It Was Cancer

Write a sentence. Delete it. Write a sentence. Delete it. That’s all I’ve done since I sat down with my laptop.


I’ve made numerous coffees, I’ve thrown the dogs toy for her, I’ve stared at the TV, but I’ve not managed to write a single sentence that seemed like an apt start to this post. So I guess the best thing I can do is to stop trying and just go with the flow. I guess the best thing I can do is just say it.


Cancer. I had Cancer. I’m ok now, I’ve had surgery, but there it is, the fact of the matter, I had Cancer.


To cut a long story short, here’s how it went…


On 9th January I went to my GP about a mole on my leg that was concerning me. He asked me what it was about it that worried me and I honestly couldn’t say; my gut was just telling me I needed to get it checked. He looked at it and immediately said not to worry but he was going to refer me as an urgent case. Because Ben and I have health insurance, we decided to use that and just a few days later I was at the private hospital seeing a Dermatology specialist. Like my GP, he took one look at it and told me it needed to be removed. I was booked in, had the mole and surrounding area removed and was told to come back on 28th January for my stitches to be taken out and results of the biopsy.


Although the matter of skin cancer (Melanoma) had been mentioned, in my heart of hearts I believed it wasn’t the case. I’d had moles removed in the past which biopsies had shown to be fine, so I expected this to be no different. There was a part of me that thought “Ooh this is scary” but I 100% genuinely thought it would be fine.


On the morning of the 28th, I got myself ready in the morning, a full face of make-up as we were going to London after the appointment, and I was in a great mood. On the way to the hospital we had the radio on, I was singing along and having a little dance in my seat. I had not a care in the world. I genuinely thought it was fine, I thought the Doctor would smile, tell me everything was ok, remove the stitches and I’d be off on my merry way for an afternoon and evening in the City drinking cocktails.


Then came the sucker punch. I was wrong. It wasn’t fine. It was Cancer.


I don’t remember the words the Doctor used, I think I sort of switched off when he told me, but I do remember he had his face really close to mine as he broke the news, and he was really kind about it. He said it has been caught early enough that he felt they’d got all of the Cancer out with the first operation, but he wanted to do another one to remove more of the skin around the affected area to be sure. I nodded along, thanked him for his help and had the next surgery booked in with the receptionist.


I walked out of the hospital chatting to Ben, got into the car and that’s when I felt like a hole opened up in my chest. Cancer. Actual Cancer. Y’know, the illness that happens to other people. It was in me. I cried silently all the way home then came indoors and had a little cry in the bathroom.


As we were going out that evening, I had to give myself a stern talking to as I didn’t want to ruin the day and I didn’t want puffy eyes. So I told myself to stop crying and that’s exactly what I did.


I stopped crying and I haven’t started again since. I’ve told everyone I’m fine, I’ve said I’m extremely lucky (which I am) and I’ve laughed about the situation. But y’know what? I’m not ok, not really.


I’m 31 this year and this is the biggest reminder I’ve ever had of my mortality. If I hadn’t had that gut instinct that something was up, if I hadn’t acted on the niggle based on nothing at the back of my mind, if I’d left it, I would be in a much different situation.


In my mind, I’m still young. In my mind, I’m going to live forever. In my mind, I have years ahead of me to achieve all the things I want to do. Then BAM, suddenly I realise I’m not going to live forever, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone, including me, and it’s been a shock. As stupid as that may sound.


I have had my second surgery now and am currently halfway through 10-days of having to keep my leg elevated at all times and not being able to stand up for longer than it takes to hobble to the toilet and back to the sofa again. This operation has been a lot more painful than the first one too.


My situation is the best it could possibly be, the Cancer was still in its early stage and therefore could be cut out and removed without the need for any future treatment, and from now on I will be checked annually to make sure it doesn’t reoccur somewhere else on my body, so I really am so, so lucky. I know I am and I am grateful to the end of the earth and back again, but fuck, it hurts too.


