cancer by numbers

The Numbers

breast cancer awareness month

Megan is a member of my online cancer support group, and has become a close friend and confidante. This week she finished active treatment, consisting of almost eight months of chemotherapy and radiation, all done whilst juggling the care of three young children and working with her husband to manage their business. This is her story, in numbers.

11 March.
Discovered. 1 lump. Left breast.

19 March.
In the car. Driving to school pickup. Phone call. My GP.
“You need to pull over ……… sorry ……… you have cancer.”

23 March.
Celebrated? My 40th birthday.

27 March.
Mastectomy. Left breast. Gone.
I wake up and ask my nurse “How many drains do I have?”
“Just one.”
I smile.
I take a deep breath.
The first in 16 days.
That number.
My lymph nodes have not been cleared.
My cancer has not spread.

1 husband. 16 years together. 10 years of marriage.
We made a vow “In sickness and in health”.
We didn’t expect to test it so soon.

3 children. 2 boys, 1 girl. Aged 7, 6 and 4.
Growing up. Asking questions.
Adding grown-up words like ‘chemotherapy’ and ‘radiation’ to their vocabularies.
Treatment takes so long that now they are 8, 7 and 5.

2 parents. Both cancer survivors.
Watching. Loving their child.
A cancer patient.

1 mother-in-law. Lost her husband to cancer. 8 years ago.
Watching and loving her child.
The spouse and carer of a cancer patient.

5 siblings and their spouses.
4 nephews. 5 nieces.

I’m lucky.
So much love. So much care. So much help.
There are no numbers for that.

My Team.
2 General Practitioners.
1 Surgeon.
1 Medical Oncologist and his 3 Registrars.
1 Radiation Oncologist and his 3 Registrars.
1 Cancer Care Coordinator.
3 Breast Care Nurses.
5 Oncology Nurses.
4 Radiation Therapists.
2 Physiotherapists.
1 Psychologist.
All looking after me.
And my cancer.

6 cycles of chemotherapy.
My drugs have a number name. FEC-100.
18 weeks.
Easy start.
Brutal finish.

25 sessions of radiation.
Now there are numbers everywhere.
“Riding through 15. Tabletop set to 20. 8 to the left.”
It goes on.
Dressings need changing 3 times a day.

8 sessions of physiotherapy and 6 sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy. Daily practice.
One gave me back my arm.
The other released me from my fear.

Old Friends. So many.
Banded together. “Megan’s Mob”.
Months of meals. Home cooked. Delivered.
Gifts and activity packs for the children.
I tried but I lost count of all we received
And I couldn’t keep up with the thank you cards.

New friends. 11.
There will be more.
Found online. Our ‘Cancer Clique’.
Understanding. Belonging. Grieving.

Friday 10 October.
1 day short of 7 months since discovery.
Active treatment will be over.

The wait begins.
Survival or recurrence? Which will it be?
3 monthly reviews.
6 monthly scans.
And Tamoxifen.
10 years of Tamoxifen.

With cancer the numbers never stop.

megan thomas