Three Chicken Fillets and a Pencil Test.

It’s almost a week since my mastectomy. And do you know what? I’m actually OK. The worst thing that was going to happen to my body, ever, has happened. My left breast has gone.

It was bad enough, almost twelve years ago, when – having sat through NCT meetings, smugly proclaiming that I wouldn’t be having any pain relief and heaven forbid a Caesarean section – I had to be knocked out cold to have two babies ripped from my womb in a dire state of emergency following a placental abruption. As parents of IVF babies, we were the only couple we knew who could honestly say that we hadn’t been either present or awake for the conception or the birth of our own biological children. Although I was traumatised by the boys’ birth for weeks, and cried buckets over the loss of the one experience I’d so desperately craved, I soon learned to love our babies so much that it didn’t matter how they’d arrived in the world, because they’d arrived alive. And my husband couldn’t help but admit that he was rather pleased I’d managed to deliver twins, yet still avoid ending up with a fanny like a clown’s pocket. 

I feel the same about my breast. I didn’t think I would, but I do. It’s OK. I’m OK. Sore and tired, but OK. The greatest pain comes from where they took my lymph nodes, not from the breast area itself. For the first couple of days, I couldn’t bear to look at what was left. I cried when they woke me up from my operation, and when my friends came to the hospital to collect what was left of me. The wound was covered with dressings, and it still will be until they remove them at my results clinic on Friday, but the flatness is something that can’t be hidden. I’d been showering as normal, but making sure I avoided going anywhere near the mirror.  

About three days in, I decided to look. And the good news is that I definitely still pass the pencil test.  

It’s a little like when you meet someone who has an unusual face. At first, you think, oh fuck. And then, after a while, you stop noticing. They just become who they are, and you love them anyway – because of their faults, not in spite of them. We all know enough supposedly pretty people who are ugly inside, and vice versa, that the soul is always what shines through the most strongly, and I refuse to have mine tainted with bitterness and anger. This new land of uniboobity hasn’t changed who I am in the slightest, and nobody’s more surprised about that than I am. I’m determined to keep my soul intact; to learn and grow, to find some positivity in all of this (fuck knows what,) and to choose how I deal with my life experiences. I am not a victim. I’m not a warrior. I’m still just me. Unevenly-cleavaged me. My husband’s soul is holding mine tightly, and through asking myself what he might say, I’m finding the strength to love the imperfect me as I loved – and always will love – the imperfect him. He really was imperfect (I mean, for fuck’s sake, aren’t they all?) but I’d give away my other boob if it meant I could have him back again. I can’t. So what now? I can’t change my past, but I can take control of my own happiness. Within all this pain, something good must come. Otherwise, what’s the point in going through it at all?  

Maybe if I thought they weren’t going to reconstruct my breast after my treatment, I’d be mourning it more. But, the worst thing that could possibly have happened to our family, already has. My husband has died. What’s worse than dying? Not a lot. There’s absolutely nothing left of him, yet we still love and want him more than ever. At the moment, I’m trying to be the best mum I can be with temporarily limited mobility, and I’m even up and about, doing a bit of work, and cooking meals for the three of us. Chicken fillets, obviously. 

What I’ve got – well, it’s only cancer. Not terminal cancer. So, I remain grateful. I’m going to put my best boob forward and carry the fuck on. 

Love Fanny x 

The One Tit Wonder.

I’m having a mastectomy in the morning. My left breast is going to be removed – completely. In a few hours from now, you may legitimately refer to me as The One Tit Wonder. Although I wish my husband was alive to love me through it, I also know that my ability to perform a soapy tit wank will be temporarily suspended, so he definitely had the best of me, and I should probably welcome the timing. Since I’m going to spend the rest of the year with one boob, a dry vagina (apparently one of the main side effects of my forthcoming hormone treatment) and bald from chemo, I doubt that I am the North of England’s Most Eligible Widow at this point, anyway. I’ll be holding him in my heart through all of this, if not in my cleavage.

