Why do I hate this blue folder? It looks like a perfectly functional, useful type of blue folder, does it not?
One might use it for scrumptious looking recipes torn from trashy gossip magazines; maybe how-to handouts from that great mosaic course one did last spring; or maybe it is home for all the printed complaint emails one has sent to ones phone and internet provider.
Okay, which one of you said Telstra?
Well this perfectly handy looking folder holds none of the above for me. It’s actually my oncology folder.
Yesterday, February the 16th, is the exact day two years ago that I discovered the lump in my left breast. Damn the year 2013.
It was a Saturday night. Walking towards my desk to sit down and write an email to my email buddy, I unclipped my bra and did the out through the sleeve magic trick thing we women do so effortlessly with great style, and threw it on the floor beside my chair in disgust.
“Bloody uncomfortable bras” I said to myself as I rubbed my sore left breast, “I’m sick of the damn things making my breast sore. I’m so bloody annoyed I haven’t had time to buy some new ones”.
I was about to sit down when I stopped in my tracks. “Ouch!” I said out loud as a shooting pain went through to my nipple. “What the hell is that?”
I stopped breathing.
Just like I’d been hit in the guts and winded by a cricket bat.
The offending bra I thought was annoying me wasn’t my bra annoying me at all.
The pain I’d been experiencing in my left breast that I thought was a strain injury wasn’t a strain injury at all.
The itchy nipple that had been driving me nuts for months had nothing to do with my eczema and sensitive skin at all.
The annoying relentless fatigue I’d been fighting had nothing to do with maybe doing too much at all.
There beneath my fingers was a lump.
“Hmmm, that can’t be good” I whispered to no-one but my startled self.
“That doesn’t feel like a frozen pea? Cancer lumps are supposed to feel like a frozen pea? That feels more like a short thick length of twine? A gnarly thick bit of old twine?”
I looked at the clock… it was 9.30 pm.
By 9.30 pm and one second I was in the bathroom stripping off staring at my left breast in the mirror.
“Shit… it looks swollen. Does it look swollen? Yes, it definitely is larger than the other one.”
“Does it look funny? No! “Yes, it does look funny. It looks a little out of shape.”
“What’s that dimpling around my nipple? What is that? How come I haven’t noticed that before? “
I rang and made an appointment to see a doctor on the Monday morning.
On Friday the 8th of March, after waiting for results of mammogram, ultrasound and core biopsy, I sat on the end of my husband’s hospital bed and announced I had breast cancer. The day before was our 26th wedding anniversary. He’d been in hospital for a week with his fifth pneumonia in a two year period.
Left breast, 7 O’clock position, 3cm invasive ductal carcinoma. Negative for oestrogen receptor, negative for progesterone receptor, negative for HER-2 receptor.
Translation? Triple Negative Breast Cancer, 3cm tumour in the underside of my left breast. We would later learn that it was Stage 1, Grade 3 – which means we caught it early and it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes or other parts of my body but it was an aggressive tumour.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer only equates to around 15% to 20 % of all breast cancers so chemotherapy regimes/options are limited. Trust me to get a subtype rare cancer.
What followed on from that day sitting on the end of Doug’s bed I’ll share over time. I’m only just feeling like I can write about it now. I couldn’t write much about it in 2013. I hoped I wouldn’t regret journaling the ride but I couldn’t bare to live through it twice in one day. Once for real and then another through words. Some days I couldn’t have held a pen at all… even if I wanted too.
I tested the water through words in 2014 to see if I could tread any stormy seas that I may encounter from writing those words and have them staring back at me in all their realness.
I discovered I could.
Sometimes I had trouble keeping my head above the swell of that stormy water churned from those words and the mentally and emotionally dumping waves… but I did.
I believe there is a nugget in every story told so I will continue to share my ride with hope in my heart that at least one person reading my words may feel that it’s okay to find your voice… that it’s okay to tell your story… that it’s okay to talk about not being okay.
I don’t know how often I’ll post in this series. I’m sorry, I don’t have a regular schedule or day worked out to post about it. Just as I feel I can, so then shall I do.
And that blue folder?
Well it was presented to me the first day of my treatment to indeed be a perfectly functional, useful type of folder whose purpose was to bring about organisation and structure and planning to my cancer ride and treatment… and it accomplished its mission… to a degree… but it far from represents that for me.
To me it symbolises nothing but a chaotic, ghastly, fearful and horrid, completely out of my control chain of events in my life that I had no say in the writing of; cancer treatment and circumstance had a vice like grip on the pen and it never ran out of malicious ink. No matter how I begged or wailed, governance of script was never mine.
I can’t look at it without malice.
Its perfect plan of dates, appointments, treatment regimes and reports display nothing of the frightful passage experienced that lays interlaced within the printed words, so endlessly invisible to the eyes of the reader.
And that, my friend, is why I hate that blue folder.
I’d like to thank the beautiful Sonia from Life, Love and Hiccups for inspiring me to one day REALLY share my story as she has done so powerfully and eloquently in her Peeling Back the Layers series on her blog. Her strength of honesty with her writing touched me. I secretly hoped that one day I could arrive at that place where I too could be raw and honest and just write. I think I’m there.
To my beautiful friend Jo who always manages to breathe air into my floaties and keep me afloat, thank you for always believing in me and loving me unconditionally. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have continued writing at all. I may not have been here at all. My soul sister.