Monday, 26 September 2011

Is it just me? or...

So this might be one of this posts where I do a bit of off loading and blather on about how I'm really feeling, in the hope that it will be a common theme among a portion of the online population.

I'll be honest; I'm struggling a littlest bit. I'm three months post mastectomy. 2 weeks back in full time employment, 10 months fully fledged cancer patient. About 5 weeks neurosis about what I'm supposed to do now. I understand this isn't anything new, I'm expected to be a bit flummoxed at this stage, but seeing as this is just me and I'm not so au fait with the rest of the afflicted world, I'll put it down on virtual paper so I can at least record my mini meltdown for the benefit of hindsight.

The problem is this; everyone is so happy I'm 'back', and they can relax into me being me and normal life again, that I think it's easy to forget what a sh!tter it's been. And so they should too (by they I mean everyone who loves me, my colleagues, employers, etc), since it is technically behind us. But while they were all struggling through emotionally, I was very intently focused on doing what I was told and getting on with the treatment. It's only now that I'm resuming normal service, that I'm really thinking about it properly. You could say I'm slow on the uptake. Its a bit frustrating, I don't like being last in class. So herein lies the problem.

Part of me wants to forget it, but a bigger part of me can't, and the result is a pretty pessimistic jelly type hypochondriac who is so aware of my own mortality that I'm a bit afraid of crossing the road these days. Silly isn't it? Inconvenient it certainly is; There are several roads to cross to get from my front door to the desk that I so want to be sitting at every day, so I can do the forgetting part of this deal. And that's another thing. I'm impatient to get back to the old, forgetful me, so I've filled my days with an abundance of work and weddings, ignoring my body's minor protestations and shoving sensible thoughts about napping or deep breathing to the very bottom of my to do list. Until today that is, when I failed to concentrate on anything, spent a quarter of the day with my forehead on my desk, and finally acknowledged my shaky legs on every trip to the toilet. Damn it, I am not immune to after effects after all. Those blinking radiotherapy and post-treatment leaflets were right. Normal life will have to wait a little while longer.

I hope that I will get it back. Pessimism is not a happy part of my character, and I'm sick of not being as happy as I think everyone else is. You could say jealous even, but I realise there are a lot of blows that come with being a cancer survivor. Not least the one that sees you develop a fear for your future. I hope I get braver, I hope I stop thinking that every twinge is something sinister, and reluctantly washing my scar in the shower in case I feel the start of something that shouldn't be there. You see? Mental.

Most of all if I live my life that way then technically I'm not much of a cancer survivor, since it's somewhat ruined my life regardless. I'm not quite at a point where I believe my own philosophy yet, but I'm certainly getting there.

Apparently I should plan something nice for myself every day. That is a lot of nice to fit in. Any suggestions gratefully received. But they need to be centred around sleeping a lot and getting someone else to do all my chores. Now that would be nice...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

So He Says...

Since my fiancé (how grown up) pretty much has his own fan base these days, I'm posting this guest blog even though it's been lost in the depths of inaccessible malfunctioning hard drive for the last month or so, along with all my photos and iTunes. Lesson learnt: back up back UP.

Much like the hair thing I had issues about how DadJokes would deal with me wonky boobed. I'm sure this is a common wobble among women having mastectomy's so I asked him to write about it and hopefully be a bit helpful. Of course after the lovely response from the hair piece I was never sure if he was saying what he thought we wanted him to. Turns out there was a marriage proposal on the cards from way before then (cheeky bugger been planning it for 6 months!), proving men do actually think this way, so I'm satisfied that women with one boob can still expect diamonds. LOVE I meant unconditional love, of course...

To be quite honest, I wonder if anyone really thinks about what the other halves go through when it comes to a horrible situation like this. Quite rightly so too, after all, this is much more about the ‘victim’ (oops she told me I’m not to use that word, sorry).
I however, think of the grief of the person
with the patient as my mind wanders sitting in busy waiting rooms. I can fully relate to the anguish on their faces and am pretty confident I can read the thoughts and questions spilling out of their heads. In this case I felt I could read them like tangible sentences.

So I’m in the waiting room, waiting to hear if Soph would lose her breast, and I’m thinking: What can I possibly say to make her prepare for this? What will I say to her after surgery? Pre-cancer life was happy happy, will it ever be the same for us again?? I’m sad for her, it’s so unfair, but is it wrong for me to feel like it’s my loss too? It's a tough one. I never really thought it would come to this and in the end I decided that Yes I’m scared for what’s coming next, but I will be strong.