I’m finding all this pretty hard to take, but I know it has to be done. I also know that, had I just gone ahead and booked myself in for a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction back in August when I was diagnosed, I might have already woken up a few months ago, cancer-free and with a new breast. But, I panicked. I couldn’t come to terms with having cancer less than four months after losing my husband to the same vile disease, and delayed, and tried to do anything I could to save my boob. But it didn’t work, and the three little Stage One tumours they thought I had are actually one large, late Stage Three tumour – in my skin, my chest wall, and my lymph nodes. What couldn’t really kill me before, now absolutely could.

The day before I went for nipple and breast-saving surgery, a friend of mine died from metastatic breast cancer. And I know that, with or without her boob, her family would give anything to have her right back here. That’s exactly how I feel about my husband, and I’ve written about it many times before. In his case, he lost his oesophagus and part of his stomach, but he was here, and I loved him. And now he’s not there (but I still love him, and miss him desperately – as do our young sons.) He could have had a leg or an arm or even his willy removed, and I really wouldn’t have cared. Well, I might have cared if he hadn’t had a willy, but we’d have coped. He was so much more than one single part of him could ever have been.

I didn’t think it could happen to me. It doesn’t happen that way, does it? Kids sometimes lose one parent to cancer, but not two within months of each other. Well, it bloody well does happen. I’m lucky – I’ll survive this, with a fair wind and a decent cocktail of drugs, and provided they take off the right tit. (By which I mean the left tit. Please, God, make sure they take the left one.) Later, I’ll have a new one, but I’ll have to live with a bra full of sponge for the time being, because they tell me there’s no point in rebuilding something that’s going to be damaged by radiotherapy, and I must wait until everything settles down. I even have my little pink bag of shame packed inside my hospital case, with a regulation-issue mastectomy bra and a wad of sponge for me to add to or take away from as I see fit, when it’s all done. I fucking hate it already. My tits are brilliant. Were brilliant. I don’t want to swap one of them for a fucking sponge.

So, what I want to say to you is this. Feel yourself. Go on. You’ll feel a bit of a twat, especially if you end up at the doctor’s, but don’t worry. If you think you’re lumpy, or spot any changes, just go and get yourself checked. Doctors aren’t magicians; they’re only human, and it took me three visits to be finally diagnosed. Medicine can be quite hit and miss, but you’ll definitely miss if you don’t go in the first place. Don’t be embarrassed. Doctors have their fingers up people’s arses on a daily basis, so what makes you think yours is so special they’ll remember it? Ask Dr Google and make your web search history even more interesting. Know the signs. Whether it’s your boobs, your bowels, the top of your leg, or the end of your penis, it really doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t have happened to me, but it did, and my dithering and flapping and grief could have cost me my life. My husband and I both told the doctor as soon as we’d noticed symptoms, and in my husband’s case it was still curable, but only just. Oesophageal cancer is impossible to spot until it becomes hard to swallow, by which time it’s often too late, but we still had an extra precious year thanks to him acting when he did. Hopefully, we’ve got mine in time. So, seriously – what’s the worst thing that could happen? You’ll die. That’s what.

I live every day with two little boys who cry and scream and fight their way through the heartbreaking consequences of terminal cancer, and I owe it to them not to let them see me through it as well. It might be slightly embarrassing to go to the doctor, but believe me – the process of death is far worse. No matter what happens – whether you have life-saving surgery, or you end up in a hospice – you’re going to have strangers faffing about with catheters, so make sure they’re doing it to keep you alive, and not just to make you comfortable. And if you’re fine, you’ll be relieved, and there won’t be any catheters at all. If I’d been in an accident and the only way to save me was to saw off my leg, they’d have done it there and then and asked questions later. I have to remember that this is the only way. I wish my husband had only lost an extraneous body part, and not his whole life, because by losing him we lost everything that made us a family.

