Rachmaninov, preparations and a mushroom

Catching sight of myself when cleaning my teeth this morning I saw that my right boob is now smaller than the left. The swelling from the operation has completely gone, and my boob has this odd flat shape at the side – I’m sure this will change again over the coming months.


So, I thought I’d work out what the tumour was like. I rummaged through the fridge, ruler in hand, and worked out that the chunk cut out of my boob is the equivalent to a large chestnut mushroom, the tumour the size of a blueberry, and the smidgen of cancer in my lymph node smaller than a grain of instant coffee. Fortunately, I am totally unbothered about being a bit lopsided. If my boob gets any smaller, I could always crochet a fillet to put in my bra.

This week has been more hospital visits, more research, organising travel insurance refund for my cancelled holiday, a lot of project lumpy reading, lovely visits with friends, some super phone chats and spin classes. On a daily basis: 10,000 steps, a mindfulness session, and my lymphoedema exercises. My medical team were surprised to hear that I am at the gym again, but really pleased as exercise is one of the key ways to prevent a recurrence of the cancer. The professor and I joked that his stitching is great so there was no danger of my scars popping open midway through spin class.

Being in control of my treatment and choosing how I face cancer is very important to me. I ordered some great booklets from Breast Cancer Care, all free of charge. Alongside the Macmillan information, there is plenty to understand about possible side effects of treatments and how these can be managed. Some of the main side effects of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy are a sore mouth, change to taste and nausea. All a bit ironic at a time when your body needs the best nutrition it can get. So, I ordered the Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook which has recipes for during treatment when your mouth may be sore and food taste odd. Top of the list to try making is Date & Maple Syrup Flapjacks.


Before one of my hospital visits I went to a lunchtime concert. It was a BBC Radio 3 concert with Vadym Kholodenko, a Ukrainian pianist, playing Rachmaninov (it’ll be broadcast on March 17th). That makes me sound hugely cultured, which I’m not, but I do love classical piano, and had my eyes really opened to it after reading James Rhodes’ book Instrumental. James Rhodes suffered dreadful abuse as a child, and listening to and playing classical music is how he has coped with unspeakable trauma. His albums are superb. Anyway, back to Vadym. My friend and I were sat such that we could see Vadym’s face throughout the concert. Eyes often closed, he was utterly lost in his music, totally focussed on his fingers moving across the keys, his face switching between pained anguish and sheer delight as he played. A few tears rolled down my cheeks – the Rachmaninov is beautiful, but his playing of it was exquisite.

My friend and I wondered how old he is, so googled him. My goodness, what a desperate story we found. Vadym lost both his daughters last year in a truly tragic way. How much of his pain does he now pour in to his music, and how much does that music provide him escape and some small solace? It was a reminder to me of the importance of music to the soul, how it can touch and help us, and I have certainly been using music as I’ve ventured in to this surreal new world. And whenever I need a laugh I just sing Lionel Ritchie’s “You are destiny, you are my one and only”.




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