I was going to write a post about going back to the breast clinic, and finding out that everything's totally normal, and WHOOPEEE FOR ME!
But a few seconds after I'd tweeted that my news was good, a lady replied saying, "I wish mine was."
This lady has breast cancer. She went on to explain, kindly, that she had already had chemo and is facing a round of radiotherapy.
And here I was, dancing around, getting my healthy baps out and giving myself an extra big cheer. Nobber. Nobber. Nobber.
This made me think more carefully about my time in the clinic, and about the other ladies waiting with me. As I had lots of tests pencilled in, I was there for hours, and got settled in with a very bad book and an enormous bag of rice cakes. One by one we were led away into a room to have our breasts fondled, and one by one we came back, awaiting the next round. I'd noticed that the woman next to me had been gone for a while, and I'd assumed that she'd already slipped out unnoticed. But a little while later, out of the corner of my eye I saw her return, red eyed. She sat down next to me and turned to her friend. "It's cancer." she said. Her friend let out a creaking noise.
I looked away.
90% of breast lumps are not cancerous. But there were 20 people in that clinic. Which meant that, statistically speaking, my neighbour was probably not the only one to be diagnosed that day.
I imagined that the 'other' person in the room was going to me. I forced myself to live the moment of telling, the moment the doctor revealed the bad news, in my head. I thought about how I would react, what I would say. I imagined the terror of telling my children. And my ex husband. And of course, like the complete twat I am, I started to cry too.
The lady who had just been diagnosed turned and gave me a sympathetic look. I felt like a dick.
I was lucky, of course. This time, at least. But 50,000 people, mostly women, are fighting breast cancer every year. So all that trauma - the telling everyone, the coming to terms with it, the treatment, the emotional sledgehammering, the issues with work...not to mention your sodding health - is happening right now. In fact, more than 130 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK every day. But...78% of breast cancer sufferers survive, and there's a strong desire to make this 100% by 2050.
So. If you don't mind me being matron for a moment:
- Check your breasts regularly. Up-to-the-minute guidance is here: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Breastcancer/Pages/Breastcancersymptoms.aspx. If you find a lump, don't worry - it is most likely to be benign. But DO have it checked.
- If you are offered a mammogram, take it with open arms. Well, arms above your head, anyway (mammogram joke). People told me some mammo stories that made me jumpy, but I can honestly say that it didn't hurt at all.
- If you find a lump, don't imagine yourself dying, like I did. It just makes you look like a nob. Just get to your GP and let him or her cop a feel.
- There is a wealth of information on breast cancer out there on the internet, but don't over-Google. You might do what I did and assume the worst. Leave it to the NHS; my experience was that they were swift, knowledgeable and caring.
Last time I went to the clinic, they were selling knitted tits. This time, it was knitted cupcakes, in support of Macmillan's World's Biggest Coffee Morning. I bought a knitted cake, although if I'm honest, I'd have preferred a knitted tit.
And here it is. Glittery and everything. It could actually be a tit if you squinted at it in the half light.
Good luck to everyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer this week. That's 520 people already. I am with you, as are all the women in the country. As for the rest of us - let's get knitting, or baking, or running, or spreading the word.... or something.
Because we all know someone who's lived or died with breast cancer.
It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Give your boobs the once over. This month and every month.