Fate can turn on a sixpence

When I started this blog over 2 years ago, it was intended to address the post-treatment limbo we find ourselves in when cancer treatment ends. I found so many blogs and forums dealing with the diagnosis and treatment phase that I wanted to write about the “what next” phase of cancer. However, there are inevitably times when I find myself drawn back into the diagnosis and treatment phase – after all, the shock of the day you hear those words “you have cancer” never leaves you does you? You may also be dealing with the lingering after-effects of surgery or chemotherapy for months or years after treatment ends, and the emotional and psychological fall-out can leave scars that take a life-time of healing.

So when a friend emailed me a scanned copy of an article that appeared in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday newspaper, I read the words of the writer with a deep sense of compassion and fellow feeling. It was written by Anne Gildea, a writer with a regular column in the paper, which takes a humorous look at life as a singleton in post-Celtic tiger Ireland.  Gildea will also be familiar to Irish audience as a member of The Nualas comedy trio.

Reading her account of her breast examination in St James Hospital (after an urgent referral from her GP), her belief that her breast lump was most likely a benign cyst; the “whoosh of emotion” as the consultant tells her it might be more serious;  her shock and palpable sense of disbelief as she is whisked off for a mammogram, ultrasound and core biopsies, I felt as if I was right back there myself.  All the while she is thinking ” I can’t believe I am in this situation”. As she emerges from her procedures she looks at all the other women sitting in the waiting room of the breast clinic and suddenly she realises “this situation happens to so many of us”.

Anne finishes her article by saying that she has to wait 4 days for her biopsy result – 4 days which will decide her fate. Remember that long wait to decide your fate? I sure do. “Fate” Anne says, “can turn on a sixpence” and by now she will know what that fate is. I hope the consultant’s prediction that based on the mammogram, biopsy and clinical examination, they are “99.9% certain it is cancer” proves to be wrong, but if it turns out to be true, I wish Anne the courage, strength and support she will need to navigate her own journey beyond breast cancer, and that she will draw inspiration from the many of us who have come out the other side.