The day my life changed was one of those beautiful, mellow early mornings in September, a little hazy but with the sun beginning to break through. I was in the bathroom early, before six. I like that early hour of the day before the world really awakes, and as so often, it gave me an intense sense of well-being. I remember I was wearing one of my favourite nighties, a blue, long, lacy one, and with the quiet joy of that morning I hugged myself… and that was when I felt something hard under my middle finger. I knew instantly that this was bad news.
It took me a few minutes to gear myself up to touching it again, and yes, it was still there. And it was definitely not the kind of thing I’d ever had before, so I went to the GP’s the next morning.
A week later I was at my local hospital, Whipps Cross, for a mammogram, an ultrasound scan and a biopsy, which nearly made me jump off the table – it felt like a stapler being deployed inside my body. The diagnosis was due on 29th September – our wedding anniversary. And much as I was trying to reassure David, my husband, that most breast lumps turn out to be benign, I knew from the beginning that mine would not. That those two weeks of waiting were my final days of being normal, of not being a certified cancer patient.
“The lump in your right breast – I’m afraid it’s not good news, it is a cancer.” The voice of the consultant, a woman of perhaps 40 from a South Asian background, was gentle as she delivered the grim verdict. Much to my relief, I heard my own voice remaining steady as I moved the conversation forward, using the list of questions which (as any journalist would) I had prepared before the meeting. All of a sudden, there was a dry, rasping howl of pain. It came from David, who’d been sitting quietly by my side. Much of that conversation I have now forgotten, but that raw torment in his voice will stay with me for as long as I live.