Caroline: The clichés that matter
The clichés that matter

Perhaps because I am a retired English teacher, people expect me to enjoy writing, but I don’t. Maybe it’s because I am too self-critical. So this may not be sent!

On my ‘journey’ (how that word is over-used!), I never felt the desire to achieve catharsis through putting my feelings/experiences on paper- that felt like work! I wish that I had written more/kept a diary as my memory is atrocious.

Like many of us, I was diagnosed after a routine mammogram, a few months after early retirement. I had no worries before, but as soon as the recall letter arrived. I just knew. I think that premonition helped when it was confirmed with spread to lymph nodes under my arm.

I was completely calm, no tears, just, let’s get on with it. My only regret is that I did not insist more vehemently on a mastectomy. So went through lumpectomy, then nipple saving wide local excision (I said I couldn’t care less about the nipple, so it was the surgeon who wanted to save it, not me), before finally they admitted that having found another tumour and no clear margins. I would have to have another op – the third in little over five weeks. It prolonged recovery time and created more scar tissue than necessary.

I knew I shouldn’t write! This is far too long and boring! Cut to the chase. Chemo was awful. Everything that could go wrong did. Collapsed veins, extravasation, neutropenia, hospitalisation multiple times, failed attempts to insert Picc line, successful Groshong (thoroughly recommend!). Rads were a doddle; hair grew back and life resumed.
What I have learned. There is no right or wrong way to go through this. One boob or no boobs – those that matter don’t mind, those that mind don’t matter. I found out that I have the most wonderful family, friends and neighbours. I am loved. I am lucky. Life is wonderful. No need to sweat the small stuff. Taste the coffee, smell the roses, eat the cake. Ugh, now I’m writing in clichés!

In the last few months, cancer has taken two very, very dear friends. I am so angry about that, but I am learning to own that emotion and acknowledge that cancer gave me the capacity to love them even more deeply when they were alive. I cherish the living.

On the whole my experience has given far more than it has taken away and I hope I am a better person for it. I am not a warrior, I am not, and never was, brave. I am not a survivor. I am an ordinary woman. Just me.

My advice? Another cliché – ‘Live, Love, Laugh’
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