It was never the right time to let go of my husband, and it’s not the right time to say goodbye to my left boob. But, I have to remember that it’s only a tit. My husband thought it was fucking ace, and we did have some fun with it and its counterpart over the years. Most importantly, though, it fed and nurtured our children, and if I let it go now, I can continue to do that for many years to come.

Love Fanny x



A useful infographic from Go on, have a feel. You know you want to. And when you’ve done that, check everywhere else. Visit for more information.





The Sphincter of Destiny.

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been the most monumental wank sock of years in recent memory. As the final piece of festive loo roll is wiped across the sphincter of destiny, my heart is ready to break. Unlike the rest of the world, and despite everything that’s happened, I don’t want this year to end. I’m not ready to leave my husband behind. 

This year, I had him – at least, for one third of it. I tell people that he died in April. Soon, he’ll have died last year. Last April. A couple of years ago. A few years ago. With every day, month, or year that passes, he’s slipping further and further away from everybody else. He is, and always will be, a part of 2016. But that’s where his story ends. With every celebrity death this year, we move on to mourn the next, and with alarming frequency. I console myself with the rising death toll, and decide that my husband is in the most wonderful company. I imagine him – having died a few days before Victoria Wood – standing at the Pearly Gates with a wicked grin, a wink, and a rolled-up copy of Woman’s Weekly.

For the boys and me, he hasn’t left us yet. We can’t really accept that he’s gone. Christmas Day with friends was perfect, but for the hours we spent at home it was was fucking awful. I wasn’t expecting it to be, but as the day came around, none of us wanted to celebrate. I’d planned to go to the midnight service at church, but since I always struggle to go up for communion and pass the spot where my husband’s coffin had lain, I figured that doing it on Christmas Eve would be way too much for me to take. I assumed that God would understand, and hoped He’d forgive me for putting on my pyjamas and hitting the Baileys instead. After our younger twin had emptied his stocking and told me that the only thing he wanted for Christmas was his dad (although nonetheless still managing to accept the ruinously expensive guilt-laden presents I’d bought him,) I went into our office, sat on the floor with my husband’s ashes, and sobbed. I wished a merry Christmas to a brown box with his hated Sunday name on it, in a dark green gift bag. When I picked up his remains (a word I hate) back in April, I did wonder why the undertaker had put him in a gift bag, but at least on Christmas Day he looked quite, well, Christmassy. He’d certainly made more of an effort than the rest of us.

The feeling of loss and pain lingered all day, but I’m glad we hadn’t cancelled it. That would have been an admission of defeat, and would have pointlessly intensified our misery. My husband never gave up, and nor will we. We’ve done it now, and next year will be easier, if only because we’ll be able to celebrate my survival, even though celebrating that will always feel wrong. This year, for sure, we can’t yet celebrate anything much at all.

Despite the fact that I don’t want to move forward without him, I am optimistic for the future. I have to be. This time next year, I’ll still be alive, and that wasn’t something my husband could say with any certainty. Instead of tearing my hair out and thinking how the fuck I’m going to manage when I’m ill, I remember my husband’s words to me a few days before he died. He told me to see his death – though neither of us wanted it to happen – as an opportunity. A new beginning, rather than an end. He didn’t want to leave me, or picture me with anyone else, but made it clear that he loved me too much to want me to be on my own forever (but I’m not ready for that, and can’t yet imagine a time when I ever will be.) Those words only confirm to me how remarkable and brave he was, and give me hope that, through losing him, a new door may one day open in the most unexpected of circumstances. But not yet. Knowing that we should begin afresh, and wanting to do so, are two entirely different things. He’s still very much here. His coat still hangs in the hall. His shoes are in the basket by the front door. Our bedroom is still ours, not mine. I realise, too, that those joint parenting decisions now have to be mine alone, and the more time that goes by – the more the boys change and develop – the less I feel I know what he might have said or done. The more I feel that I need to handle them my way, even though I don’t want to have to. In fact, I’m not sure I know how to.

