After over a year of negotiating an unnecessarily traumatic path through the byzantine processes of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) I am still no nearer to the corrective surgery I was guaranteed last August.
Of course I’m grateful that the NHS has saved my life by ridding me of cancer. Surely that’s no reason to settle for less than I need. I feel as if the NHS systems, people and processes in two very different hospitals (one inside and one outside of London) have been designed to cow me and others into accepting the minimum that will enable us to survive. It’s irrelevant whether this has been through accident or design, whether it’s the weight of bureaucracy, poorly designed processes, politics or a result of the wrong sort of corner cutting. My quality of life suffers daily, I have to fight with myself to do the things I’d would normally enjoy. These challenges all come on top of the chemo-related sickness from which I’ve not yet recovered.
Even though I’m terrified that the hoops through which the NHS will force me to jump will cause more pain and heartache I am still determined to fight to get the corrective operation done. Of course I feel horribly vulnerable. Of course sometimes, when my blood sugar’s low I get depressed and have horrible thoughts.
That doesn’t matter. Neither waves of illness nor chronic fatigue will stop me. I am learning to live and exercise through it all. Even when I’m fixed I’ll continue to fight to make sure that other women don’t have these problems.
I’d like to think I’m mentally strong enough to date with confidence too, but the pain of the way I was treated in summer remains.
It’s hard enough to sleep or have a normal social life because of what’s left as I slowly recover from the chemo-induced chemical menopause. It’s hard enough to draw from an already depleted body the energy and inclination to get up, go to the gym and to ignore my body’s regular demands that I spend the rest of the day in bed. I’ve come to terms with having had breast cancer., was misled about how long it would take to recover and have come to terms with that as well. But this disfigurement, this way I look that makes me want to hide away and that keeps me single should never have happened. It could long ago have been fixed. I cannot and will not accept it, and neither should you.