You know when you’re just going through life, bossing the hell out of it and thinking to yourself, 'Damn, I got this down'? Yeah, that was me for the last month. I’d been living in Sicily, eating gelato and arancini daily, drinking spritz in the sun and swimming in the crystal-clear coves. Life was good; life was very, very good. Chemo, cancer and hospital visits were a distant memory. I was looking great; my hair was growing back and my skin was glowing thanks to a bit of sunshine – why is it that everyone looks great with a tan?! Even my period, as if by some lunar magic, had returned. Equilibrium had finally been restored.
I flew back to the UK on Sunday 23rd April in time for my three-month CT scan, to check things were still going swimmingly and to confirm that my last PET scan had just been a red herring, an anomaly. My consultant’s words rang in my ears – “If you feel well then you are well” – and I felt fucking great. The day before results day I’d left random WhatsApp messages on friends' phones. “Hey! Only me, getting my results tomorrow but not even worried about it in the slightest, going to boss it! Come visit me in Italy soon please! Okay, Looooooooove Yoooooooouu. Ciao Ciao!!”
Results day and I strutted into the hospital, the confident, healthy person I now was. Rested, relaxed, glowing with vitality and life. I visited my chemo nurses to deliver them some Sicilian treats. They hugged me tightly, beaming from ear to ear. “You look great!” they exclaimed, all smiles and elation. “Doesn’t that hair suit you?” “You’re rocking it girl!” Yep, yep I was, I was fucking rocking it. What a smug bastard. Within 20 minutes I’d be out of this hospital and on the next flight back to Palermo, back to my four-month-long holiday and the sun, Barry and the good life.
I waltzed down the corridor for my weigh-in, bantering with the nurse about my new palazzo-style trousers and how goddamn glamorous I was looking now I was back to my normal, healthy weight. I sauntered into my consultant's office, not a care in the world.
“Now unfortunately, Ariane, it’s not good news” and just like that the smile is wiped from my face. Everything stops. The world, as I now know it, stops. Time stops. All I can hear is my mum’s breath, next to me. That horrible raspy, long, sighing-out breath of someone who can’t quite believe what they’re hearing, exhaling loudly as a means of stopping themselves from crumbling and crying, from ending up a heap of emotion and soggy tears on the floor. I do not cry, I will not let myself. I swallow back the tears. My pragmatic head kicks into action.
Turns out there’s a 19mm tumour in my chest, still, right behind my breast bone. 19 fucking mm, that is all. The minuteness of it making it even more painful to grasp. It’s a tough pill to swallow. Tougher than all those nasty steroids and cancer drugs I’ve swallowed over the last year, that’s for certain. I’ve been so positive, so brave, shown the utmost strength and courage. The support network that has surrounded me has been more than I ever could have imagined. I have literally been shitting positive vibes and PMA. But sometimes nature and science has the final say.
I spend the next few hours in a state of numbness, wandering around Bath with a bewildered look on my face. Really and truly, I feel like giving up. What is the point, I ask myself? What has been the point of this whole year? I am not sure, I am confused. I feel like I have failed at fighting cancer. Why hasn’t the treatment worked fully? Why have I not gone into remission? Why the fuck is this happening? Why me? The evening is spent in bed, buried under my duvet, tears of bitterness and resentment trickling down my face. Anger seeps out of me, it soaks my bedsheets and coats my dreams. Unfairness, frustration and despair trample over my soul.
Thankfully, my old trusty friend, bravery, comes along to save me and kick my arse back into reality and rational thinking. What is a few more months of crap for a lifetime of fun? It tells me. Accept and be brave, accept and be brave. The mantra of my life plays over and over.
It’s not all bad. If I have to have more chemo then I’ll rent a Georgian flat in Bath, pretend I’m Jane Austen (the chemo chic version) for a bit, writing to keep sane. I will keep on with the humour and the positive thinking.
I even managed to slip back to beautiful Sicily for one last week of sunshine, eating as much seafood pasta and ice cream as my gob and belly would allow, feigning that I was a happy twenty-something once again.
For now, though, it’s back to Blighty for more scans, more biopsies, more waiting for results, more anxiety and more struggle. I’m hoping, so fucking badly, that there has been a mistake. That when I have my follow-up PET scan it will show zero cancer cells and that the lump is in fact just leftover scar tissue, a benign tumour that has been left there to taunt me. This is wishful thinking, I know. If I don’t get the results I want then it will likely be more gruelling chemo and a stem cell transplant – the cherry on the top of what has been the coldest, cruellest ice cream of my life.
Cancer, you bastard, I’m not finished with you yet.