Just a Little Bit of Cancer

I can’t imagine there’s ever a convenient time for a cancer diagnosis, but mine felt particularly discommodious.

It was our last “fun” day before heading back to Qatar. I’d planned lunch with a girlfriend and for the first time in what seemed liked weeks of a grey and wet Adelaide winter, the sun came out over stunning blue skies. Saturday would be a day of packing and cleaning before flying out in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The fridge had been slowly cleared, and the last minute jobs were diminishing tick by tick from the list.

I drove into town for my mammogram reminding myself of what needed to be done in the next day. Pick up the barbecue cover from the hardware store on the way home, buy some vanilla essence at the supermarket, grab that last bit of dry-cleaning. I scored a rock star carpark at the front of the clinic and settled into the familiar waiting room, I’d been there for a mammogram a year or so ago.

The longer I waited the more agitated I became. I didn’t need to be here. I was sure there was nothing wrong. I was going to be late for lunch. And why were they making me have a mammogram when the GP had suggested an ultrasound?

As the radiographer arranged my bosom between the cold glass plates of the machine I made small talk. “So do you get your Mammograms done here?” I asked. She did. Her boss did them. I thought of all the things I’d done with various bosses over the years – no boob holding. As I stood shirtless reading the cartoons and health notices on the wall I thought about lunch, a glass of wine, and how beautiful it must be at the beach. I moved forward when asked, held my arm up when told, tilted to the right when instructed and winced as the glass plates were tightened. When it came time for the ultrasound the small talk extended. Kids, school, husbands. We found a connection, giggled at how small Adelaide could be, and then she went to get the doctor. The moment they walked back in I knew something was wrong.

A lump, 4mm, a fortuitous discovery. We’ll take a biopsy, but we’re pretty sure it’s cancer we’ve seen enough to know. Go back to your GP now she’s expecting you, I’ll make an appointment for you to see the breast surgeon this afternoon, the sooner we get onto this the better. There were so many more words in between the sentences but I’ve lost them. I know I said something about having to take my children back to school in Qatar but the minute I said children my voice changed. I said something about my husband, it was the weekend for him, a bike ride, a birthday brunch of a good friend, I was about to ruin his day. And Penny, she was on her way to my house for lunch, we’d talked about it the night before, it was going to be fantastic. Can I just text my friend Penny.

Penny it’s not good, they’ve found something. Can you cancel lunch, tell them I’m sorry. I have to go to see my GP.

She got straight in the car and spent the afternoon with my kids. She made dinner. She read the paper at the table as if nothing was happening. She was there when I got home. She was Penny. She was perfect.

I parked outside the GP’s office, the same GP’s office I’d gone to at age 20 for a prescription for the pill. The same office I’d arrived at in four different stages of four pregnancies. The office I’d been in yesterday with my children and no cancer, except I did have cancer, I just didn’t know.

“Of all the cancers to have breast is the best one, and it’s small and we’ve got it early.” my GP said.

“I’m meant to be at lunch at The Star of Greece. I’m meant to be sitting in the sunshine with a bottle of wine? I’m meant to be getting on a plane in less than 48 hours?”

“I know, it’s a shock, I’m sorry.” She genuinely meant it. The next day she texted me “How are you going? Call me anytime”. I think I may have the best GP in the world. The world.

The first tears came when I spoke to G. Should he come home? Should I still get on the plane? Should we meet half way. What do we tell the kids? They need to get back. They need the routine. My brain began to fog. I have to go to the breast surgeon, I’m driving over there now, let me see him and then we can talk more. Talk to Kristina about flights, see what she can do with the bookings.

“We need to take another biopsy and we need to get you a MRI to make sure it isn’t anywhere else.” The breast surgeon was gentle, kind. I thought of my friend Darien and his liver cancer and started to giggle. I was going to ring him and tell him I was sick of him being the centre of attention, that I wanted my own spread sheet with radiography and chemo appointments. It wasn’t funny, but I knew he’d get it and laugh.

And so, here I am, 48 hours later. G is here, he got on a plane and came home. The children are aware of what’s going on, I told them at the kitchen table on a sunny Saturday afternoon. “We’re not going on a plane tomorrow guys, Dad’s on his way home.” They cheered at the news.

