LOL, OMG, WTF, BFF, TMI, YOLO...my children, for the most part, speak in acronyms - some of which I know (OMG), some of which I thought I knew (LOL) and some which I have to look up every time (ROFL). This year, however, I have been introduced to an entirely new acronym which has become a rather significant part of my life - DCIS. Whilst you might be forgiven for thinking that DCIS sounds like a fabulously smart prep school, it actually stands for the rather grand sounding Ductal Carcinoma in Situ. This is not some achingly beautiful paradise resort off the coast of Mexico I'm afraid, but medicine-speak for early stage breast cancer...OMG, WTF...
So 2017 is the year of the breast for me. It's not what I really had in mind for this year but it really could be a lot worse. It's been caught very early and I'm not going to be shuffling off this mortal coil any time soon (which I acknowledge is a subjective positive and may not be greeted with the same degree of celebration by some). I'm 3 months down the line now, post major surgery and with a dose of GSOH (see what I did there), I thought I would share with you the best bits so far.
I had to have a mastectomy - not great I grant you - and then a reconstruction - not really that great either - but, and this is the good bit, I got a tummy tuck into the bargain. It would seem that even the mutilation of one part of my body has a silver lining - where better to get the "material" for reconstruction than from that shelf of post-three-children-stomach which has stubbornly refused to shift. I wouldn't have had the nerve to have a tummy tuck for cosmetic reasons but when it is essentially a redistribution of body fat for medical reasons, then who am I to refuse?
Of course, another upside to such major surgery, which all parents will appreciate, was the eight hours of uninterrupted sleep whilst all this body rearrangement was going on. Admittedly, it is a rather drastic way to ensure a full night's sleep and I'm not sure I woke up feel exactly refreshed but it's still the first eight hours sleep I've had in 13 years.
The excitement is not all over, however, as a tattoo is part of the reconstruction process. Big tick on the bucket list for me. A nipple probably wouldn't have been my first choice of tattoo but then again who wants to follow the crowd? Butterflies, dolphins, incorrectly written Chinese sayings are so old hat. I am already looking forward to sitting next to some old buffer at a dinner party who asks me, with a wink, whether I have a tattoo and when I reply "Yes, a nipple", he splutters uncontrollably into the pinot noir.
This may all be TMI for you (I really am all over these acronyms) but I'm not going to apologise as it is precisely this sort of gallows humour which gets you through these life experiences. Humour, a sense of perspective (there are much worse things and I'm extremely lucky to have this caught so early) and family and friends are what spur you on. My family and my friends have been frankly extraordinary. As well as supporting me, lifting my spirits and laughing with me (and probably at me too), they have walked my dog, cooked food, baked cakes, transported my children all over the place, brought me thoughtful gifts and told me how well I am doing and how I look amazing (even when I clearly look anything but).
And then there are the children. If ever you need perspective, they give it to you. On the whole, they've dealt with it all very well. The truth is that as long as someone takes them from A to B and feeds them, they are not that bothered about much else. Normality is key and that's what I've tried to maintain - well, my sort of slightly dysfunctional normality! I have had to deal with the odd bizarre question which gives you an insight into the remarkable workings of a child's mind: my youngest wanted to know if my new boob would be made of wood. I think I can see her logic - like a sort of wooden leg thing. After reassuring her that this was not going to be the case (nor was it going to be made of metal which was her follow-up question), I did tell her that a wooden breast might be a bit of a fire risk: "Quick put away all the candles, kindling Kathryn is coming for dinner!"
How would I sum up the last three months? Strangely life-affirming. Yes, my body has been somewhat rearranged (arguably my mid-forties body needed a bit of reworking anyway) but I'm one of the lucky ones and I'm very aware of that. I have got a truly wonderful family and exceptional friends whose support has been phenomenal and three children who have taken it all in their stride and not allowed me to dwell on any negatives. As I would say "carpe diem" or as my boys would say "YOLO".