So, now that my treatments are set up for the next couple of months and I have a fair idea of what to expect, I’ll be able to go back to the beginning of this journey. I wasn’t present enough, nor did I have the time to start writing a journal, but hopefully I’ll remember most of it.
I had felt a small lump in my right breast during rehearsals for Summer Holiday, but there was no time to check it out. At the beginning of July we had two weeks off from the tour, so I made the appointment to have it looked at on the 6th of July. I was told I’d need another appointment, but because we were due to be in Brighton on the 17th, I requested they see me after that. On the 23rd of July which was our Monday off, I found myself at the hospital in a consultation with a doctor who told me they had to have a closer look. I had an ultra sound, mammogram, two biopsy’s with two markers inserted, then another mammogram and blood tests after that. Nice day off I thought 🙂
The following day I was packed for our week in Blackpool. After being told to not lift anything heavy, there I was carting my suitcase on and off platforms and trains, but I packed as light as I could. I struggled a bit with the pain after the biopsy’s, but I bought some natural remedies from Holland and Barrett to help with healing. I got through the week, but I don’t recall feeling terribly strong or even upbeat. I remember drinking an awful amount of coffee in that week. Coffee often feels like such a life saver doesn’t it?
I got back to London on the Sunday and did the usual unpacking, washing and repacking and on the Monday I received a call from the hospital to say they needed to see me urgently on Wednesday. I replied that I was busy on the tour and had two shows in Leeds on Wednesday. I asked if she could inquire how urgent it was, hoping it could wait till the following Monday. She called back with the news that it was a matter of urgency. I called Abbie, our company manager in tears to explain and apologize that I would have to miss out on some performances. I had told her of my situation in Brighton, so she was aware and very understanding. She said I should take care of myself first and not worry about the show. I sat quietly with this sudden change, focused on my breath and didn’t move for quite a while. Clearly, something was about to happen and I began to feel it in my gut.
After chatting to my family, I began researching immediately. I went online and found as many sites as I could that had information about cancer. I got into gear and took charge and didn’t sit dwelling for a moment. I ordered a book recommended by my friend Julius about how Vitamin B17, found in apricot kernels was making breakthroughs in cancer. It’s called World Without Cancer by G. Edward Griffin. There is some controversy, but I overlooked that and contacted a health store called Planet Organic to see if they had the kernels I needed. I settled on a plan for myself which involved cutting out caffeine, sugar (most important), dairy and wheat. I was never a meat eater so that was also a given. It made sense. I was committed!! I hadn’t been given the diagnosis yet, but I knew.
My appointment the following day was an early one. I sat with the doctor and nurse as he told me I had breast cancer. They had found a 17mm tumor. He went through the exact diagnosis in detail. I listened, smiled and listened some more. He went through my options which were chemo, radiation, surgery, then hormone therapy OR surgery, chemo, radiation, then hormone therapy. I told him that I was about to change my entire diet, that I meditated and was strong physically and that I would carry on with the tour. I was extremely calm which may be a surprise to hear, but I was. I spoke with the nurse afterwards so we could be clear on what they still needed from me in terms of procedures going forward. I said if I agreed to have surgery, which was the only thing that made sense to me then, that it would have to be at the end of the tour which was early November. I was sent for a chest x ray, had blood taken and then went straight to Planet Organic for supplies. I came home armed with apricot kernels and threw out anything that didn’t fit with my new regime. I felt like I was renewed and empowered.
Of course my priority was to get on the next train to Leeds so I booked one that wasn’t too early and informed the company manager that I’d be joining the cast the next day.
On Thursday morning, I set off and while I was en route decided to quickly check the schedule for the week. I practically jumped out of my seat when I saw that we had two shows that day. It was out of the ordinary so I had overlooked it. I phoned Abbie in a panic. We worked out that I would get to the theatre just in time to get ready, but I’d miss the warm ups. She told me that my understudy had to be with her family last minute, so wasn’t with us. Needless to say I arrived at stage door, clambered out the taxi, bumping into our lovely drummer Dave and managed to find my dressing room. I could hear the company getting notes on stage so wandered slowly onto the stage. They all applauded. Haha, what a welcome back. I took a look at all of their gorgeous faces and then turned to look at the auditorium and literally lost my breath. The Leeds Grand Theatre easily has to be my favourite venue so far and of course it carries something extra special for me considering what was going on personally.
There was no time to unpack what was happening with the cast, but I did share with 3 close members and we decided that I’d tell the cast the following day, which I did. We stood in a circle and I shared my news with them. I remember each face so vividly. I remember the tears and the looks of concern and love. This was my family. Of course, I’d shared my entire journey with my real family, but when you work in theatre, on tours, you bond to one another. They were just beautiful. I told them that I was feeling positive and strong and that this diagnosis changed nothing so let’s just carry on together and have fun.
Sophie and I got straight into our usual chats getting ready for the show and I was thrown right back into the routine. I must say it felt strange to perform in the venue that day as normally you have time in the tech to get a feel of the space. There was little feeling of security, but we just carry on don’t we. The show must go on!
The next day I rallied around getting all my healthy food and supplements and was on track with my eating plan. Sophie was listening to her music and was asking me what kind of music I liked. I responded with a few of my favourites and we casually got ready for the show. I thought nothing of it.
Sophie is often up to no good…in a good way. She’s a clever little thing and so is another member of our company Caroline. Such beautiful big hearts they have. Our entire company is extraordinary when it comes to talent, but as people, I adore them all. Caroline and Sophie had a plan up their sleeves.
So there we were on Saturday morning, gathering together for our physical warm up, which Caroline was taking and… bam, the first song of the warm up is Red Hot Chili Peppers – This life is more than just a read through. I ran up to Sophie while she was warming up and said “Soph, it’s the Peppers, it’s my boys!!” She laughed at me. I carried on warming up and the next song that played was Tracy Chapman – Fast Car. I thought, that’s wierd, two of my favourite artists? Next song was Bob Dylan – Rolling Stone. I shouted out to Sophie, realizing what was happening. I think I said, “Sophie, you little s…!” There will be no swearing in my blog!!!! 🙂 I started to get quite emotional. The last song was John Mayer – Waiting on the world to change. Wow! What a moment. I felt their love.
That week was most definitely not the worst week of my life and the news that I had breast cancer hadn’t hit me like a ton of bricks and made me crumble into a state of helplessness. I vehemently made the decision to carry on regardless and this was just the beginning of what was to come in terms of me receiving so much love and support. More than I could have imagined possible.
To the Summer Holiday cast, musicians and crew. I love you all so much for making that week an absolute highlight. You are always in my heart! And to Sophie and Cazza and to my partner on stage Wayne, who blew me away with his love and support – Thank you!!