By definition, he has never known his beloved sons while they’ve been truly grieving. He’s never dealt with their anger and tears as I have, these last eight months, and he’s never known me with breast cancer. He wasn’t there to see them finish primary school, or to discover a new country on holiday, or to rant about the world post-Brexit and Trump. He didn’t see the boys begin high school, or watch them score goals on the football pitch this season, nor did he see them perform in the latest show with their drama group. He hasn’t met our new widow or school friends, and those new friends don’t know him. I wonder if these people will ever understand how great the boys’ dad was; how much it matters to us to remember him. I can’t help feeling that these new friends have missed out enormously by not being able to get to know my husband, because he was brilliant, and I hope the boys aren’t difficult to make friends with now, because they’re so mixed up and worried inside, through no fault of their own. Now is the time we all need friends the most, but I don’t want people to know just me on my own. I want them to remember us. To know us. I wonder if, as the years pass, we will change and develop into people that he wouldn’t recognise, or worse – that he wouldn’t love. All we can do is try to keep going; to remember him, to honour him, and to do our best to be as brilliant as him, but without him. And to hope that he approves.

Time telescopes when you’re dying. A day becomes a year, and an hour becomes a lifetime. The only things you really want to say can actually be said in seconds. At some point, though, you have to accept that time cannot stop, and unhook your fingers from the person you love as you let them go. I cannot stop 2017 from coming around. If I could, I’d still be holding my husband’s hand.

Much like the year before it, I can’t help but feel as if 2017 can fuck right off, before it’s even begun. As the rest of the world believes that things can only get better next year, I’m not so sure. We have a whole new mountain to climb, and although my husband’s memory has given me all the tools I need to weather any storm life throws at me, I desperately don’t want to leave him lingering behind me in the foothills as I fight my way to the top. I’ve let him go once before, and I’m not ready to do it again.

Love Fanny x

The final piece of festive loo roll, ready to begin its journey down the toilet of 2016.

Full of Christmas Fear.

Christmas can fuck off this year. Yes, I know what the true meaning is, and it’s not really about fairy lights and presents, but our God hasn’t exactly been my best friend for the last few years. Still, I’m massively overcompensating for the children’s sake by putting fairy lights EVERYWHERE. None of us is really feeling it at all, though, and just want this difficult time of year to be over.  

We often used to go abroad at Christmas. We were self-employed business owners, and those two weeks from Christmas into January (when bugger all business happens) were a sort of enforced holiday with little – if any – money to be made. Neither my husband nor I really liked the over-commercialisation of Christmas, and preferred to use the time to be together as a family, rather than blow hundreds of pounds on gifts. Since my parents are divorced and my husband’s two adult children refuse to speak to each other, it suddenly made perfect sense for us to take ourselves out of the equation, and spend our present budget on heading off to sunnier climes instead. For the last three Christmases, though, this one included, we’ve had to cancel our planned trips abroad, and are staying put at the Costa del Cancer.

Last year, my husband was waiting for news of a clinical trial which could have prolonged his life by several months. This year, I’m waiting for a mastectomy and further treatment, and probably won’t have a reconstructed boob until this time next year, if not later. Christmas has been shit for quite some time now, but I have to remember that it’s not Christmas’s fault. Still, when your husband needs to have scans done and get himself signed up for clinical trials, it’s pretty frustrating to have his life hanging in the balance when the world shuts down. When you know, with all certainty, that the new year you’re meant to be celebrating is the one which will be written on his headstone.

Last year, my husband was told that he’d know by New Year’s Eve which trial drug he’d be getting – the brilliant new one, or the crappy old one – and then at noon on New Year’s Eve the fucking randomisation machine broke down so we had to wait four more days, only to be told he’d got the shit one anyway. The year before that, he’d spent New Year in hospital, with an infection that his chemo-ridden body couldn’t fight off. Christmas Day last year was hard work, too. My husband knew it would be his last, and – with his inimitable good humour – made it clear that presents would be fairly pointless, but seemed to take genuine pleasure in the fact that so many people would have benefited from money donated to various charities on his behalf instead. He cuddled and comforted us on the sofa in the kitchen as the boys and I cried, when it should probably have been the other way round.

