By Janet Rhys Dent
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Extra info for The Secret History of a Woman Patient
Now it contained a dry, cancerous lump full of malignant cells. The collision of the two locations, birth ward and breast excision ward, made me feel sentimental and tearful. Two women in dressing gowns were sitting on a wooden bench just outside the hospital doors, talking loudly, laughing and smoking. The younger one could be no more than thirty, but her face was shadowed and gaunt and her hunched body was barely detectable in its blue quilted wrapping. I had glanced at the reflection of my own face in the mirror before leaving home, seeking signs of illness, but had found none – my eyes were clear, my cheeks pinkish.
And, along the way, tears. Carys and I sat facing each other across the coffee table. ‘I’ve decided to have a lumpectomy and radiotherapy’, I told her. ‘Is that your final decision? ’ ‘That was my panic talking. I’ve thought about it since and read some stuff about it. I’ve changed my mind about a hundred times, but now I’m definite. ’ ‘And you have made your mind up? ’ Later, when I felt less confident about my decision, I was to think about the way that Carys checked my intentions so thoroughly.
On the other hand, just over a year ago Emma had discovered a breast lump and had been operated on just five days after being seen by the consultant. She had been given no choice about her mastectomy, and she had nobly shrugged it off in public, joking and generally carrying on as normal. She had successfully completed the rest of her treatment and now she was an upbeat role model for me. Why not follow her example as best I could? Especially since if I did, I wouldn’t have to endure weeks of radiotherapy at a later date.