It was not cancer; but for just shy of 5 months, it could have been. The charity, Stand Up To Cancer, altered my life.
This blog post is the most personal one I have ever posted on this ickle-space of the Internet. I have umm’d and ahh’d a lot over publishing this for the world to read but most notably finally letting my close friends who at the time had absolutely no idea an insight into how November 2016-March 2017 treated me.
I’ve never really spoken about this with anyone aside from my family; mainly because I assumed that it wasn’t cancer, so, therefore, does it really matter? But the more I think about it, I feel it is only right to share these kinds of experiences with you all, especially considering how much I relied on fellow bloggers like ‘Alex in Wanderland’ throughout my diagnosis, treatment and eventually, surgery. Although, no sympathy please – I was okay, thankfully.
You might be asking yourself, why are you posting this today Channon?
Well, March 22nd 2018 marks one year since the Westminster Bridge attacks in London. Fortunately, I was not in London on that day. The terrorist attack happened literally on my doorstep, with one of the victims being a lady who worked in the building that was my student accommodation.
Here’s a photo from our balcony for reference, the Westminster bridge being the one pictured.
I know what you are thinking, what does Westminster Bridge have to do with your surgery. Well, because of my surgery, which came at a large inconvenience (and stress) to me in the final year of my degree, I was at home, resting in the comfort of my living room, 300+ miles away from my flat in London.
So I lived the past two years on Westminster Bridge in halls, the terrorist attack literally happened on my doorstep, with the entrance to St. Thomas’ A&E on one side of my window and the bridge on the other. It sounds selfish but I am so glad I wasn’t in London that day.
— Channon Gray (@heythereChannon) March 15, 2018
Despite the 5cm round lump that I had removed just a few days prior, the pain and worry it caused; at least, I wasn’t there. Since that day, I’ve found a newfound appreciation for life in general and reassurance in that everything happens for a reason.
But these events, including the operation, the terrorist attack and the aftermath that followed it all, made me value the importance of life, no matter how short it might be. It’s crucial that you hug your loved ones extra tight and take risks. Wear a smile, be brave and try new things. You’ve got one chance at life, make it a good one.
I know that you are going to have read this far and want to know more about what was wrong with me or the prognosis. Don’t worry, I am just as nosey as you are! Fear not, I’ll fill you in super quickly on what happened during those 5 months.
Those 5 Months – Storytime:
Rewind to November 2016,
I attended the ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ live event at the Methodist Central Hall as a part of their studio audience in November of 2016. The night presents several stories whereby individuals of all ages have been affected by cancer directly or indirectly. The aim is to raise awareness for cancer research and support in the UK.
I left the show and on the way home (at 1 am) bumped into two lovely American’s – I wrote about them here. I guess having been to see the likes of Stand Up To Cancer live its hard not to find yourself paranoid or worrying (usually unnecessarily) about all what they try to increase awareness of, for me, it was breast cancer.
At the time I was 20, therefore you might deem it complete irrational to be worrying about any such thing; however, it played on my mind for days. Whilst, I’m an over-sharer at times, I am also an over-worrier. I cannot help it; I always do it even if it’s subconsciously.
Anyways, to spare you the details, I found a grape sized lump about a week after seeing Stand Up 2 Cancer and I instantly thought the worst.
I hit up the world’s best doctor, *cough, cough* google and phoned my Mum. Still to this day, I am surprised by how calmly she handled what I told her; I mean she was several hundred miles away back in Cornwall so there wasn’t a lot she could do, but still. We decided that it was best for me to book a doctors appointment for when I returned home at Christmas, as I didn’t have a doctor in London – that’s a story for another day.
December 2016 to February 2017,
Throughout the three months that were December to February, I had multiple doctors appointments in which following the first checkup I was told to wait two weeks and come back to see if there was any noticeable change. This was over Christmas and the lump grew significantly in this time. It was incredibly scary and hidden in the back of your mind is, but what if this is it? What if this doesn’t go away?
In January time I was referred to the Breast Cancer Specialist team at my local hospital. They were amazing and made me feel at ease over the entire situation. I had an ultrasound and biopsy; the lump, at this stage, was deemed mostly benign but not guaranteed. They were worried as they couldn’t see if there was anything nasty underneath the mass as well as the alarming rate in which it was growing.
They suggested that I had an operation to remove it as soon as possible or otherwise the cosmetic damage could be more extreme. I reluctantly agreed and then began the worry over my degree.
I had my operation in mid-March near my home in Cornwall. It was a day-case and the pain after was manageable. They removed a 5+ cm round hard but benign mass; that they believe to be a Fibroadenoma that had grown abnormally large. These are common in young women and many people experience them. However, for most, they simply disappear or grow to be very small in comparison. I was just unlucky!
It was far from ideal but at the same time, I still feel so relieved that it wasn’t anything too serious or nasty.
It was just, the worst timing ever!
When I say that this couldn’t have happened to me at a more dreadful time, I am not kidding. My operation date collided with my final week of lectures and classes, a dissertation deadline, 6 essays, revision and my preparation time for 8 (or so) exams. I had to plan for the absolute worst-case scenario = the one where I didn’t get to finish my degree in the year of 2017.
My Professors were so understanding and considerate of my situation; they helped out so much and often went above-and-beyond any expectations. They helped with essays, catching up on work and all my dissertation queries (even at 4 am, thanks, Nick – I owe you for that one). I’d missed several timetabled slots throughout the five months as I was spending every-other-weekend at home for appointments, tests, scans and hospital visits.
LSE ensured that even throughout my exams, during which was my recovery time from the major operation, I was kept comfortable and feel as though I was able to get everything completed without any added stress. I think because I had been through so much and rationalised a lot of scenarios in my head, the exams part was actually amongst the easiest aspect of last year. I didn’t stress, get upset or worry; I just dealt with every situation as it arose.
One year on, March 2018,
It’s been a year since the surgery and a year since the terror attacks in London.
I recovered perfectly fine and in fact, you’d never even know it existed within my body. However, I still think about that day in London and the reason as to why I wasn’t there with that chaos unfolding outside my bedroom window. I’m thankful for my surgery and I strongly believe that we are dealt all of life’s cards for a reason.
Stand Up To Cancer, and why it is important to support the cause!
Also, on a concluding note, I’d like to thank Stand Up To Cancer for everything that it does; because raising awareness alone for these sorts of medical conditions and life-changing diagnoses is important. Had I have not been to see Stand Up To Cancer, I wouldn’t have checked and that mass could’ve turned into something much worse by now or timed itself even more inconveniently that it already did.
Don’t forget to support Stand Up To Cancer and all the incredible work it does. And besides, they are currently showing a charity version of Bake Off for the cause, what is not to love and enjoy?
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