This month it was my turn to fall under its shadow.
Being now a woman of a certain age, I was invited by the NHS to have a mammogram.
I found the whole X-ray sandwich experience a little disconcerting, yet a pitiful price to pay considering.
Within days however I received a letter telling me to attend a specialist breast clinic because they’d found something.
You try not to worry, of course. You try not to go online and read all the stuff you shouldn’t. But that little voice in your head is terrified.
Say what you like about our health service, but it was only two weeks to the day I found myself at the Jarvis Clinic in Guildford for my tests.
I cannot praise the staff there enough. Caring, friendly, and professional doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Their manner and the overall atmosphere of the place helped smoothed the fear of everyone sat in that waiting room. You could see it in all our faces, smiling nervously at each other trying to pretend we were anywhere but there.
Another mammogram and then an ultrasound followed, before trying to digest the findings being presented to me in the calm and carefully chosen words of my consultant.
I wasn’t prepared for the biopsy. The word biopsy sounds squeamish, and the experience of it was pretty horrible. But again the team looking after me was superb.
More than 50,000 women (and men) in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and one in eight will develop it at some point in their lives.
Thanks to medical science and the dedication of healthcare professionals in its arena, people are now more likely to survive it than before.
Of course ‘survive’ could mean months or years of heartache, debilitating chemo and invasive surgery. You don’t walk away unscathed and intact.
I didn’t survive. I escaped. I am one of the exceedingly lucky ones because my three weeks of trying to live normally with this fear dangling above me are over. My final results show I am OK. It isn’t dangerous.
Elated and relieved – yes of course. But bittersweet because I cannot (and won’t) stop thinking about those ladies in that waiting room.
Part of me will always be in there rooting for them; thinking about them; praying for them (and I’m not religious). Cancer took a splice of me after all.
I could say it’s not always bad news. I could say if it is, it’s not the end of the world. But that would be patronising.
What I’m trying to say (and failing miserably) is that I’ve only experienced a nuance of the nightmare some people and their families and friends go through.
And I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Not even my worst enemy.
Cancer is the C word because it is Cruel. It has no Conscience.
So please support research to eradicate it. Please know its signs and check yourself. Please have regular tests or talk to your GP if you are worried.
Don’t give it a Chance.