“Yesterday when I went to the doctors they found a lump, they need to take it out and Dad wants to be here to find out more about it and what we have to do next”.

“It’s not like its cancer or anything though” said the smallest voice with more of a statement than a question.

“Well, it seems like it is. But just a little bit of cancer. Nothing big, just 4 mm, tiny, just a little tiny bit.”

There were more questions, there were jokes, they were disappointed to not be going back to Qatar but excited to think that G was on a plane.

“We’ll look after you Mum”,

“We’ll buy you new boobs for your birthday if you end up needing them”.

“Did you get rid of my ponytail when we cut it off? You can have it if you like.”

We’re all okay. We’re all positive. We’re all going to do this together. I’m lucky, I truly believe that. I could have not had the mammogram, I could be back in Doha with no idea that I have breast cancer. I’m so so lucky.

It’s just a little bit of cancer.

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  1. Love you. I wish this wasn’t happening and I could somehow take it away. I can’t. So know I am here x

  2. Lana (Sharpest Pencil) says

    Oh God Kirsty. You stay strong and get rid of your little bit of cancer. That’s all that counts right now. xxxxxxx

  3. Annie Reuss says

    Oh gosh honey that’s not the news anyone wants to hear. You have an amazing support network and you will be okay. Sending all the love. xxxxx

  4. Fuck. I really really hope that everything from here is as ‘good’ as thing this kind of thing can be. I am glad G is home xxx

  5. Oh lovely. I’m very sorry to read this. What I will say is that the treatment options have come so far in recent years. I’m a long way away, but I AM well versed in treatment support. Sing out if I can do anything.
    Much love,
    Cooker and a Hooker. xx

  6. Kate Veale says

    Oh Kirsty, that is such shit news, thank you so much for sharing with us so eloquently all that you’ve been through these past few days. Big cyber hugs to you and G and the kids.

  7. Darlene Foster says

    OMG. You have the best attitude and of course the best family to support you. Thinking about you and sending positive thoughts, knowing all will be well. Sending hugs.

  8. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this, but glad they’ve found it and it’s being dealt with. Good luck with your treatment.

  9. amycrookes says

    I am in tears for you but sending strength x

  10. I am so sorry.
    Catching it early is fantastic but I am still sorry.

    Big hugs to you, G abd the little travellers

  11. That’s a big shock for you and the family. It’s very good it was caught early (though I know too well at first this seems like very cold comfort indeed).
    Thankyou for sharing this moment &, at a time like this, never let the value of a dark and fairly inappropriate sense of humour be underestimated.


  12. Elizabeth Foreman says

    My favourite reason to read this blog is because it brings back memories or stories that are similar to what either I or my parents went through and I have to say this post is the only one that I wish wasn’t the case. My Mum and I both read your blog, me more than her (mostly because I like ‘real life’ type stuff and she likes sewing blogs) and this both made us just about bawl like babies. A very dear childhood friend of my mother’s went through breast cancer, though hers was caught much much later. Be glad, for everything that you have and don’t waste a second, and be very very thankful that they caught it early. You will be in our thoughts.

  13. It’s just a little bit shit is what it is !
    Sending you, G and the family so much love and strength.

  14. Just a bit of cancer. You are amazing. You really, really are. You are strong and you are brave and you are very, very loved. xxx

  15. Oh, wow. What crappy news. What good luck. Thinking of you all.

  16. Oh Kirsty, what a shocking bit of news. I remember hearing someone on Macca referring to cancer as rust, so I hope to god that they cut all of your rust out successfully, and your treatment goes well. Hugs from here, my friend in Qatar who is in S.A right now.

  17. Far out, K, that’s just a bit shit. But I love your strength and your attitude – you’ll kick its arse in no time. Sending much love and healing vibes. xxxxx

  18. Positive thoughts, lots of them. And strength, in buckets. Sending them all your way along with much love.

    LCM x

  19. Nothing like a little cancer to keep the ground shifting under an expat. Wishing you strength: to receive it, to give it, to feel it and to think it. Good to hear you found it at ‘home’.

