October Skies

Here’s a little baby, one, two, three. Stands in her cot, what does she see. She sees her sister fighting sleep, desperate to stay awake. Her mum is tired but happy, smiling at the family she thought she’d never make.

October 2019

Here’s a little baby, one, two, three. Stands in her cot, what does she see. She sees her sister fighting sleep, desperate to stay awake. Her mum is tired but happy, smiling at the family she thought she’d never make.

October 2011

As I travelled back home that half term I tried to digest what had happened over the last couple of weeks. Grandma was still in Manchester so grandpa was meeting me at the station. He’d text while I was on the train asking whether I was up for going out for lunch. My appetite had began to return so I replied as long as it wasn’t the veggie cafe at the station that was something I’d like very much.

The news of the scan results and confirmation of the grading meant I now knew statistically where I stood and for the first time since the diagnosis I had tentatively looked online for information. I tried to stay clear of chat rooms, but sometimes couldn’t stop myself, I’d scan them looking for stories of hope but would always enievtabilty come across something that would make my stomach turn and quickly descend into a world of what ifs and worst case scenarios. I knew how bad this was for my state of mind so forced myself to focus on the facts and found the relevant Cancer Research page. I scanned the page looking at the diagrams of the tumour at numerous points and found the one that corresponded to my own staging 1b1. It was the first stage that could be seen without the help of a microscope but could be as large as your thumb nail, most importantly at this point it was confined to the cervix. I read more about the treatments I might have and also made note of the fact the chance of me still being around in five years time was around 90-95%. At first those odds sounded great but then I couldn’t help think of it in terms of how it also meant that one in ten that wouldn’t make it to that milestone. For years after whenever I was in a place filled with people I’d count them over and over to picture what the chances of me surviving this really were. On a train, in a exam hall, a restaurant, what exactly does ten people look like? When it’s there right in front of you, those odds are no longer quite as attractive.

Grandpa had also done his research. In fact a lot more than me. His science background allowed him to understand in far greater detail what this thing we call cancer is really all about. As much as I could talk to grandma about my thoughts and feelings concerning what was happening to me, it was grandpa who was there to rationalize the mechanisms and technicalities I needed to process. He would help me strip away the fear and return to more logical thoughts. He reminded me that those stats had been collected over a number of years and they were always improving, that they included women of all ages and degrees of health and that there was no mention of what treatment they had decided to have or not to have. We decided if anything I would be probably be closer to the 95% and that meant nineteen out of twenty would make it not just nine in ten.

We had a good lunch, in fact that week I had a lot of good lunches, dinners and cakes as I caught up with friends and family. I had a few tears, lots of hugs and kisses and even managed to fit in some wedding dress shopping with my friend Laura. After a week in the North I was feeling much better and as I sat on the train back home with grandma and grandpa I felt ready to face the future.

The following week I went over to The Royal Guildford for the PET scan. I sat behind the curtain as the doctor came in carrying a large metal box and I watched nervously as they prepared the tracer that was about to be injected. By now although my fear of needles was beginning to subside (my body was feeling more and more like a pin cushion everyday) my understanding of the process meant that the knowledge of the radioactive substance seeping through my veins wasn’t without it’s concerns. So much so, once it was inside me I wasn’t allowed near children or pregnant women for 24hrs, at least it gave me another reason to not return to work. Within a short time I lay once more inside a machine praying that the result would confirm what the other scans had found and that there wasn’t any rouge cells anywhere else in my body. Two days later on the 31st of October, I received the results I’d hoped for. As far as could be seen on any scan, the cancer was in one place and therefore could be removed.

October is a month littered with memories of good times and bad, all of life’s major events seemed to have taken place at one time or other during these 31 short days. The memories of the passing of three of my grandparents brings with them feelings sorrow but also happiness that I was blessed to have know such love. The memories of my cancer diagnosis are full of fear, helplessness and uncertainty about what the future would hold. The memories of the October transfer that led to you Evelyn and with it the hope that it would would be third time lucky. This October Grace you became legally ours and there is,of course, the joyful memories of our own wedding day. Memories of the most beautiful autumnal day, golden light glistening through the trees and piercing the cold crisp air. Our two worlds brought together in one place to hear us confirm our vows and dance into the night, well fed and full of nothing but love and expectations for the future.

This year I will add to those memories one of tiredness, when you Grace decided we’d had it too easy up until till now and decided that waking five times a night is much more fun than sleeping through. I’ll add another half term filled with your dad doing copious amounts of DIY and both hoping it will be the last for a while. I’ll add your first Halloween Party and the fact that you Evelyn dressed as a banana because “they’re not scary”. I’ll add having the privilege of speaking on BBC5Live during fertility week about our amazing story. And finally I’ll add another year cancer free. Another year that at one point I wasn’t sure I’d ever have and another year that even when I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with everything that’s going on around me I’m know I’m truly blessed to be living. I am one of the nine in ten.

Forever & Always


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