New York was one of the best and most fun holidays EVER. We still talk and laugh about it and I genuinely forgot all about the shitty results until I was on the way home. I had a bit of rest in the afternoon, sat on the sofa dribbling as we all do from an overnight flight where no-one sleeps, then headed to the private hospital to see Mr S.
I was so convinced it was going to be malignant, I made a deal with my mum that she sat somewhere that I couldn’t see her face and that she was to remain silent if he told me bad news. In traditional Duchess style, I think she agreed to be silent at first and then told me to go and fornicate myself and that she would ask whatever questions she could to understand the information correctly. Legend.
Mr S invited me to sit closest to his desk and made some brief pleasantries and, then, handed me his card, so I had his contact details. The penny dropped. Ingenious of him to set the scene in this way. I wouldn’t need the card or to see him again if the results were good, would I?
He then said the words that no-one wants to hear. That the tumour (fuck that word) was malignant and that I had breast cancer. Numb. Like the news was being given to someone else. No upset, just weird numbness. He then took over the conversation and talked about how small the lump was and that he believed we’d caught it super early, rare for someone my age, etc. He was almost pumped that he’d got to something that he didn’t think had spread. It was exactly the right way to be with us. Clearly, he’s had to do this a lot.
He mentioned immediate surgery to remove the lump and also test the lymph nodes under the right arm to see if it had spread. If it had spread to the nodes, it was worse, but still not a total disaster, because it might have stopped there and they might only have to remove the nodes and nothing else.
Strangely, perhaps, this was the first time I had to have a little think about what this could mean. In my head, the lump was the problem, and if the lump wasn’t there, then there wasn’t a problem, right? Wrong, Jeffries. Of course, it is all about the spread and ‘stage’ of cancer.
He talked about the need for radiotherapy and “maybe chemotherapy”, and that’s where I nearly started wobbling but held it together. My brain went ‘WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA’ and felt like it was a tv with white noise and static showing on the screen! I really couldn’t concentrate on much more after he’d mentioned chemo, but luckily we were nearly done with that appointment, AND I had mum there, properly listening for me!
He also told me about Tamoxifen and the fact that I’d need to take the drug for five years (I’ll cover that later on). He was borderline arrogant saying that he was one of the best breast cancer surgeons in the country, but that IS what you want and need to hear at a time like that. He told us to process it all, have a think, comes up with any and all questions and to come back the next day at 6 pm to go through them and the next steps with him.
After all of this and what he’d told us in the preceding 45 minutes, he then delivered one of the funniest (and worst timed) lines I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. We got up to leave, said our goodbyes and his parting shot was “Have a nice evening”.
Mum and I silently left the room; we walked towards the automatic doors at the exit of the hospital, and when they’d closed, we looked at each other and burst out laughing. ‘Did he just say “Have a nice evening”‘? ‘What the fuck?!!!’. Adrenaline was flowing through me like you wouldn’t believe and hysteria had kicked in. Poor man. What else is he supposed to say as he takes leave of people at the end of the day? Personally, though, I think I’d have perfected some ‘good news’, ‘bad news’ goodbyes and have them ready in my arsenal of small talk!
Once we got into the car, it dawned on me that this was a bit shit and I had a proper cry for a good minute or more with mum doing the mum thing and cuddling me. She asked if I wanted to go to the King’s Head pub, as was our habit, but I was just worn out and also thought that there was a chance of the odd emotional phase, so being the wonder woman that she is, she uttered the immortal words, “Curry? Wine? Home?”. Oh yes!
Back in the real world, I remembered that a load of people were waiting to hear the news of the results and when. I texted around 60 people and asked them not to ring me as I’d just found out and was going to throw myself into a bottle of red. The phone went mad with pinging for a good hour after that, and I can honestly say that each response was so thoroughly appreciated. It helped me realise in a short space of time that everyone around me thought this was shit too and that it needed to be treated with the contempt it deserved.
Your people are what matter at times like this (and all the time, obvi).
Next stop: Lumpectomy. What a lovely word.