If I was writing the following story as a work of fiction, it would seem ridiculous – farcical even – but what follows is the horrible truth, and it’s happening right now, to me and my friend Vicki:
Like me, my kickass friend (check out her blog here) had her leg amputated after a diagnosis of osteosarcoma more than 20 years ago. Only she never actually had cancer. She was misdiagnosed – after the amputation and chemotherapy, she was told that the pathology actually showed her tumour had been benign.
We first met back in 2004 while I was working for local radio and I interviewed her about her misdiagnosis. I remember thinking what a positive attitude to life she had, despite the agonisingly dreadful experiences she had been through.
A year after the interview, in the first bizarre twist of fate, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma too, and Vicki became one of the people I turned to as I came to terms with losing my leg. She still is – when I was suffering with sores on my stump recently, Vicki came round with a bagful of creams, and silicone plasters, and helpful advice.
We both have children and jobs and the usual hectic lives so hadn’t spoken for a few weeks, but when Vicki called me in mid-December to tell me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer I was horribly shocked, especially as I had an appointment at the breast cancer clinic the very next day – when I was also diagnosed with the same disease.
Now we are going through the same set of scans and appointments and blood tests and the same sense of disbelief and grief that we have to go through all this again. On Tuesday, we’ll be in the same hospital, sitting side-by-side, getting drip-fed the drugs that will hopefully halt the tumours’ growth.
It’s beyond surreal. And awful. But here’s a message Vicki sent me the other day. It’s one of my favourites:
You are braver than you believe
Stronger than you seem
And smarter than you think
A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh