How much and how often I write here for the next few weeks will be entirely out of my control. This is because a couple of weeks ago my mother was diagnosed with early breast cancer. On Tuesday she will have a substantial lumpectomy and on Friday K. and I will depart to spend a good ten days with her as she recovers. Mum requested that we wouldn’t be around for the operation itself: parents can be funny sometimes.
The prognosis is good and, since the initial shock wore off, Mum has been if not in high spirits then stoically committed to whatever course of treatment is required. Indeed, a friend of K. who works in medical journalism mentioned that these days, with such frequent and good screening, the worst aspect of being diagnosed with breast cancer is the fear, the shock, the chilling, petrifying blast of the word itself, “the big C”, the consumption or typhoid of our ageing age.
That contrast between the illness and its perception is most of what has spurred me on to write this blogpost, when my natural tendency was to keep this private: one ought to kick against this mysteriousness for the sake of others in the same situation, to treat what’s happening at the moment with due seriousness but not superstition. We have to keep reminding ourselves that treatments for early-stage breast cancer – and this does sound very early – can be straightforward if necessarily invasive; especially in Spain, where such fripperies as being regularly fed – relatives generally do that for patients – are eschewed in favour of a swift, coherent medical response.
We’re now putting our life in as good an order as we can and getting ready to make the trip to see them. I’ve always asserted that, while flying is unconscionable for the purposes of leisure, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly over there in a medical emergency (implicit in that was that Dad would probably be at the centre of it.) But it turned out to be just as feasible and not much more expensive to get trains at such a late stage, thanks to K’s untiring efforts. We’ve got box sets and books to keep the patient amused, and enough flimsy clothes to brave the oppressive heat. In short: we’re coming, Mum.