For the last couple of weeks I’ve been writing two potential versions of this post in my head. You see on an ordinary morning just after we got back from France, I discovered a marble-sized lump in my breast. My immediate reaction was denial. I told myself it was just the edge of a rib but then I asked Mr MC to check and I could see by his face that it wasn’t. Just like that life began to spin on a sixpence. We went into functional mode – I called the doctors’ surgery, was seen within an hour and told that I should prepare myself for the possibility that it might be cancer. The GP referred me immediately and by lunchtime I had a hospital appointment… for two weeks’ time. And so began the most surreal wait of our lives because with something as daunting as this hanging over you what do you do?
There was no way I wanted to worry the boys and so my priority was to make sure that on the surface, everything seemed normal. Luckily they’ve all been busy and away quite a bit so it was easier than it would have been if we were living our normal routine. As an information junkie, I realised quite quickly how little I knew and having been through cancer journeys with people close to me I’ve learned that knowledge is often power. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best is the approach that works for me but of course the internet can be a dangerous place to look. I stuck to the official sites but even so, I rapidly found myself inside a world where situations like mine are playing out every day. The most helpful website was the Macmillan forum where I was catapulted into a community of people a couple of weeks ahead of me who had just had their breast clinic appointment and were coming to terms with the results. I will just say what an amazing community it is, there’s so much tenderness between the people helping each other through their journeys with laughter and tears. Despite that though, it was a club that I really didn’t want to join.
I was doing all of this reading in secret because Mr MC’s response to our situation was not to think about it. He didn’t want me to dwell on what may or may not happen so his strategy was to keep busy and he was determined to sweep me along with this ‘busy-ness’. So we found ourselves saying yes to every invitation; going to lots of parties and seeing the middle son’s play every night but I found that in the midst of all this distraction, everything became even more vivid. I watched my boy following his dream, singing and dancing in his last school role and wondered if I was going to be there to see how his future would pan out. I collected the youngest from his outward bound trips and listened to him bubbling over about all the new friends he’d made and I felt glad, thinking he might need a network of support over the months to come. And I prepared for the eldest’s graduation fearing that I might not be around to see where it eventually led him. These are the places that your mind takes you to, despite the positive statistics that sit alongside breast cancer,
As our appointment grew closer, we put a date in everyone’s calendar for a family meal, ostensibly as a get together before the holiday that the eldest isn’t joining us on. We agreed that if the news turned out to be bad, we’d need to tell the boys together, giving them enough time to ask questions and let it all sink in. And so the last days dragged on. I kept myself busy with work and Midlifechic but suddenly all of my blog posts had a shadow over them – I was writing about going grey while wondering whether I’d even have hair by Christmas. Research into nude lingerie found me stumbling over mastectomy bras and prostheses…
Finally the date arrived and thankfully our appointment was for 9am. Even so we had to wait. Apart from my shoulder clinics my last personal experience of hospital appointments was in antenatal clinics and there was a sinister parallel. This time too the waiting room was filled with anxious looking couples holding hands – but with none of the excited anticipation.
I was seen by a consultant who examined the lump and placed me straight into the system. Mr MC sat in the waiting room while I went for a mammogram, looking up hopefully when I returned but of course the technician can’t tell you anything so there was no update to give him. As the time ticked by I was silently cursing the chatty banality of the radio station blasting out from the reception desk when ‘Thinking of You’ by Sister Sledge came on. As you know it’s one of my favourites and for the first time that day we smiled at each other, it felt like a token of hope.
At last I was called through for an ultrasound and as I lay there waiting, I caught snippets from the doctor who was reviewing my mammogram and dictating notes next door… “Mrs Nicola Garnett…a clear 14mm ‘query’ tumour…” My heart was thumping when he appeared behind the curtain and offhandedly said “we need to aspirate to see what we find.” So there I lay as he pierced me with a huge needle and aspirated away. And after a few moments he rather dismissively said “all done, fully drained, a benign cyst, you can go.” With that he went back to dictating his notes, apparently oblivious to the fact that he’d just held the pendulum of my life in his hands.
As I returned to the waiting room, I tried to give Mr MC a reassuring sign without letting my exhilaration show because for another couple in the room the news had obviously not been so good. And that’s the thing about life isn’t it? You just don’t know. They could have been leaving while we sat sobbing in the hospital. As John Lennon said, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” I was lucky but as we drove to a cafe for a celebratory cake, Mr MC pointed out that one day in our future it might be different with the outcome not going our way. We’ve had a very clear insight into how that might feel over the last two weeks.
So we’ve had a rough time but I think it’s always important to try to take something good from trauma. What did I learn from it? Well on a practical level, I want to tell you all to check your breasts when you’re lying down as well as standing up. I only found the lump because I’d remembered to do a check but I was too lazy to get out of bed – it couldn’t be felt when I was upright.
On an emotional level, during the long nights when I was looking my own mortality in the eye I realised that if the outcome was the absolute worst it could be, I have no regrets about the life I’ve lived so far. My problem was that I haven’t finished yet. There’s so much more that I want to do and see and of course at the heart of it all are Mr MC and the boys. I want to know what happens next… and then what happens after that… and on it goes. The end result is that this experience has erased the sadness I’ve been feeling about them growing up because it’s made me realise how lucky I am to be here to watch it happen. I will now hold the people I love even tighter when I can… and also let them go.
This blog now feels more important than ever, we need to celebrate the fact that we’re here, ageing together and doing it in a way that’s never been done before. If I can help other midlife women to feel inspired and reinvigorated then that’s a good purpose to have.
