I feel a bit of a fraud. Not only because accepting one compliment is impossible for me, nigh on the raft that have come my way since I first posted (thank you) but because there are times when I haven't been so brave or positive or gutsy since I went from finding a lump to waiting for a biopsy result to calling it cancer.
The time between diagnosis and waiting for my first appointment - gene testing - was the worst. A newbie in the cancer circuit I assumed I would be whisked off straight away for surgery and treatment as though every second counted but for me it didn't work that way. Tests need to be carried out to determine if the cancer is present anywhere else and NICE guidelines state hospitals have three months from diagnosis to begin treatment without there being an effect on the overall prognosis. It wasn't until I called my breast care nurse, whimpering, she explained how quickly it is being handled. She suggested I go along to a local cancer drop -in centre but the last thing I wanted was to visit something akin to an old people's home full of sick bald people hunched in high backed chairs. I limped on for a couple of days between spells of laughter and normality and plunging into full on panic attacks and sobs. It was at these moments I would call my GP. Cue my friend, Pam. Or Diazepam, which is there for those times my head becomes overwhelmed or when I am too scared to sleep. When my first prescription of Pam ran out I had to go into the Doctors Surgery to collect the next. My doctor has been amazing with last minute phone appointments but on this occasion there was no space for me to talk to someone. He had also suggested the same drop-in centre. Armed with my prescription, I walked off down the road,resigning myself for what I was about to see. A bunch of cloudy eyed souls....
I am not being overly dramatic when I tell you I rang the doorbell sobbing and feebly asked "Can I come in" when a concerned looking woman opened the door.
Let me tell you, here was lesson two. Don't count cancer sufferers out of the running yet. Grey walled? Try bright pink. Not a sinister looking baldy anywhere. And the best bit? Well, there's actually a few best bits -
1) you can't tell the difference between the dropper -inners and volunteers as no one looks ill
2) Complimentary therapies ranging from yoga, reiki, massage, nutrition advice, counselling and more (all free!)
3) Tea, coffee, all important biscuits
4) No medical talk, you can just be normal
5) laughter and support
And for me the absolute clincher, it's run by an absolute salt of the earth, guardian angel who had survived cancer. Twice
Thanks to a career in journalism /misery mongering, I didn't in my wildest dreams expect to meet a survivor. If you read the papers, everyone dies of cancer, right? Right ? Wrong!
"I think I'm dying and I can't because I have the two best little girls and I can't do it to them, " I blurted out.
After being filled to the brim with cups of tea (it's the irish in me) the absolute gems who volunteer gave me hours of their time, telling me stories and empowering me with hope. I left the centre that day looking forward to making use of all the treatments, with a strategy of how to involve the girls (nurses outfits! ) and with a refuge from 'The Cancer'.
So now, quite often if friends and family call me to find out why I'm not home, I'll tell them I'm hanging out with my cancer mates!
Pickering Centre? More like Miracle Centre, staffed by angels.