  20. Kirsty, like everyone below, I’m sending you all the positive vibes I can send your way. Cancer is shit. Fight the good fight and know we’re all here for you xx

  21. So sorry to hear this. Was only thinking last night I can not wait until the podcasts start up again. Wishing you a speedy recovery and hope all goes on. Xxx

  22. Kirsty @ My Home Truths says

    Keep positive. Stay strong. Most of all keep those lines of communication open and try to keep laughing. I just went through this with my dad who wasn’t so lucky but we kept laughing regardless. Sometimes the humour was the blackest of black but it was there anyway. Hold onto it and know we are all here for you x

  23. Never a great time to get that news! All the best for your treatment, I hope it is swift and effective…my mum has just completed treatment for breast cancer, the whirlwind from diagnosis to surgery etc is a head spin.

  24. Lisa Newey says

    That’s very boring news! Very glad it’s been caught early and that you were here. I remember just before we left Qatar in 2007, I got a message from my brother telling me to ring my parents. My dad had just been diagnosed with bowel cancer. I learned this news on my birthday, and I felt like my family was a million miles away. I am so glad that you are all together and have support around you. You will kick its arse, I am sure.

  25. You know with all the living far away, sending kids to school and other things that seem so big – none of it is really. You and your family, all together right now, in the right place. That is the big important stuff. God speed on this part of your story xx

  26. “Just a little bit of cancer”. Such a massive load of crap. And worry. For all of you. But you are strong. You have each other. You DO have an amazing GP and you have got this. You’ve got us. Thank God you are sharing it. We’re all here and we will do what we can. And what great kids you have, hey? Hang in there. Do what you have to do, and deal with it one step at a time. Sending all the love. x

  27. sasacoulton says

    Sending love & hugs to you & all your wonderful family – we are all out here thinking of you

  28. Mary Monteleone says

    Ohhh, your kids are gorgeous! All the love and luck in the world to you – will be thinking of you.

  29. Thinking of you and your family……so glad that G was able to be with you so quickly.

  30. I’ve had a requisition for a mammogram and ultrasound stuck in my van door side pocket now going on three weeks. Who has the time? Who looks forward to this painful procedure? I’m a procrastinator of epic proportion. I’m 59 and having panic attacks because eternal life isn’t an actual thing!!!!

  31. Hey there, I’m the arse who made a breast cancer comment on your ig mammo pic…because I was disgnosed last year and had a single mastectomy last September, I had a bleeding nipple and Evil Right Boob got her first and last mammo. Lefty has been lucky and received two mammo’s, but no more for her, she’s coming off early next year. I’m not having recon…Flat and Fabulous for me 😀
    A work collegue got in touch with me last week, she’s just had a lumpectomy and is waiting to find out about possible chemo.
    There are too many women…and men…in this club. This ‘journey’ is a bit suckage, but the positives (yes, positives) are the amazing people that you meet. There are some fab FB groups out there…the bonus is you are young enough to be a member of the Young Women with Breast Cancer fb group, I take the upsides where I can get them 😉
    I wish you well, if you ever need an ear…let me know xx @picsnapper

  32. Bollocks, buggery, buggery bollocks. And I should know. From one expat gal with 4 kids and breast cancer to another: you will get through this. And find humour in the darkest places. I’m so sorry to hear your news, take it slowly and keep breathing.

  33. Thinking of you, sorry you have to go through this too. Early detection is the best and having a good medical team is even better.
    I’m in Young Women with Breast Cancer fb group too – a great resource and private to ask any questions. Or I am.
    Take care and it sounds like you are surrounded in love and in the right place , one day at a time xox.

  34. You’ve brought tears to my eyes many times but this one is more of a river of tears. Such a beautiful positive attitude to what must just be crap. May it stay small, may it be out and over quickly and may this be it for your brush with cancer.
    PS you also made me laugh, her boss does her mammograms!! Eerghh

  35. Well that’s just fucked.

  36. We don’t know one another but I listen to your podcast and have loved following your story and you have knocked me for 6.. I hope all goes well over the next few months, I will be thinking of you. Thankfully you went for the mammogram. And sod fat face skinny face, this is what matters… Take care xx

  37. Alison Toni says

    Oh Kirsty, so sorry this is happening to you. But you’re already halfway to healing if one of your first thoughts is to make your friends laugh.
    And just a little bit of cancer is a nice easy target. Much love and strength.