It’s impossible to imagine what it feels like to lose a part of your body like that. Especially a part that makes a woman so very much a woman. And dare I say it, a part lusted after by the large proportion of the opposite sex since puberty – that I
do know about. I’d imagine this is a big part of what makes it upsetting for Sophie and it's that very thought that helps me know how to remain strong and be supportive throughout.
I recall standing bedside as Sophie had a small metal marker inserted into the core of the tumour, so when the chemo shrunk the bastard completely, doctor's would know exactly where it had been.
I felt semi-confident that the long treatment, albeit hard work, would eradicate this mess and the mastectomy fear would be nothing but a bad dream. As you followers of this blog will know - the Chemo did not quite do its job, the tumour was an aggressive Grade 3, so the inevitable decision 8 months down the line was to remove the offending boob. F*ck.

I think by the time the surgery had come around, we were both looking forward to getting the alien out of there, desperate to in fact. Our strong desire to get rid of a whole breast should give you some idea of how painful this whole saga had been. It was going to be a relief.

I continually spluttered as much positivity about the actual deed as I possibly could, I wanted her to be assured that there was no shame in being left asymmetric, that it was medically the most positive action to date and that I loved her and found her beautiful no matter what. In fact, I was the first person to step up and take a look at it moments after she had woken up post op. "Ah ha" I said with a smile "it's so neat and clean and tidy, well done, it's over, it's all out".

In truth, I was preparing myself to have to lie about it, but honestly it didn't faze me. There were times I worried it would, but happily and genuinely it really didn't. The sheer relief that she had woken up from the surgery seeming fairly calm and collected was insurmountable. I’d expected a breakdown so monumental it would require roadside assistance.

 I hope Sophie believes me when I say I don’t see her any differently to how I did before. On the contrary she’s a far stronger and more inspiring girlfriend, with a greater perspective on life.
An insensitive colleague of mine recently said ‘if it was me I'd feel like a freak.’ It was only because I know there’s nothing further from the truth that I didn’t jump over the desk and rip off one of his testicles to see who the freak was then. Don’t think HR would have taken too kindly to that though…

 So, I can happily say we are on the way back to some sort of normality now, in fact the other day, I caught myself singing out loud to cheesy 80's music. Club Tropicana drinks are freeeeee….. Not remarkable until you consider the fact I haven’t done that for 8 months. Meh, the mastectomy is the mastectomy, it will always be there for us but it really doesn't get in the way, quite literally of course!
The two of us are lucky that we can talk about our thoughts, fears, insecurities and underwear needs, so she’ll always have someone to help her clear the hurdles that come her way.

 I will love her whatever happens, should she one tit or not... sorry,
want it or not.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 9 September 2011

Beauty Editors Day

We beauty editors do this thing every year where we go to Selfridges for a day, sit in a personalised directors chair in the beauty hall, and meet readers who want to test our beauty expertise/get giggly and nervous in the presence of such magazine celebrity/get free stuff in their goody bags. Or annoyingly tenacious PR's who take up a whole slot to try and pimp out their products. Not a great move when you consider this is a charity event, with all proceeds going to the wondrous Look Good..Feel Better, and there are people who genuinely get excited about twenty minutes of our time (how lovely is that?!) but can't book for said PR's being weirdly pushy. And they're always rubbish products because good PR's know that is not great conduct, and getting an editors back up does not good business sense make...

Last year I had 20 mins with a lovely young woman who had come across the editors day event while reading a waiting room mag, in hospital receiving treatment for cervical cancer. I was completely floored, in awe (I get like this about women who have had babies too - massive respect for that feat of terrifying endurance), touched and shocked. She was so young! And seemed so normal!

Not too long after it was my turn, - I most likely had it already as it happens - so I know that she was in fact young and normal, and went through a crappy time but had a nice 20 minutes of beauty pampering and gossip to fill her diary a little

This year I feel completely differently about the whole thing, since I can seriously and properly relate to all the women who come to see me, even the sick or recovering ones (its for anyone by the way, we get lots of lovely LOOK fans too). And if I can't exactly relate (we get some perfectly healthy 73 year olds on occasion), I'm ecstatic to be doing it for a charity that means so much more to me personally this time around.

So, if you fancy a ticket, or know someone who might, here are the details:

Where: Shiseido counter at Selfridges Beauty Hall, Oxford Street, London
When: Thursday 29th September
Time: 12-19.00
How to book: Call Selfridges on 0800 138 8140
Cost: Tickets are £20, with all proceeds going to LGFB - and for that you get a goody bag worth much more, a little makeover if you want one, plus a glorious chat with moi - that is serious value for money people...

And also, because they're so lovely and realise not everyone lives in London, Shiseido have given me a few skincare starter kits and fragrances to giveaway. I need some kind of a competition...hmmm. Best competition suggestions win an amazing Shiseido skincare starter kit? How about a simple RT? First five win...  but @i_love_lipstick me in, so I know you've done it!

Sunday, 4 September 2011