I was planning to start this post by saying that once you’ve got a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s at the back of your mind all the time. But as I wrote it, I realised that wasn’t true. It’s actually at the very front of your mind most of the time. You think of little else. Something will distract for a while and then, wham, it’s right back again.
The daftest things cross your mind. Take my ski boots. Last winter, after renting skis and ski boots twice every season for more than ten years, I decided to buy my own boots. Now I’m annoyed I won’t be using them this coming season (it’s likely I’ll have the mastectomy and full lymph removal in January) and I can’t help thinking I was somehow tempting fate by buying them. I go skiing with some girlfriends and we book our flights eight, nine or even ten months in advance. How presumptuous, I now think, ignoring the fact we’ve done the same thing for the past nine years and it’s been fine.
And in the changing room at work the other day after I’d cycled in? There was another woman getting changed too and, as I whipped off my sports bra, I found myself wondering whether I’d still do that post-surgery or whether I’d feel I needed to go into a cubicle to get changed. And then that gets you thinking about how long it’ll be before you’ll be able to cycle into work again after surgery. And then about how long will it be before you’ll be able to do another 63-mile bike ride, like the one you did with a friend the day before the appointment where you asked your GP to check your breast.
I know how destructive worrying about the future can be, but by now you’re in a downward spiral, thinking the worst. You start wondering whether, after surgery, you’ll ever be able to do a long bike ride or play competitive tennis again, or indeed play tennis at all. The same with skiing. And then you force yourself to snap out of it because you know that what matters for now is treating and getting rid of the cancer, not what you will or will not be able to do physically once you’ve done that.
The only thing that really matters is getting better.