And now, to this year. I’m lucky. Firstly, because I found out a couple of weeks ago that my cancer is still contained. It hasn’t spread, and I’m not terminal. So that’s a good, but strange feeling. I’m not celebrating this news, because my husband never could, but I’m pleased to be able to bring up our boys when he didn’t get the chance to finish the parenting job that he loved. I’m lucky because the boys, my Mum, Stepdad, and I have been invited to spend Christmas with dear friends who live up the road – one of whom helped to carry my husband’s coffin into church only eight months ago – and who didn’t want us to be sitting around the same old dining table, but with an empty chair, on Christmas Day. I’m also lucky because people have continued to send us Christmas cards. This may not seem like a big deal, but judging by the posts on the widows’ forums that I read (and yes, there are such things,) bereaved people seem to be forgotten at Christmas. People don’t know what to say, so to avoid the issue, they say nothing.


Did you know, you can actually get bereavement-specific Christmas cards? Nor did I. Well, you can, and we have several. We’ve also had lots of little messages inside ordinary Christmas cards, from people who want to say that it must be hard; that they’re thinking of us. Not all of them know about my diagnosis – they just know that it’s the first Christmas without my husband, and wanted to tell us that he – and we – are in their thoughts. It may have taken them five seconds to write; it may have taken them several attempts to find the right words. I’ll never know. The point is, though, that they took the time to say something. It matters.

We can all feel lonely at Christmas when it seems as if the rest of the world is being swept along by the excitement, the hysteria, and the figgy fucking pudding. It’s probably mainly bollocks anyway, and in the same way that people only put the edited highlights of their shitty mundane lives on Facebook, these “magical Christmases” are usually the same old crap with people they can barely tolerate, filled with gifts they’ll quietly put on eBay next week, but with an extra portion of pigs in blankets. Knowing they’ve still got their awful bloody families, though, when yours has been ripped apart, is still really hard. In my case, I’m petrified of leaving my husband in 2016. While we still live in the same year, I feel he’s still here. When we move forward, I’ll be condemning him to history, and that’s the last thing I want to do.

If you know someone who has been bereaved, either recently or a long time ago, Christmas and New Year will be a bit tough for them. It just will. If you haven’t sent a card, or a Facebook message, or a text, to say that you’re thinking of them – please, just do it. It will mean the world to them. There’s only one thing worse than saying the wrong thing to someone who’s grieving their way through the tinsel and the sparkly wrapping and the fairy lights. And that’s being too afraid to say anything at all.

Love Fanny x

A card from one of our favourite neighbours. A lovely idea to show bereaved families that they’re being remembered at a difficult time of year.

In Praise of My Tits.

I’m quietly proud of this photograph. It was taken on holiday when our boys were about four months old, and I’d asked my husband to get a picture for posterity. It’s never been in the family album, but not because I care if people are offended by a photo of my tits doing the job they were designed for (hell, I’d tandem feed anywhere – once, I even propped up the children against my nipples on the window ledge of an overhead walkway at a service station on the M6, having fed them earlier that day during church communion.) I didn’t give a shit as long as the boys were nourished, but I simply couldn’t bear for anyone to look at the photo and think I’d chosen the hideous fabric on that sofa.

I’ve blurred out my face – not because I’m embarrassed, but because the two little generic-looking blond chaps sucking merrily away on my nipples might be, now that they’re in high school. 

Those boys are growing up to be fine, strapping, strong pains in the backside, and I’m proud of the role my breasts played in getting them there. I can take or leave my face and my arse, but I’ve always liked my boobs. Small, pert, and perfectly formed. My husband was pretty keen on them too, although (following our return from the IVF clinic, full of hope, progesterone and embryos) when my breasts almost immediately ballooned in size, he didn’t complain. In fact, he thought all his Christmases had come at once. Shame for him that I was also spotty, hormonal, sick and sensitive, and for nine months I pushed him away in case he got too close and knocked the babies out of place with his overenthusiastic penis. 

