Sunday, 19 October 2014

For my Three Beautiful Daughters and for all Daughters Everywhere

One of the major anxieties that has been burrowing away in my head since this all started in June is whether my three beautiful and talented daughters will be more at risk from breast cancer as a result of my contracting it. This is something we haven't discussed because I wanted an answer before I could raise it with my own children.

I asked the surgeon who sliced and diced me back at the beginning of July but he simply said that it was not his field. Then when we met the oncologist a couple of weeks later I asked again but he was too busy trying (unsuccessfully) to sign me up as a guinea pig for a research programme and once again I did not get an answer. All the time, the worry, like a tumour, was growing in my head. Then last week, the day before the Chemathon round 4, the oncologist, whose bedside manner has either improved or we are reaching some sort of understanding, asked us if we had any questions having had me sign up for different poisons for the next three rounds. He was half off his seat when he asked if we had any questions, ready to sprint off to some other unhappy customer. I did. "I have three daughters and I need to know if they are more at risk because of my cancer."

He looked through my history and answered with an unequivocal NO. Music to my ears. I do not have the sort of breast cancer that is genetic. My daughters are at no more risk than any other women. However, my beautiful daughters, that does not mean that you should not be breast-aware... and here comes the lecture.

1  Check every day and if you find anything suspicious go to our doctor. As you all know, if there were Oscars for bedside manner and general brilliance, the singing dancing doctor would have a whole mantlepiece full of them.
2  Don't smoke. Smoking is for fools.
3  Take breaks from oral contraception. That is not a 'get out of jail free card' for any of you to be careless. There are other options and I do not want to be a grandmother before you have finished your education and fallen in love and married someone wonderful. Old fashioned but if I can't tell it like it is here then where can I? I am, of course, making an exception for acting births over Christmas though I suspect I shall find that disturbing.
4  Have lots of children and try breastfeeding. I was crap at it but I did at least try.

I know that watching me battle through this is incredibly hard for the intrepid granny and, like her, I would rather go through it again than watch any of you have to be as I am now. I don't say it lightly.

And finally, whilst we're talking medical stuff... one of the things that made me cry a few weeks back (before I went into full-on wailing, axe-murderer phase) was when I spoke to Blood UK and told them that I could not come to my next appointment. I explained why and said that once I was well again I would be back. No. Once you have had cancer your blood-donating days are over. I have given blood on and off since the first Gulf War and for the last few years, never missed. Please, if you want to do something for me, be a blood donor. You never know whose life you might save.

My beautiful family. The absolute best thing in my world. 

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