For now though I feel absolutely exhausted – by the toll that the waiting took, the lack of sleep and Mr MC’s frenzied programme of distraction. I want to say thank you to the handful of people that I told and who helped me through it all – my sister, my close friends in the village, Beth Goodrham one of my blogger friends who had a similar experience last year and of course Mr MC who, as always, was my rock.
I must finish by paying tribute to the NHS – and all of the people who work in it (even the ones who don’t quite appreciate the impact of a positive diagnosis!). And to anyone who is going through breast cancer, who has survived it or is supporting someone else – I salute you. I truly hope your journey ends well too.
Now we’re leaving the eldest to look after Gary and heading off on a holiday that would’ve felt very different had I been facing treatment for breast cancer on my return. So I’m going to catch up on all the sleep I lost and then I’m going to squeeze our time together till the pips run dry. I’ll be popping up on Instagram @midlifechic so do join me there. We arrive back straight into 18th and 16th birthday plans and then exam results so I’m not sure when I’ll be blogging again, I may take a break of about three weeks.
Before we go though, here’s a very special moment from our week – the eldest’s graduation which was a surprisingly emotional day. The sun shone brightly so I wore the Modern Rarity by Eudon Choi dress that I bought last year.
We followed it with a celebration family dinner in the evening (middle one trying to pretend he doesn’t have bread in his cheeks)…
… and then, all parents were invited to go to the student nightclub with their graduates so we couldn’t resist (although we were extremely disappointed that no other parents were there). The students were all very welcoming though and lots of dancing ensued until we left the eldest to it at 3am.
Now, in the spirit of celebration, I’m going to leave you with the competition I promised you. Who fancies a luxury weekend in the French Riviera with another Midlifechic couple… and Mr MC and me? (of course now I’m panicking that you won’t like the idea and no-one will enter).
Bloggers usually run competitions to capture data and grow their audience but I’m doing it the other way round. I only want this to be for existing loyal readers so I’ve added an element of skill that I hope won’t be too hard to answer. It’s just there to identify longstanding readers so your answer can be rough – I’ll know if you know (if you know what I mean!). I’m only leaving it open for ten days to avoid it being picked up by competition sites. Here are the details in full:
Win a weekend break on the Côte d’Azur, Friday 18th October – Sunday 20th October 2019
Three weeks ago I told you all about our weekend staying with Darryll and Bettina in the South of France. You may remember that they’re launching a homestay concept for the winter months whereby they open up their home to guests who are looking for a break that’s a little bit different. To celebrate the beginning of the new season, they’ve kindly invited us to go back and suggested that we bring two couples along with us for a hosted weekend break. So (much to our friends’ annoyance) we thought it would be fun to make it a Midlifechic weekend and extend this opportunity for a slice of Riviera life to loyal readers. Today, as promised, I’m opening it up as a competition.
I realise that the idea of a weekend with people you’ve never met might feel a bit daunting so I’ve factored in plenty of free time (and please don’t worry about what to wear, come as you are). So this is how I see it panning out. Two lucky couples (partners or friends) will join us for a homestay at Darryll and Bettina’s lovely villa.
We’ll arrive on Friday evening in time for drinks and then get to know each other around the dinner table as we enjoy one of Darryll’s sumptuous suppers. On Saturday, we’ll have breakfast followed by a relaxing morning. Later on, the annual wine festival will be taking place in Théoule so we can go and soak up the atmosphere (and more wine if you’re in the mood).
In the evening you can stay and enjoy Darryll’s cooking again or if you’d like some time à deux, go into Théoule and dine at one of the restaurants beside the sea. On Sunday, breakfast will be provided and as we’ll all be departing at different times it will be a free day. Depending on the weather you can relax by the pool, go for a walk or perhaps depart early and spend a few hours in Nice before making your way to the airport for your flight home.
What’s the catch?
There’s no catch but we’re seeing this as a soft launch of Darryll’s concept so please bear in mind that we’ll be taking photographs that may include you to use on the website and social media feeds, giving prospective guests an idea of what these weekends are like. And of course I’ll be sharing the weekend on Midlifechic so you’ll see yourself pop up here too.
The nitty gritty
There are two prizes to be won, each comprising:
- A weekend break near Théoule sur Mer for two people (you can come as a couple or bring a friend but please bear in mind that you’ll be sleeping in a double bed so you’ll need to be good friends!)
- Dates: Friday 18th October – Sunday 20th October 2019
- Flights to Cannes from either: Liverpool, Luton, Gatwick, Dublin or Edinburgh
- Transfers from Nice to Théoule sur Mer
- Breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday
- Dinner at home with drinks on Friday and Saturday night (if you decide to eat out on Saturday, please bear in mind that this is at your own cost)
- Transport to the wine festival at Théoule sur Mer
- Use of all of the facilities at Darryll and Bettina’s house including the swimming pool, table tennis, boules and multi-media room.
- And of course fabulous company for the entire weekend!
The fine print
- Open to residents of the UK and Ireland only
- The competition will close on 29th July 2019 at 23.59 GMT
- Answers to the questions will be qualified and then winners picked at random
- No cash alternative and no alternative dates available
- You will be asked to choose your preferred airport; standard class seats on one flight on the stated dates will be provided
- To comply with GDPR regulations, competition entry information will not be shared nor will it be stored once the competition has ended and the winners have been chosen and prizes sent out.
For full terms and conditions click here
This competition has ended.
Competition closed on 2019-07-29 23:59 (local time)
Current local time is 2019-08-07 15:18:36
Bonne chance tout le monde et à bientôt!
Disclosure: ‘When life plays cat and mouse’ is not a sponsored post
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