We’ve had some adventures, my tits and I. They’ve been on the front page of our local newspaper, having been signed by an entire cricket team on a drunken night out (and thereafter followed a somewhat embarrassing appeal to find their owner.) They’ve been on full display at a Middle Eastern water park; as the rest of the clientele donned burkinis, my skimpy top flew off half way down a Death Slide, and only a miracle and some makeshift communication in Tourist Semaphore saved me from being arrested. They’ve been bared in clubs when I was too high to care, and later they fed and nurtured our children. I like them. But, one of them has to go. 

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. The day before I went in for my cancer-removal surgery (in which we were attempting to save my breast,) a friend for a decade – and who I’d used as a fine example to our boys of how breast cancer is NO BIG DEAL ANY MORE – died. Just like that. She’d beaten her cancer 18 months ago – a 9cm tumour, to be exact, so hugely bigger than mine – and had been complaining of stomach cramps for months, yet her GP seemingly hadn’t sent her for any scans or tests. By the time anyone really heard any alarm bells, it was too late. She had three beautiful children. SHE was beautiful, inside and out. Now, at 41, she is dead. None of us can quite take it in. I was choosing mastectomy bras in John Lewis (“would you like the fucking disgusting frilly white one with front fastening popper, Madam, or the ghastly peach one?”) when the call came in from a friend to warn me that she probably wouldn’t last the night. I couldn’t any longer concentrate on the wares within Foul Bra section. I decided to buy the first one I saw and sobbed all the way home.

Her little boy, who had been all the way through nursery and primary school with my two (who, seven months ago had followed their father’s coffin into church and read beautifully at his funeral) helped to carry his mother’s coffin down the aisle of the church, as he said a final farewell. I couldn’t decide if it was wonderful that he was tall enough to do so, or an absolute tragedy. I was glad, but sad for her, that I had “Cancer Lite.” No chemo, just a bit of surgery, and maybe a little radiotherapy. Mine was really no big deal. It was never going to kill me. I felt a bit guilty to even be put in her awful, elite club. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, my little world fell apart, yet again, before I’d even finished rebuilding it. It was 11.50am. The last appointment of the morning. In the absence of a living husband, Team Tits ‘n’ Fanny came to hold my hand. 

I don’t know why I even thought it might be OK. In the past, whenever we’d been into the cancer hospital with my husband, it was always bad news. Good news happens to other people. Not to us. The words would swirl around our heads: The scan wasn’t quite what we thought it might be. The operation results weren’t as positive as we’d said they were. When we said the tumour was all gone, we meant the visible tumour. Sorry, yes, there’s some cancer left in the margin. That means your survival prospects are low, but not outside the realms of possibility. Sorry, yes, it’s in your lungs now. Ah. Sorry. You might have a year. Or so. He actually had ten months, in the end. 

And thus, it came to pass, that it was exactly the fucking same for me. I had my operation. It was a great success. They drew all over my tit in marker pen (disappointingly, it didn’t make the paper this time and nobody bought me a drink,) and, as the tears rolled down my face, they stuck wires into my tumours during a mammogram so the surgeon could find them. They filled my veins full of radioactive fluid, sliced me open, and I woke up with a boob swollen to twice its normal size (and still no husband to enjoy it.) Much to the amusement of Team Tits ‘n’ Fanny, I had a faint blue tinge to my skin and was pissing blue fluid. They called me The Smurf. 

