As another year draws to a close it is a time for reflection and for me as I approach a series of milestones that made the end of last year and the beginning of this, the most challenging in my life so far, it is time to say farewell to a most extraordinary year and actually it has not been all bad.
Looking back through my diary from 2017, December is punctuated with a series of dates that I would prefer to forget but can’t, so instead I have decided to face them straight on, with fingers raised and my chin up.
It all started with a letter on 8th December that would deal me and subsequently my family, a cruel and unexpected blow and instigate a catclysmic cycle of events that rendered us all helpless and a bit bewildered.
With Christmas on the horizon there was a sense of urgency about moving to the next stage, the wheels started to turn very quickly and shortly after I met with a gynaecologist. Ironically it was on the eve of a friend's birthday celebrations. After a lunch fuelled by laughter and champagne I headed off a little bit worse for wear, for a test that I had been reassured would demonstrate that there was actually no cause for concern. After all, as my GP said, I had never had an abnormal result before so she was sure it would be nothing to worry about.
As is always the way of course, hope can be so easily dashed and a biopsy swiftly followed. The next few days passed in a blur with the usual flurry of last minute Christmas preparations, thankfully leaving me with little time to pause let alone think.
It was during a family trip to the cinema on the 22nd that the long awaited email with the results of my biopsies arrived “not cancerous but evidence of severe pre-cancerous stages.”
Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was a contemplative period. Drinks on Christmas Day morning with friends at our local pub was the usual mix of festive cheer punctuated with comments of reassurance for the next steps. Lunch with my family provided the safety net I needed and a reliable dose of fun and laughter. My favourite walk on Boxing Day across Richmond Park cleared my head and gave me the courage to move on to the procedure scheduled for later that week - the one that was promised would eliminate those rogue cells and return me to some semblance of normality and away from this suspended nightmare.
Except of course it didn’t. As those who have followed my story will know. After being sent away with a date for a review in 6 months I received an email recalling me early in the New Year. The writing on the wall was clear - to me and my and husband at least.
I went alone. Bizarre behaviour for many maybe but I was in a tunnel by myself and just didn’t want any company. I told my husband to look after the teens. My Gynaecologist was late. I read a lot. Watched the news and tried to ignore the other people in the waiting room.
When he arrived and called my name, he looked down, not up, at the wall, not at me. We had been thrust together by my symptoms, not by choice, but during our many meetings and procedures over the last month we had chatted and laughed a lot about a whole host of topics. He had explored my lady bits more closely than anyone else and I had forced my embarrassment to one side, desperate for someone to go ahead and find an answer to something that made absolutely no sense. More importantly though he had made me feel safe and because of that I was relying on him.
The safety net built by my family and by him disintegrated on that day. He told me he was sorry, it was going to be tough year ahead, I needed to be strong but that he was confident I would survive.
I speak often of my surgeon, the man who cut out the cancerous bits of my body but have never spoken about the gynaecologist who introduced me to him and forced the whole process forward. I owe him a lot.
Aside from the medical team that got me to where I am today, I am thankful to my family and friends. First up my gorgeous mum, a cancer survivor herself on a whole different level of brave, who looked after me and took on the mantle of the head of the house for weeks after my operation.
My husband who forced himself into areas that were at times uncomfortable and did a bloody good job at winching me into the shower at the hospital and making me laugh when in pain. My fabulous teens just for being them and not changing a thing.
My friends who pulled out all the stops to call and text me everyday, to make me feel good about myself with pictures and anecdotes of bygone days, to cook vast quantities of soup, send me books and magazines and organise a bloody good knees up when I was ready to face it.
Added to this are my online buddies, not least those I have met through the wonderful blogging community, in particular the TweensTeensBeyond clan, as well as those from instagram and twitter. On occasion it was their words of support that took me through the darkest hours because it was through my blog, which my offline friends are oblivious to, that I expressed my silent fears and exposed my vulnerability. I was struck not only by the words of kindness from these relative strangers but on occasion by their actions too.
The gorgeous Clare @liveinfitnessretreat made a special effort to visit me at home and devise a Pilates programme to rebuild my core strength and @eve.ryder_art gifted a Christian Dior themed sketch, knowing it had been the inspiration for my 50th outfit earlier in the year. The ladies at Cucumber Clothing sent me some of their fabulous nightwear that helped me survive the perils of a surgically induced menopause. There were many, many more of course and I hope you know who you all are. My heartfelt thanks to everyone from the deepest part of my soul, you made a difference in a way you will probably never really appreciate.
One year on and the landscape is different. My latest results are negative, my annual MRI clear. The journey continues and the route may change, after all cancer gives no guarantees, but my fingers are firmly crossed. In the meantime this year at Christmas we are hunkering down, shutting out the rest of the world and enjoying life and the love of those around us.
A very Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year to you all. See you in 2019. xxx