About this site

I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer aged 54 in October 2003, 7 months after a misdiagnosis following a routine over 50s mammogram. I was treated with chemotherapy before surgery, then had a mastectomy and node clearance which revealed 23/25 nodes with cancer. I had further chemotherapy, and then five weeks of daily radiotherapy to my neck and chest wall. My cancer was er- pr- and her2- or ‘triple negative’ though this term was hardly used in the UK in 2003. My treatment finished in August 2004.

I had three monthly check ups and then 2 and a half years after diagnosis found a lump above my shoulder bone. I was rediagnosed with a regional recurrence in neck and chest wall lymph nodes. That was April 2007. Since then I have had about 37 cycles of five further chemotherapy drugs. As I write in July 2009 I am about to start another chemotherapy drug. My cancer is not curable. Right now cancer has damaged my eye and my voice and is causing severe pain in my shoulder and arm. My arm is badly swollen: I am unable to lift it; and I am at risk of stroke from tumours pressing on my jugular vein.

For the past 5 years I have regularly used several internet breast cancer support forums. I’ve also read various cancer blogs. I set up this website because I felt I wanted to address some different kinds of issues than those which are given much cyber space on conventional forums. At the beginning (in September 2008) I didn’t want this to be a daily blog recounting this and that new treatment and side effects, or the latest drama when my bloods are too low for chemotherapy or the anti nausea pills aren’t working…though I knew that as I became iller there would be some of that….and there is. Rather, I wanted a space to write a series of pieces in the old fashioned essay style about the meaning of having breast cancer in the west in the twenty first century, about the personal and public politics of the disease. I intended to write pieces with titles such as: pink October; the pressure to reconstruct; being positive; lobbying for drugs; the things people say; the law on assisted dying; the use and misuse of statistics; myths about diet; living with the sword of damocles; cancer was the ‘best’ thing to happen to me; triple negative; early diagnosis and mammograms? As things have turned out I have written fewer essays than I intended and the blog entries have been longer, but somtimes written in essay style.

I had a 30 year career in Further and Higher Education teaching, about 15 years activism in the Labour and feminist movements. I’m a loud opinionated person, and I’ve become loud and opinionated about breast cancer. Ironically one of the current symptoms of my cancer has been a loss of my physical voice…a booming loud voice has been replaced by a hoarse and unreliable somewhat croaky squeak. So this website is the place where I hope my new voice is still heard.