But, ten days on, WHOOPS. We thought it was three little tumours – nice and small, nothing to worry about, yes of course you can go to Center Parcs with the Merry Widows, just have it done when you get back – in fact, it was an eight centimetre tumour, with lymph nodes involved. I keep looking from my tiny tits to the tape measure and wondering where on earth it could have been hiding. Either way, I now definitely need a mastectomy. But first, a bone scan. And a CT scan. Then we’ll know the plan. But there’ll be six months of chemo. Then radiotherapy. They want to know if I’m in pain anywhere else, or if my joints are aching. I said I’m struggling to swallow, but I’ve assured them that it’s probably stress which just so happens to mimic my husband’s oesophageal nightmare. Who knows, though? Nobody is saying that it’s curable any more. Everyone is hedging their bets. I have to wait a week for the scan and another week for the results, and all of a sudden the grim memory has resurfaced of my husband skipping out of the hospital when they’d told him he was terminal, because at least we finally knew what we were dealing with. And I’m glad that I never got around to burying my husband’s ashes, because now I can picture us being shaken up together and placed in the ground with his hilarious idea of a headstone bearing the date of death and the words “Best Before” written above.

I remember what it was like, all of a sudden, for him. And for me. That desperation. Being just that little bit over the edge from “curable” with still a chance to step back to safety, even though falling off would be far easier. That fighting spirit. The Tumour Humour. When we looked around the house at all the changes we’d wanted to make, or had already made, and realised that the shitty bathroom tiles just didn’t fucking matter in the great scheme of things. I remember how I’ve cried buckets this week simply because it had made sense to finally switch off my husband’s computer. How a friend had to remind me that his computer wasn’t actually him (although, it kind of was, he tapped away at the bloody thing so often.) I can’t remember how it felt when grief was the only thing that was bothering me.

All of a sudden, I’m a mortal being. All of a sudden, it doesn’t matter how great my tits are, or what they mean to me, or meant to my husband. I want the left one off. NOW. Let’s not wait. It isn’t an adventure. I’ve cremated my husband and a friend has just died. We are all susceptible to death, and my kids are running out of people to bring them up. I want a hug, and to be told it’ll be OK… but the person to do that has already left before me. I desperately want to see him, to hold him, but not to do so yet, because that would mean leaving our beloved boys. I miss him so much that it aches. My son, meanwhile, sleeps wearing his Daddy’s dressing gown, with an urn full of ashes beside him on the pillow.  

I wonder if it will only be fair when the other twin has my dressing gown and ashes to comfort him, too. I dismiss that thought and vow to give it everything I’ve got. For now, and for many years to come, you can have all the bras you want, but that dressing gown is mine. 

Love Fanny x

The very last photograph of my left boob. Marked up, and ready to go.

Living in a Box.

Who in their right mind looks forward to cancer treatment? Me. I need a break. I can’t physically find the time to fit everything in, and the idea of lying in a hospital bed waiting to get my cancerous bap sliced open and stuffed with silicone, saline or pig fat is suddenly not without appeal. I’ve come a long way in a few weeks – before, the idea threw me into a blind panic, but I’m so tired, and so ready to accept offers of babysits, dog walks, and help around the house, that I give up. I’ll trade anything – even my left breast – for a good night’s sleep and some time off work and away from the boys, who are in the throes of grief for the third year running. They’re sapping every last scrap of energy I have, and testing my patience to its limits. I adore them, and sympathise, but fuck – it’s hard.

It was all planned quite nicely. As nicely as planning cancer treatment can be, anyway. A few months ago, very soon after my husband had died but before my diagnosis, the boys and I had booked to go to Center Parcs on WAY – Widowed and Young’s annual holiday, as I thought it would be useful for us all to get to know some other bereaved young families. After discussions with the surgeon, we agreed that the boys’ need to meet other like-minded children was probably greater than the risk of postponing the surgery for a couple more weeks. We rescheduled the operation for mid-November – much later than we’d wanted, but the earliest they could find two slots, three weeks apart, for the type of surgery I’m having – and were instructed to go away, relax, and enjoy ourselves. But I hated almost every minute of it.