  38. Susan (Eastendmom) says

    What a fantastic family you have, from G flying straight home to your kids offering to “buy you new boobs for your birthday if you need them” – that line cracked me up. All the best to you Kirsty; it was absolutely meant to be that this was discovered before you were back in Doha and a sign that all will be well.

  39. You sound very brave, but I’m sure deep inside you’re scared shitless. Positive energy heading your way. Thank you for sharing this with the world, I know I wouldn’t have that kind of courage.

  40. clodagh cahill says

    You got this, and we got you. All these unknown strangers who have befriended you, who sit with their coffee and laugh along as you muddle through your funny podcasts, we … the strangers… all care. If you believe in the earth and energy and all that then girl you are getting blasted with the best kind, lots of love energy!

  41. Cynthia Berthiaume says

    Sending positive thoughts and prayers. You will come through this fine; keep the faith until you are on the other side of this. Hugs

  42. I’m so sorry you’re having this experience — and grateful you’re sharing it. It’s good to say things out loud so we can support you.

  43. Oh Kirsty, you are in my prayers. I’m so sorry this is happening to you, and so happy that you found it early.

  44. Little and early, you’ve got this Kirsty. You have family, love and so many many friends on your side. xxxx

  45. *Hugs*. xx

  46. Thank you for sharing this so honestly. Praying it is resolved quickly and all good news from here on out. Hugs

  47. Hi Kirsty I’m a long time reader of your blog. Such horrible news for you and your family. I work at Cancer Australia and we have lots of fantastic resources you can order for free. The guide for women with early breast cancer is brilliant and should become your bible. You can order them at: canceraustralia.gov.au

    Wishing you good health and a speedy recovery.

  48. Caro Webster says

    Oh Kirsty. Sending every good wish to you and your family. x

  49. Big love to you and your family. x

  50. So glad you did have the mammogram – so lucky. So lucky your family is by your side. So lucky it is getting dealt with quickly. The thought of you being back in Qatar and not knowing is too awful to contemplate. Know that we are all barracking for you.

  51. My sister is just past her first anniversary – so glad they have got in early.

  52. Crying. Fuck cancer. Kick its arse Kirsty .

  53. Finding MyNew Normal says

    Thinking of you and sending positive thoughts.

  54. Lisa Kostkas Dubniczki says

    Although we have never met I feel like I know you as an old friend reading your blog and relating as a fellow expat. I was heartbroken to read of your “little bit of cancer”. Cancer sucks so please “win” this one for all of us. Thinking of you and your family.

  55. Oh Kirsty, wishing you the very best through this. Stay strong x

  56. I’m so very sorry to hear this, I will keep everything crossed for you. Cancer sucks 🙁

  57. Evelyn Simpson says

    Kirsty, thinking of you. Thank you for writing about it too. It’s easy as an expat to skip the routine healthcare – too many things to do when you’re home, you’re not sure how the system works overseas – so many reasons. You’ve reminded us all of the importance of doing those checks. Wishing you good outcomes, support and energy for however long it takes to kick the cancer to the kerb.

  58. Dann Lennard says

    Beautifully written, Kirsty. We’re all thinking of you, mate. Take care.

  59. Big hugs. Sending prayers up for you.

  60. Oh Kirsty, I just came here from IG when I saw you were about to have MRI & now I know why …. Bugger! this is rotten news but I’m glad you are “home” & G is with you as well as the fam. Much love & all good wishes for your recovery! Xx

  61. Jenni from styling curvy says

    New boobs for your birthday…gold x

  62. I’m waiting in bed for 6 a.m. to arrive. That’s when I get up to go have my ultrasound core biopsy to confirm what I heard just yesterday: I have a “little bit” of breast cancer. I’m in that surreal state of shock still called denial. Your blog is a godsend. Thank you. I’m off to get punched in the boob a few times.

  63. Rebecca Hogue says

    Your writing is amazing. This totally brought tears to my eyes. I know that feeling of but my GP said ultrasound why are they doing a mammogram, and the feeling of the doctor coming into the room saying the words cancer. You do such a powerful job of communicating it in writing.

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