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Chapter 7: First chemotherapy

Once or twice a month, I meet with some of my neighbours from where I moved in January for tea, cake and chat. When we had to move house, one of the reasons I wanted to stay nearby was because of these very good friends I'd made.

I'd rescheduled today's get-together to yesterday so that I could host it. I made a variation on a lemon meringue pie that I'd been thinking about for months: chocolate and lime.

On and on

Since I first discovered the lump, I have always been waiting for something or other.

For the screenings, for their results, for surgery, for its results.

And now for chemo.

Tomorrow the weeks of waiting will transform into months of enduring.

I realised that waiting had become a full-time activity; one can seemingly get on with one's life but really, it's just treading water - lost in a limbo - waiting for the next appointment which might change, yet again, my life's path.

Showing appreciation

I know that the nurses and doctors are "just doing their job" but, when they are dealing with people's dignity, let alone their lives, I can't help but appreciate a job well done.

They made my life comfortable - saved my life, even - through their skill; it seems appropriate that I show my appreciation using my own skill, through my jewellery.

Chapter 6: The Oncologist

This morning Frank and I went to see the oncologist - a doctor who specialises in cancer - to find out about my treatment.

My appointment was for 10:50am but the Breast Care Nurse that we'd seen at the post-surgery results last week said that Tuesdays were very busy and that, even if we arrived late, we'd be waiting for them, not them for us.

Chapter 5: Best news ever

This morning I had an appointment at the breast cancer clinic in Windsor to remove my dressing and to find out the tissue results from surgery, two weeks ago.

The results would determine whether I would need further surgery and whether my cancer is likely to have spread.

I have a lump where my lump was

So, nine days ago I had a 27mm lump and some lymph nodes removed from the left side of my left breast.

At least, THAT'S WHAT THEY TOLD ME.

With no ill-effects from the anaesthetic, no surgery pain (except the sharp tugging of skin by the dressing) and no restriction in movement, it crossed my mind more than once that it was a conspiracy, that I hadn't actually had any surgery.

Chapter 4: Getting the biopsy result

Frank had previously bought a ticket to go see the Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Opera House because he loved Prokofiev's music for the ballet.

When we realised that the appointment for the biopsy result was for the next day, I told Frank that he should still go to the ballet, that I didn't need him to hang around at home with me and that I'd rent some films.

Chapter 3b: Scans and biopsy

At the breast diagnostic clinic, I was ushered down a corridor into a room on the right. The corridor ended in a tiny room in which a dark-blue-uniformed woman sat, facing scans mounted on a back-lit wall.

She smiled feebly to me; it must be grim having to analyse a series of tumour scans and imagining the impact on the faceless women whose scans they were.

Back home and feeling dandy

I got back home around 7:30pm from my lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy today.

I cannot believe how amazingly easy the afternoon has gone and how well I feel.

The nurses on the short-stay ward at Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot are so lovely.

I tried to chat with all of them and collected origins: I had a Hungarian anaesthetist, and sweet nurses from Goa, Delhi and Ghana.

I have been thinking that I will make and send them some earrings as a thank-you (healthier than chocolates and they last longer!).

Chapter 3a: First clinic appointment

I was surprised to realise that I felt short-tempered the morning of my appointment at the breast diagnostic clinic.

After bickering with Frank, I apologised and explained I was feeling angry. After this it was manageable.

In the car on the way I started writing notes in case this was going to turn into something big and I would later want to document how I felt.

Chapter 2: GP at 7:30am

When we move house, Frank and I tend to leave packing quite late; it's never intentional, but that's how we end up.

We began packing in earnest a couple of days before we were due to move this time. The removal van was due to arrive at 8:30am on the Thursday.

The night before, it was clear we wouldn't be finished in time, and we'd run out of boxes.

I was too busy to think about my lump or my doctor's appointment the morning of the move.

Chapter 1: I found a lump

Just before we were due to move, I found - what seemed to me - a rather large lump in the left side of my left breast. I check for lumps whenever I remember to, about every 2-3 months, when I am in the shower or in bed.

The lump was unmistakable. I didn't tell Frank immediately. I thought about it for a while and then went into his study.

Chapter 0: Surgery 8 March

I'm writing to let you know that I will have a lump removed from my breast on 8 March.

I was diagnosed on Wednesday with an early stage cancer. However, the lump is small, it hasn't spread and I will not die of cancer. I am fine. I feel fine. And I will be fine after the operation. Nothing bad is going to happen to me. Except for hospital visits and side-effects from therapy, I am going to continue my life as normal.

Ode to an old coat

I keep thinking about a coat that I didn't win on eBay.

It was second-hand; it wouldn't have kept me warm, it needed repairs and would likely not have fit me but I still tried to snipe it for £100 even though I need a new mobile and a new camera, not an old coat.

Do you ever see something and think "that is so me - they made it for me"?

As soon as I saw it I knew that I had to have it.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself

Stephen Fry, talking to Mark Lawson on TV in September 2007 said:

Certainly the most destructive vice, if you like, that a person can have - more than pride, which is supposedly the number one of the cardinal sins - is self-pity.

I think self-pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive.

It is, to slightly paraphrase what Wilde said about hatred (and I think that hatred is a subset of self-pity, not the other way around) it destroys everything around it except itself.

Dieting makes me happy

I am happy. I don't normally think of myself as a happy person but, really, the last few weeks I have been happy about losing weight and, on my weekly weigh-in days, euphoric.

Keeping an online food diary has been a revelation to me. It's a perfect fit for my personality and losing weight now seems achievable.

Addicted to sneezing

I have an addictive personality (and I am also a completist). I don't know whether I am hard-wired this way or whether I was dropped on my head when I was a baby. Whichever, it makes for an, umm, interesting life.

My latest addiction is keeping an online food diary. And it's working; I'm losing weight. Finally, a healthy addiction!

When I find something new that fires up my addiction, I have an intense frenzy of activity.

Exposing the fakers

There's been a lot of coverage here in England about telephone competition scams. This seems to have involved in the news to fakery in television: from noddies, storming queens, naming cats, catching fish, and now FEMA staff posing as reporters in America.

It's all rather silly. But perhaps something good can come out of it.

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