Saturday 17 March 2018

An ordinary life thrown into chaos

Yvonne Joye

THIS was a surreal week for me and not an altogether comfortable one. Sunday, September 30, saw my second book 'An Inconvenient Year' launched and, though it was a momentous day in my life, it was also a poignant one.

The book didn't start out in life being called 'An Inconvenient Year'. Originally, it was to be entitled 'This Was Never Supposed to Happen' because when I first got diagnosed with breast cancer that was what I kept telling myself. Even after three years, surgery and the twin treatments of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I still find it difficult to believe that it did actually happen. To me. It is a slap in the face and the sting of the shock remains fresh despite the passing years.

Still 'An Inconvenient Year' is an apt title too seeing as that stand-alone time began with what I saw as an irritating inconvenience - squeezing a doctor's appointment into the hectic schedule that is every working week. I was too busy for doctors' appointments and why bother when I was wholly convinced it would be nothing? But I did go. However, on seeing the length of the queue - another inconvenience - I very nearly left again. But I stayed. I stayed to learn that what I thought was nothing was now something that would become everything.

I imagine people react to the news of a diagnosis in a variety of ways. For me, once I got past the debilitating numbness, the over-riding emotion was pure, fortified rage the object of which was a conundrum in itself. My anger was not (initially) directed at the tumour nor was it directed at God or life. My wrath was wholly on me. Nonsensically, I was annoyed at myself for having found the lump. I berated myself for having it investigated. Ironically, my feeling was had I left it alone, my life would still be mine. Instead, I had handed control into the hands of a team of doctors who, just a week previously, I had not known existed but who now ruled my world - a world that was descending into the realm of chaos. I was beside myself.

But of course that first stop in my doctor's rooms to investigate a lump in my breast was not about losing control. It was about taking control. Writing it off, as I did at the time, as an annoying interruption and unnecessary distraction from ordinary life was so contrary to the truth. What I did that day was take the most important step of my life. I saved my ordinary life. Sometimes we can be so busy living life that we can forget altogether about saving it.

'An Inconvenient Year' is not a medical read. Nor is it a glossary of terms or a diary of treatments. It is real life - my real life.

'An Inconvenient Year', published in support of the Marie Keating Foundation and international Breast Cancer Month in October will be in bookshops from next Monday. Yvonne Joye is also the author of 'Ten Fingers and Ten Toes'