My Mum was so weak, she would sleep most of the time. She couldn't eat so we watched her starve, which broke our hearts.
There wasn’t really a lot the nurse could do with this sort of cancer but she tried to make Mum as comfortable as possible and she was always only a phone call away to reassure and advise my Dad.
Mum had always been the kindest, most glamorous and mischievous lady you ever could meet! Everybody loved her. Including all the medical staff.
At the same time my Mum was terminally ill, My older Sister 'Jacks' discovered that she had breast cancer. I recently sent Jacks a few question's concerning this traumatic time and the reply was a very positive one.....
Honour: So 'big sis', tell me about your 'bout' with breast cancer. I know Mum insisted on calling you and having a good talk about it. What were some of the words of wisdom that she passed on to you? Because it suddenly gave you an incredible strength.
Jaqueline: Even when she was suffering massive pain with her own cancer, she found the strength to call me and was always telling me to stay strong, not to crumble, be brave and keep going. I have reccurring dreams of when Mum taught me to swim at Woodall Spa, I was about 3 years old, she was at the far end of the swimming pool, calling me and telling me not to be afraid to swim and to keep going. So that’s what I am still doing………!
Honour: You were in hospital for the mastectomy op within days, how did you feel to have two boobs one week and one boob the next?
Jaqueline: After the op I felt like Cyclops, but a good bra fitter at Debenhams sorted me out with my first mastectomy bra and I didn’t look too different in my usual clothes. My breast care nurse gave me a ‘softie’ for my bra after the op and I brought my breast prosthesis from Amoena and later a swimming suit and swimming prosthesis from Nicola Jane. No one can tell the difference.
Honour: Then came the dreaded chemo... You tried the ice cap but unfortunately it didn't work and your gorgeous thick wavy hair (which has come back since even more lustrous) all fell out. I remember our phone conversations and you would sound very poorly sometimes. Although, when I came to visit, you looked a picture of health with a full head of hair!!! How the hell did you manage that?!
Jaqueline: I took my wonderful hairdresser with me to choose a wig at the hospital. I was determined not to have the NHS ‘shiny bob’ sort and so she chose a really funky choppy mid length wig, in a colour called Cappuccino, in fact it was better than my own hair and so easy to manage. SHAKE AND GO. In May, my hair finally grew back and it was too hot to wear my wig, (thicker and more curly than before), so people who didn’t know I’d had cancer thought I’d gone a bit bonkers and had a boyish haircut!
Honour: Now a year later, you have had your first reconstruction operation. Tell me about your 'stack' as you like to call it. I must say, the shape of your boobs make you look even younger Jacks!
Jaqueline: When I saw my surgeon and we discussed breast reconstruction, I said I wanted to go as large as possible and that I would be holding on to this dream through my dark days of Chemo. When I saw him again I said, I’ve had my Chemo and I’ve come for me bosoms – only the very largest will do please! Here’s what my surgeon did.
Op 1. my flat right boob (mastectomy) was given an inflatable implant that was injected weekly (8 weeks) until maximum size. Two months later, Op 2. my left bosom was given a ‘nip and tuck’ and raised slightly with a small implant. Op3. my right boob (full mastectomy) was given the largest implant he could use. Next stage – nipple reconstruction or tattoo? I can’t decide on what tattoo to have – Geryln Lucas (Author of 'Why I Wore Red Lipstick to my Mastectomy') had angel wings and a heart, but I think I might go with the nipple tattoo….. I’ll keep you posted.
Honour: I understand it's not over yet. You recently had an allergic reaction to Tamoxifen...
Jaqueline: After my ops in June, I had to restart taking Tamoxifen, and unfortunately had a major allergic reaction, in the form of urticaria (red skin hives), followed by massive anaphylactic shock. I was rushed to A&E twice over two days. The NHS staff were fantastic at looking after me. At 5.30am, I had to wait for the drunks and druggies to leave before I could get a bed and I was feeling sorry for myself in the heat covered head to toe with an itchy rash, swollen face, hands and unable to breath. Mum used to say whatever your troubles there is always someone worse off than you, and in the A&E ward was a woman my age who had been brought into A&E by the police, she had been found wandering the town in the nude apart from her high heels. She was an alcoholic had cirrhosis of the liver. I kept thinking of something Bette Midler once said “Please God, don’t let me be found wondering the streets with a fried egg on my head” Somehow I felt better.
I am now taking Arimidex – I am hoping to stay well on this. Although I only took Tamoxifen for one year it has given me Osteopina (Osteoporosis), Arimidex also has the same side effect.
So there you have it folk's. Up until two year's ago, cancer was always something that happened to someone else, now I realise just how common it is and how ongoing support is needed....It really does make the world of difference to peoples lives. Including me.
Honour Mission is a Brighton based burlesque performer and will be performing for BABC at The Ocean Rooms in Brighton on October 16th. Honour lives at: http://www.myspace.com/honourmission