So, one operation over. And it’s cancer. So, okay and hmmm and what’s next? Another operation looms. They need to see if it’s spread. So I go and have my body injected with a radioactive dye and I sit in the car park in A’s car, massaging my left breast because you have to make sure that the dye reaches the tumour site. We laugh a lot because I look demented. Then I go back in and they scan my body to find the nearest lymph node. Dr M pops in, all jolly, and he looks at the scan and it’s all set. Operation tomorrow – one night in hospital. This is called – science, folks! – a sentinel node biopsy. They will remove the node nearest to the tumour and test it to see if the cancer has spread.
And back to the hospital again. I’m in a women-only ward. A has to leave at 8 o’clock and for the first time in my life I feel alone. ALONE. I’m thinking about my sister who is coming to see me the next day. I’m also thinking that she is about to tell my parents – who at this stage are oblivious – that I have breast cancer. CANCER! I’m thinking about how they might feel. I’m feeling guilty. I start to cry. Very quietly at first. Then a bit more. The room is full of very sick women. It’s very noisy. There are also the relatives who are fussing around and watching television. I have no one. Where’s my fuss? A lady sees me crying and comes over and gives me a hug. She asks me what I have. I tell her. She says, don’t worry, my sister had that and she’s fine. She offers me some food. Everyone looks at me. Everything about me is different and I am ALONE! But the kindness of strangers is strangely comforting.
In the morning, the doctors come to visit. Ah! Here is our English patient! They make me smile. Sometimes being different is good. And then it’s all over. A takes me home. Tomorrow I’m going to see my sister. I am shaking. She is part of me. I have never needed her so much. My sister.