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Secondary breast cancer: Never saying never

Ismena Clout

breast cancer 300x225 Secondary breast cancer: Never saying neverMy life in just a few facts:

1. I’m living with incurable secondary breast cancer

2. I’m in remission and stable at the moment

3. I live in pain and am permanently fatigued from cancer damage and treatment damage

4. I have no boobs and no ovaries

5. I haven’t had a boyfriend for over nine years

6. I have never been in love

Those are the statements that go around my head all the time, there are plenty more and I’ll share those with you over the coming months.  They sit on my shoulders and shadow my consciousness most of the time. But occasionally I am able to forget, the weight lifts and it’s lovely.

The only problem is when I do remember it hits me hard, all my nerves tingle and my stomach falls through the floor as I realise this is my reality, this is my life, this isn’t a dream/nightmare.  It seems the most common place for this reality to hit me is in the shower but it also happens in business meetings, watching television and as I try and go to sleep (cue reaching for the sleeping tablets!)

With those statements going round my head there is also a secondary level of thoughts.  These always seem to start with ‘I will never’. Trying to come to terms with my situation involves coming to terms with the things I will simply never do.  The two biggies I feel are that I will never retire and that I will never have children (adopted/fostered or my own).  They are pretty big issues, the children one especially and it’s one that hits you at the strangest moments.

I was at an industry conference and Frank Abagnale spoke about his life story that has been immortalised in the film ‘Catch me if you can’.  It was all fun until he got to the part about being in prison, the guilt he feels for his crimes and what finally turned his life around; the love of his wife and love for his children.  The room of 1,000 people were all in tears but instead of tears for the family they have, my tears were for the family I never would. Tears for the big space in my heart that is reserved for the love for a child and no matter how much I joke about being able to have lazy, hungover mornings the space will always be there.  So in a room of industry colleagues I silently mourn for what has been taken from me by breast cancer.

There are other times that my illness comes crashing in, twisting with my reality and reminding me with the subtlety of a sledgehammer just how precarious this remission is.  In our last meeting my wonderful oncologist reminded me that we just don’t know how the cancer will come back, we don’t know if it will party in my lungs, liver, bones again or if indeed it will find a new organ to take out for a drink and treat with all the respect of a one night stand.

These times are when a health scare starts – for example, a headache that lasts for more than two days or a new pain that doesn’t go away, even with a truck load of pain killers. Even after almost two years on this path my body finds new ways of scaring the heck out of me!  The latest one is with my eyes and an optician who has found a patch of pigmentation at the back of my right eye and done an urgent referral.

So I’m back on the treadmill of lack of sleep, high blood pressure and a ghostly expression. But there has been a more immediate impact of this latest scare and that is a failed date!

The scare started Saturday morning and I had an internet date in the evening.  To say I wasn’t in the mood is a total understatement but the prospect of love and romance was too much to pass up.

With my mind elsewhere though it was an utter failure, I told him I was ill and he bolted. I don’t blame him really but it did leave me completely deflated.  I like to think I’m still kick arse Issy but really I’m as fragile as a glass vase.

But I did discover mulled cider!  How delicious is that?  I always have to find a silver lining to every cloud and finding a new yummy flavour of booze works for me!

So now I’m in the system again waiting to see the next new doctor and realising that while I might have come to terms with the facts and figures surrounding my life, scares can pop up at any time. This makes it all feel like one step forward, two steps backwards with sideways looks to lots of never this and never that; I’m sure I’ll find a silver lining to it all eventually.

For more information, visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk/secondary

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  • barfire

    I’m so sorry. I know this is of no help whatsoever, but I am. I hope the next date goes much better!

  • AlterJoe

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! It’s very difficult to make comment on such a personal issue, in such a limited forum, but I do hope you continue to fight the good fight. I look forward to the next instalment.

  • Pingback: Secondary breast cancer: Scary times | Ismena Clout | Independent Editor's choice Blogs


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