I think anyone who’s going through a cancer diagnosis can accept that we’ll go through an entire spectrum of emotions as we prepare for the long road ahead. Treatment or death…ultimately this is what you’re faced with…then the worry that you’ll be faced with both of these things. In an attempt to organise the mess inside my head, perhaps I could start by describing it. Putting it into piles so that I can figure it out.
The Human Punch Bag
Breast cancer, a bad knee flare-up, a chest infection, shaky mental health at best – I don’t want to list all my ailments, but I swear if you could pick me up and shake me, I’d rattle. Being a human punch bag these last few weeks just isn’t me. I get on with things….right? Maybe.
The internal battle of self-pity; I’m not immune to it at times. Maybe that’s OK.
I’m active on Twitter, Slack, WhatsApp and Facebook; I’m a social person, so contact is really important to me and I have some truly wonderful friends in the Ohana and beyond. This week, however, I haven’t been into the office once. I’ve been hiding away at home and I don’t even really know why. When Chris gets home in the evening, I’m putting Mollie to bed and then I’m rewatching Game of Thrones for like, the third time. Somehow watching other people’s battles distracts me from the one I have to fight.
If you know me personally, you know that my sense of humour is either filth incarnate, or incredibly dark. These last few weeks my dark humour has helped me cope.
I have amused myself with silly Spotify playlists, comments about my new boobs picking up satellite and jibes about how rich Chris will be without me. Behind the scenes, I’ve actually spoken to a solicitor about my options, freaking out and worrying about Chris and Mollie’s future.
Then, one hour, I’m OK. I’m busy, I’m content watching TV with the cat asleep on my lap, or I am just getting on with things. Having a to-do list means I get into this space easily. Yesterday I spent most of the day building a flow, the other evening I was getting some stuff done for Ladies Be Architects. We’re running a research project and thinking about plans for Dreamforce 2018. It’s out of my mind and I’m able to get on with the daily stuff.
Then incredulity. Like, what have these NHS numpties been DOING for the last 3 weeks? We British are fiercely proud of our National Health Service on principle, but when you peel back the layers and see its inefficiencies affecting your own future, there comes a point where you have to admit that it’s broken. I was diagnosed on 21st May, waited 2 weeks to find out what the next steps are and finally was treated as if I was lucky to even get this far by the lady at the hospital….that was it for me.
Like I just did then. Only with more swears.
Ahh, that’s just my life now. We don’t even know if it’s truly localised in the breast – for all I know, it could be in my bones, liver, lungs….god knows what today’s CT scan will reveal. I’m sat here, planning for Dreamforce, when I don’t even know if I’ll be well enough to go. I don’t know how long I’ll have to spend off work (which is a big deal for me – keeping busy and working hard is basically who I am). I don’t know how nasty the chemo is likely to be. I don’t know if the insurance company will even cover me to have both breasts removed and reconstructed. Uncertainty breeds stress and negative feelings.
This time around, I am surrounded by so many things to be thankful for. Chris, my husband. He needs support himself, but just having him by my side has made all the difference. My parents, my work colleagues, the friends I’ve met through Salesforce – everyone is being wonderful. That’s even before we start talking about the friends Chris and I have made on Twitter. These guys keep me smiling throughout the day; they’ll be (no doubt!) keeping me strong throughout my treatment too.
I guess that goes without saying. This thing isn’t getting any smaller, it’s taking my food and my energy so that it can grow. I was never a morning person anyway, but I am also a major night owl. I’m going to bed extremely late and getting up early to take Mollie to school. Chris is telling me to get more sleep, but the moment I lay my head down, my thoughts go round in a spiral: “I’ll die”, “chemo will be awful”, “I will be in so much pain after the operation”, “what about CTA?”, “what if I get too ill to spend time with Mollie?”
I met with the plastic surgeon earlier this week to talk about reconstruction. He talked me through 3 options, 2 of which didn’t sound ideal. The trade-off is that the third option, whilst appearing to be the best in the long term, is a huge operation requiring 3 surgeons, a whole working day in surgery, followed by 8 weeks of pain and recovery. Then probably chemo (which means losing my hair again – right at the point where I was happy with it!) and heavier hormone therapy. That basically scuppers my plans for more children. It’s a lot to deal with, so it’s hard not to melt down sometimes.
Charly started a GoFundMe to raise money to support us throughout treatment. She’s raised nearly £5,000. As I have no private medical cover for this pre-existing condition until July, this money will fund all my appointments throughout June while I wait. I can’t thank the people who donated enough – nobody has ever done anything like this for me, and I wouldn’t ever have set it up myself. The relief I feel that I am joining IBM and can benefit from health insurance has no end either.
A year ago, I wasn’t really that active in the Salesforce community. I met Melinda Smith on a work trip to Nashville and we got on like a house on fire. She encouraged me to use Twitter more and the rest is history. It’s not just the golden hoodie and the user groups – these people, no matter where they are, never leave a (wo)man behind. Sometimes I have to pinch myself, because being part of this community is like a dream I never want to wake up from.
If you’re reading this, I’ve been trying to balance the positive and the negative, because I don’t want my blog to suddenly turn into all doom and gloom. I have to try and acknowledge it though; god knows how many other young women in my position are feeling. If even 1 of those comes across this and thinks…”Yes, that’s me too!” then a relationship has started. At difficult times like this, we need all the strong relationships we can get.
Thank you, reader.