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During my follow-up appointment, the atmosphere turned very different very quickly. As a nurse pushed a box of tissues towards me, it dawned on me that this was ‘the quiet room’ and I was being told bad news.
A biopsy swiftly followed, and when I begged the radiologist to tell me what the dark mass on the screen meant, she confirmed my worst fear.
Over the following week, before I knew any hard facts, I convinced myself I was dying. Unable to sleep, I wrote goodbye letters to my children and husband and sobbed into my pillow for the future life I had lost.
It was actually a relief to hear my post-biopsy diagnosis seven long days later — grade two lobular breast cancer — but a shock to be told I was facing an imminent mastectomy, followed by six rounds of chemotherapy, then a month of radiotherapy and five years of the hormone drug tamoxifen. It was curable but it sounded like a very long haul.
Telling my children — Tallulah, then 17, Roxie, 14, and Minty, ten — was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
We called our eldest into the sitting room and my husband, Emlyn, gently explained that we had not just been to an author event, as we had said we had, but had just come back from a clinic.
She looked at me, her eyes wide. ‘Oh my god, Mum,’ she said. ‘You’re not pregnant, are you?’ I burst out laughing but, although this broke the ice, it was still devastating to tell her the truth.
I’m a glass half-full kind of girl, but it was almost impossible to stay positive when, over the following weeks, everyone suddenly started treating me differently.
It felt as if a big label had been slapped on me. ‘Have you heard about Josie?’ I imagined everyone saying. ‘She’s got cancer.’
Everything that previously defined me seemed to be swept away in one go. A week later, I was approached at the school gate by Ros, a fellow mum, who told me about a fitness charity initiative of the Brighton & Hove Albion football club.
Fitness? I wanted to crawl under my duvet and stay there —but she cajoled me out on to the seafront to meet a special group of runners all of whom had been affected by cancer and were in different stages of treatment.