Short Story 1
As I gazed down the hospital bed, a sense of trepidation came flooding over me. What was I about to see? As the surgeon peeled back the thick bandage, I was soon presented with one of my surgery wounds. The bandage was removed, and I was there, looking down at my unrecognisable leg. I let out a painful cry like never before. My leg that had seen me dance for years. The leg that had seen me win so many races. The same leg that had travelled the world. The leg that had taken me on so many adventures. My beautiful, slim, toned, powerful left leg all bloodied and battered. A massive bright red line from my hip to my knee of a deep wound. It looked so brutal from my angle. Drains hanging out. Looking down my leg from the hospital bed was a vision that has stayed in my mind since. It will never leave.
My sporty athletic leg cut into. Scarred forever. It looked so scary. So raw. So shocking. I was utterly heartbroken. But it needed to be. That was the first time I had seen the result of an intrinsic operation that my surgeon had performed. The surgeon that had painstakingly given me his precious professional time in helping me. In making me better. I loved this man. So why was I crying at his marvellous work of magnificent beauty. I had gotten through another major operation and all was well. I was making good progress. There was so much to be grateful for.
I had got used to seeing scars on my body by that time. In fact, I love my scars. Every single one. They are a part of me, representing something so powerful. That I survived cancer. But nothing prepares you for seeing a fresh new wound where once your skin was unscathed. Even more so if you really liked that body part. I quite liked my legs.
When I had gotten over the shock of seeing my ruby red limb my tears swiftly turned to smiles. My surgeon did not want to see me cry. Especially as the operation had been such a massive success. I was healing well. My partial mastectomy was healing nicely too. The plastic surgery had been an almighty triumph. I knew this. He knew this. He was so gentle and kind that day. And I knew this man needed my gratitude as well as dealing with my pain. My leg was needed to help my breast. And that is exactly what it did.
It was only a few months earlier that I had been celebrating my 40th birthday. A succession of partying, nights out and vibrant times with all my loved ones. Family and friends came together, in unity to dance the night away for my big occasion. I was also celebrating getting to the end of the most mammoth charity challenge. A challenge which had seen me conquer events and activities that would push me mentally and physically for eighteen months. I was on fire. I was so strong. So fit. So healthy. Living life to the max. Looking forward to my future. Looking forward to having children. And then boom.
A reoccurrence. No-one can say this for sure, but I had a gut feeling. I knew deep down when I was referred for scanning and then biopsies that all was not good. I hoped in my heart of hearts that it was not back. With every ounce of my being, I did not want to hear negative news. But I knew they had found something. I remember crying so hard that day as the nurse held my hand. Not again. Please not again. My skin being punctured three times to claim the tissue they required. I knew. I was prepared.
The weeks that followed were horrendous. I had already had a bilateral mastectomy a few years earlier, with tissue being taken from my stomach. I had had a skin sparring mastectomy which meant the original skin was left. It was under this skin that another diagnosis was found. A DCIS in a triangle shape going from my nipple to my armpit. There were various options to help me but the one that scared me the most was that they might have to remove my right breast. I had gone through so much with my previous operation. I really did not want this to be the answer. I quite liked my boobs. And now they were going to be put through their paces again.
As the oncology and breast care team at my local hospital communicated with my surgeons at my other hospital where I had previously been treated, I dealt with this the only way I knew how. I signed up for a marathon. A running marathon that I was to do with my mother. Taking in the stunning scenery and spectacular countryside of the Suffolk coast. I knew that building up to such a big run would help me leading up to my operation. It would take my mind off things. It would keep me focused. It is with this that I was affectionately known as Marathon Girl in the hospitals.
My mum and I got to the start. It was painfully emotional. We knew we had a big job ahead. The marathon we had chosen was a tough one with the coastal winds, varying landscapes and multi terrains. We were both determined to do it. And that is exactly what we did. Despite the major operation looming and the trauma this had caused to me and my loved ones, we got round that course. A plethora of emotions whirling through our minds. It was draining. It was demanding. It was exhilarating. It was funny. It was horrific in places. It was sticking two fingers up to cancer. We crossed that finish line so exhausted but so happy. So proud.
I remember vividly saying goodbye to the leg I once knew as the anaesthetic worked its magic. My anaesthetist was the one who came up with ‘Marathon Girl’. He was a cool, quirky man who I loved chatting to. Full of charm and a wonderful presence in the room. With him on my left side and one of my surgeons on my right I fell asleep holding hands with the people who would save my breast. I was putting my life in the hands of so many other people. I trusted them and knew all would be ok but a part of me was concerned that the surgery would go well, and I would wake from my sleep. My last memory being a tear rolling down the side of my face before all went dark.
Fast forward four years and every day I look at the scar on my left leg with pride. A daily reminder that my leg played such a crucial role in my last operation. The leg that helped my breast. The scar is still of considerable size, but it has faded so much. A faint line carved into my leg with a little bump where the drain had sat. It is still numb in places and still feels strange when someone touches it. Since my last operation I have participated in a vast array of events, challenges, and activities. My legs leading me through and completing some of the most exciting adventures ever. A marathon in the garden and the Three Peaks Challenge on my stairs just goes to show how far my leg has come. How far I have come.
It is a funny feeling knowing that my breasts are made up of stomach and leg tissue and skin. I adore my body for what it has been through. Every single part of it. Every day I look down at my leg and it stirs up emotion. Of how I am eternally grateful for my precious life and for what my body continues to achieve every day. And I will always relish in the fact that, despite I do not do them all the time, that I was known as ‘Marathon Girl’.