of telly over the next few weeks. And with my penchant for blue and pink wigs, I shall definitely be looking into alternative hair pieces if I do have to go the chemo route eventually! (Which I may not have to).
So that’s today’s news. Thank you all SO much for the amazing support so far. Everyone has been asking if there’s anything they can do to help and the only answer I can think of is to please continue feeding my endless thirst for news and gossip about your own incredibly interesting lives, or those of celebrities if you don’t have any goss of your own. I’ll keep you posted on my progress tomorrow!