A year ago tomorrow, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a shocking and frightening diagnosis but I was lucky in the respect that although aggressive, mine was a common cancer which meant I was swept up by the NHS and taken through a well-rehearsed routine of chemotherapy, operation, radiotherapy and follow-up treatment. The last 12 months have been unpleasant, stressful and not something you’d want to do twice but I’ve never had any sense it wasn’t the best the people treating my illness could do for me. I wasn’t brave, I didn’t battle, I’m not a survivor. I sat back and let the amazing hospital staff do their stuff.
My boyfriend, Richard, looked after me as well as working full time and it was very hard for him. I was asleep for getting on for 7 months and when I was awake I was grumpy and nauseous and frankly rough looking! One weekend I got an infection and ended up in Casualty until 4am. I went back to sleep once I got onto the ward but he had to go to work. , Despite being the noticeable part of treatment, my hair falling out wasn’t the worst bit (although shaving my head on Christmas Day was not the kind of present I wanted) rather, the many side effects which could only be described as disgusting. I’ll spare you the details. Worse was feeling old and ugly and depressed. I had no energy and found it difficult to walk the shortest distances. On one trip to friends in Brighton, I burst into tears in the street and screamed at Richard because I just felt so frustrated at being unable to walk up a hill to their house.
On the plus side, everyone I knew was so kind and supportive. My family rang me daily, I spoke more to people than I had for years. Friends on Twitter kept me entertained, in touch and even sent gifts and cards. It made a huge difference to my morale.
A year ago, I couldn’t imagine that I’d be spending the anniversary running a seminar day for Museum Studies students at Bath Spa Uni but that’s where I’ll be tomorrow, doing what I love – getting excited about museums. Twelve months on I’ve started a exciting new job and am off on a glamorous holiday. It’s been an interesting year but you’ll excuse me if I get on with living now.