I'm finally starting my blog. (Despite what the date says at the top there, I can assure you it is 9th August 2014!) This is meant to be about my career; Annabel the actress and I suppose in some ways it is...
At the beginning of this year (2014) I filmed an ad for Macmillan Cancer Care. I played a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy on an empty ward, surrounded by my thoughts - thank you's to all the people who had helped on my journey so far.
At the end of May, over the bank holiday weekend, I walked 100miles. I have done the Long Distance Walker's Association annual 100 mile challenge twice before this year. The aim is to walk the 100 mile route (run by a different group and in a different area of the country every year) within 48 hours. There are checkpoints every 5-10 miles run by volunteers from all over the country and stocked with delicious things to keep the 500 or so walkers (and some runners!) fully energised for the challenge.
I'm a two night walker. Some of the runners and faster walkers get finished in under 36 hours. But I just keep walking at a steady 2.5 mph and through two nights and get it finished in just under the 48 hour deadline.
This year the walk was in Wales. The Welsh Valleys to be exact. And it was wet. Very, very wet! It rained almost continuously for the first 26 hours. Then intermittently but torrentially for the next six or so hours. Everything was wet. None of the so called waterproof clothing was. The ground was boggy. The puddles were knee deep. Hardened LDWA 100 walkers were dropping out. Friends who had completed the challenge on many previous occasions were being timed out at checkpoints. The small band I had been walking with was whittled down to just two - with three checkpoints to go, Aaron and I were only 15 minutes ahead of the sweeper (the person responsible for
'Sweeping up' the walkers who weren't going fast enough to finish in 48 hours). By the time we got back to Pontypool we were just over half an hour ahead, finishing in 47 hours 28 minutes.
Eventually after I got back to the hotel I plucked up the courage to get in the shower and get wet again.
And that's when I found it.
A small, lozenge shaped lump on the left side of my left breast.
"Ooh, that's not good!" Were my exact words at the time.
I went to the GP three days later and was seen by Charing Cross a week after that. Mammogramed, ultra-sound scanned and biopsied, both from the lump and from a now palpable lymph node under my left arm, I was sent away to wait for a week for the results to come back.
It was breast cancer.
I was booked in for a lumpectomy and total axillary clearance. But I wanted to hold on to most of my lymph nodes if I possibly could and so persuaded the lovely Mr Hadjiminas (Consultant Breast Surgeon) to only take the lump and a few lymph nodes. That was on 10th July.
Twelve days later I went back for the biopsy results from that surgery. The margins around the lump were all clear. But all four of the lymph nodes they took were cancerous. A second operation was booked for a total axillary clearance. All the lymph nodes from my left armpit up to my collar bone were removed on Thursday 7th August.
I am writing this sitting on my hospital bed, waiting for my prescription from the pharmacy. I have a drain from the wound site which consists of a transparent plastic tube, stitched in to a neat little hole in my side. The tube runs from inside my armpit to a bottle which I will be carrying with me until it is removed on Friday. Yesterday it was the colour and consistency of raspberry smoothy; today it is a cheeky little rosé. Tomorrow I'm hoping for Chardonay as that will mean I'm healing inside.
So I am now lymph node-less on my left arm. But I am also (fingers crossed) cancer free too.
Chemo here I come...