The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Today is The Day I Got Into the BBC News

See!  That got you!

Unlikely, but true.  I have been referred to in a BBC News Story.  This one.

Its an awfully oblique reference.  I am one of the 100,000 subjects (half of the total in this scientific trial) that had had cancer, but I'd pretty much forgotten I'd agreed to be part of it until I read the article.

It began in 2007, I think, the year after I had surgery and radiotherapy for Breast Cancer, and then embarked on five years' adjuvant therapy.  I got a letter from a research scientist at Cambridge (Hertfordshire, where were were at the time, is pretty much a next-door county, so local GPs had been asked for suitable patients) inviting me to be part of a genetic research trial. 

I filled out the medical and family questionnaire (which greatly served to underpin the disquietingly large number people I am closely related to who have had cancers of various types - all of them, before the late C20th, quickly fatal) and then a few weeks later I got a phial and attendant paperwork to take with me to have a blood test, which I did. Then it was posted off, and I forgot about it, pretty much, but for a letter thanking me for my help a few months down the line.

Since then I have passed the five-year mark still alive (delightedly) and with no detectable tumours lurking anywhere (reassuringly) and have been discharged.  Later this year it will be seven years since diagnosis.  Most days I don't give the matter a single thought, although I self-examine a couple of times a month, to keep my hand in, as it were.  Breast Cancer is technically only ever in remission, not cured. It's just one of those things.

I hope YOU check those puppies as well, girls AND boys.  And also please learn the symptom checklist (below) off by heart...

But today I am remembering very clearly and gratefully the facts of the case.  In 2006, aged 49, I had a malignancy. I detected the changes, saw a GP, was carefully examined, and referred to a specialist.  I was scanned and x-rayed and tested, diagnosed, treated and kept a careful eye on for five years.  I met a superb NHS team of surgeons, anaesthetists, oncologists, doctors, radiologist, radiotherapists, and breast care nurses. 

Thank you St Albans Breast Care Clinic!  You were all stars.

So today I am glad to have been reminded of what turned out to be a surprisingly happy time.  Once the initial anxieties were assuaged and the treatment embarked upon I - we, the entire family - had a lot of fun. Staff were friendly and jokey, with an enviable lightness of touch alongside always commendable levels of compassion (what WAS that guff about nurses needing compassion training on Newsnight last night?  NHS managers need six months as nursing auxiliaries on the wards before they can embark on training or are put in post, not the nurses!  Pah!  A bed-pan-emptying Health Minister, as was even suggested might happen by the very man himself, that I DO want to see.  I'd pay good money for a ticket to that).

I gave a bit back, and today I found out what it was all about.  I was also part of a trial of new surgical and diagnostic techniques, all to do with testing the efficacy of sentinel node biopsies, as well, whilst I was having the surgery.  I was happy to volunteer for that as well.

Happy, happy, HAPPY to do so.
  • Swelling in or around the breast.
  • Irritation of the skin or dimpling.
  • Pain in the breast or nipple area.
  • Changes in the appearance of the nipple or surrounding skin.
  • Discharge from the nipple, not associated with breast milk.
  • Lump in the underarm area.

PS, now Sky has got hold of it, like Topsy it has growed; the sample was 250,000, they say  But I was still part of it.  I did my bit....


  1. Oh wow, I saw that report and exciting it is too, but didn't realise your connection with it. It's very worthwhile to be able to turn a bad experience into something more positive by taking part in trials like this, so well done for agreeing to be in not just one but two.

    I did the same when I had radiotherapy after my first breast cancer (the START trial if you're interested) and was followed up every couple of years for 10 years until the trial ended. Like you too I had superb treatment both times from wonderful teams at two different hospitals, so I'm with you in your praise of the NHS.

    Here's to many more cancer-free years for both of us.

    1. Amen, Vicarage! BTW you have got to put a DVD of Rev on your Amazon Wish List, and while you are about it think of adding The Best of The Muppets, if such a one exists. It'd be such a shame for you and DH to miss - in perpetuity, Perpetua - such magnificently funny, clever and skilful telly because you didn't have a set about your person at the time it was on.

    2. I gather PolkaDot has a copy of Rev for me when the snow finally disappears and we see the postie again. Not sure about the Muppets. The little I saw on visits to the parents and in-laws just didn't grab me, I'm afraid. I'm sure it's my fault, but there it is.

    3. You were just too old, mebbe, being born a decade earlier than Baby Sis. The Muppets were formative for my generation; the same characters appeared week after week, and built, had distinctive personalities and punch-lines. Really BIG celebrities were queuing to be on it, properly famous and talented people. Required viewing at the time in my friendship group.

      Rev is lovely. The lead actor is so sweetly comical, so good at being harrassed, human and put-upon. I think you will enjoy it.

  2. Hari OM
    I can be a tad slow at times. Its the menopolyxinaemia y'see. (That's a sideways invite to My Meno Memoirs... ;}) But I only now see that you and Perpetua are, in fact, truly sisters. That's lovely as I have joined up there too! I enjoy her purity and clarity. I love your frankness and determination to wrangle with life.

    This was a great blog and there would be few who could claim not to be connected in some way to cancer. Congrats on your 7 years!

    Some would say YAM is a muppet. I am encouraged by your notes above to think that this is a good thing... 8-)

  3. Yamini,

    That is one HELL of a mouthful of a disorder. As soon as I have finished this acknowledgement I am away to Google it...

    Yes, Perpetua is my proper birth sister, not just a member of my small blogging family. She is eleven years my senior, and in all the 56 years (almost) since I showed up as the family's tail-end Charlie in 1957 we have hardly ever had a cross word. That is more down to her than me!

    Ah, but WHICH muppet, Yam? Please confess!

  4. Oh, oh, OH! Yamini! I will be back. I have been considering writing the memoire of my adult life, especially my first marriage, but the only title I could adopt with any degree of enthusuasm or accuracy is/was

    Around The Bend

    It remains unwritten. Not enough people have died yet...

  5. Hari OM
    Glad you enjoyed -- had a feeling it was down your street... or around your corner. Or something..&~> I would be honoured if you chose to become a follower.

    As to titles could I offer, 'without a paddle', 'I need witnesses', 'biting back', 'aaaaaaaggggghhhhhhhhhh....'; whatever you decide, I suspect it's gonna be a corker. Lovely to make your acquaintance. YAM

    PS - one of the two up in the balcony I suspect %*{