I haven’t spoken to anyone about how I’ve been feeling – I don’t really know where to start. Plus, I struggle to talk about my feelings, so something as huge as this and which has me feeling so much is pretty much impossible for me to discuss. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to tell anyone what I feel, I don’t think I can open the lid of that jar.


I found myself the other night, sat on the edge of the bed in my pyjama’s, looking at my skin, feeling complete fear that it could be somewhere else. I couldn’t tell that I had the disease in my leg, I couldn’t tell it was moving and growing and cultivating it’s own little place to live in and take over, and that terrifies me.


I am so, so grateful to my GP, my Dermatologist, my gut feeling for telling me I had to do something when there was no real reason for me to feel it, and I am grateful to the Universe or fate or whatever it is that allowed me to catch it quickly. I am grateful for how lucky I am, and I am grateful for the fact it was able to be dealt with. There are definitely more positives than negatives, but it still doesn’t take away the ache I feel inside. I guess it’s probably shock and I know it’ll fade with time. I’m not so self-focussed that I don’t realise there are plenty of people who have not been as lucky as me, and I feel like I don’t have the right to be upset about this because of them and because of the fact I’ve been so lucky.


In the space of a month my life was tipped upside down and shaken about like a snow globe. And, like a snow globe, the pieces will fall back in time, not exactly as they were before, but looking the same from the outside.


There have been some real positives come out of this whole thing. Firstly, I have really found out who cares about me – they say when times gets tough you find out who you friends are and boy oh boy have I found out how true that is. Secondly, it’s made me sit back and take stock of my life and what I want. I’ve assessed the way I live, the things I do, and my hopes and dreams, and it’s aligned those in my mind in such a way that I feel like I may well begin to live my best life once I’m up and about on my feet again.


I’m not going to read this post back to myself, so there may well be lots of mistakes in it, but it is what it is. This blog is a record of our life – I said 2017 was going to be the year I refocussed on making this something to look back on in years to come – and this is a pretty big ‘something’ to have happened. I had to capture it in words, but it’s an impossible thing for me to write about coherently, all I could do was write from the heart and see what came out.


So here it is. I’m here, I’m healthy – thank goodness – and I am so grateful to have been so incredibly lucky with this situation. We only get one life and we need to make sure we live each and every day in a way that we can look back on knowing we did our absolute best at living it well.


As an aside, if you don’t have it already, I definitely recommend looking at taking out private health insurance. My second (and hopefully final) operation was 1-month to the day I first went to my GP and that is something that, for me, was worth every single penny.


My god this has been a rambling post… Future Penny, if you’re reading this back, you better be living your life to the maximum and looking after this body of ours! Enjoy good food, enjoy glasses of wine, but take care of this fleshy vessel of ours, it deserves it.

Penny xx


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Leave a Comment

  • Circus Mum says:

    How scary and what a lot to go through, I’m so glad they caught it in time and that you trusted your gut and went to have the mole checked out. I can’t even begin to imagine the myriad of different feelings you must have at the moment. I’m in my first job that doesn’t provide private health insurance and have been toying with the idea of just buying my own policy for myself and the rest of the family. I think this was the incentive I needed to just bite the bullet and do it.

    Take care of yourself

    • Mary Greenwell says:

      Penny , what you’ve described in your blog is exactly how I felt when I was diagnosed . The specialist said to me “the bad news is it’s melanoma , the good news is we’ve caught early” which was of no comfort to me at the time. Mine was on my upper arm, not a mole just a dark irregular freckle which bled when I scratched it. I took no notice for a couple of months as my mum was still alive at the time and I was busy looking after her. It takes a good while before your able to stop thinking about it I’m guessing you will have to go for regular skin checks, I did this for three years . These were partly reassuring partly scary and I was totally paranoid about every single spot or blemish on my body. It’ll be 11years this year since I was diagnosed and it’s all a distant memory now as it will be for you. So chin up and keep smiling we’ve both been very lucky.

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