It wasn’t because of the charity itself, or the lovely, like-minded people I met there, who had similar tales of missing their spouses and a reassuringly heavy obsession with wine. It wasn’t the bicycles or water slides (which my husband would have loved) or the activities on offer – all organised well. It wasn’t the fact that I’d walked into the tail-end of the WAY Hallowe’en party with my wonderful villa mate (whose husband had dropped dead from a cardiac arrest the year before) as the DJ played “Jar of Hearts.” (We wondered if “Stayin’ Alive” or “Living in a Box” had made it onto the playlist earlier.) It wasn’t just that my children had, over the last few weeks, begun to become an angry pair of little shits, petrified of losing me as well as their beloved Daddy, and increasingly more furious with me every time I dared to cry, or to mention how much I missed him. I hated the WAY weekend, simply because it was just too soon for me to accept that I’m a widow.

As we became lost in the stupid bastard forest on our way to some ridiculously bereavement-inappropriate shooting game, I lost it. Completely. The smug twatting non-bereaved families of four, with their little trailers and flags and polka dotted Joules wellies who walked along holding hands as I raced past on my bicycle, screaming at my children that a fucking mastectomy would have been more fun after all, may well have been somewhat bemused, but I couldn’t have given less of a shit if I’d tried. They had what I’d had. They had a happy family, and I didn’t any more. They were probably the sort of people who’d try to helpfully say that I’d “get there eventually,” wherever the fuck “there” is. Where is it? I was there. I had it. All of it. And now I don’t. So, fuck you, and your stupidly jolly chunky knitwear. Just fuck the fuck off.

My husband should have been there. Here. With us. At Center Parcs, or wherever. We shouldn’t have been there just so we could meet other widows and widowers, and identify people who were “just like us” by their trademark blue WAY hoodies. As a family of four, we used to stay in five star hotels in exotic locations and meet people “just like us,” but suddenly a glorified swimming baths in a wood outside Nottingham was where we belonged instead. Had we been there as a family, we’d have loved it, I’m sure. And we should have been there as a family. A whole family. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet anyone as newly qualified into widowhood as me, and found it difficult to see old friends laughing together – people who’d lost their partners years ago, who had begun to rebuild. People who talked about being widowed the way my friends and I might talk about giving birth – never forgetting the life-altering magnitude of the situation, but perhaps more able to discuss it freely without being automatically wrenched straight back into the searing pain of it all. I didn’t resent them – I just couldn’t ever imagine being ready to move on, and these Merry Widows seemed as alien to me as the non-bereaved Chunky Knit Brigade on the outside, playing happy families in their identical little boxes in the woods, wondering what all the blue hoodies were in aid of. A new friend of mine had been asked by a Perfect Family what WAY stood for. She explained, and the inquirers shuffled and turned away.

The veteran WAYers were still widowed, and (mostly) still young, but in a different place from me. Not necessarily a good place – just different. No doubt, they’ll have felt like I did when they first came – in fact, a few people (who picked me up from the floor and wiped away my tears on many occasions over the course of the weekend) said the first time is always awful, and begged me to come back and try again next year. I suppose it’s that slow and horrible acceptance that you’re part of a club that nobody wants to join, and perhaps I’m just not ready to admit that I’m a member yet. For so many, the earth on their partner’s grave had settled, and had given them a more solid foundation upon which to start building new friendships and memories, but my husband’s memory is still so fresh that my heart sinks into the earth every time I think of what we’ve lost. For many old hands, that annual trip to Center Parcs has become an event to treasure, not to dread, and I hope that next year, we’ll have the same positive experience. Maybe Widowed and Young won’t be for me until I really start to accept that I’m widowed. For now, I’m still married. It’s just that my husband isn’t alive any more.

Love Fanny x




Happy fucking nuclear families, totally unaware of how lucky they are. Copyright






Positively Mental.

It’s World Mental Health Day today. And do you know what? I’m happy. I’m not happy because my husband has died, or because I’m about to have my left breast removed. I’m not happy that my children are about to watch me become ill just six months after we’d held their daddy’s lifeless hands and promised we’d love and miss him forever. And we do. We always will. I’m not happy that they saw him go from a healthy, happy man to nothing at all, or that they can only visualise the same thing happening to me (even though the same thing won’t happen to me.) I’m not happy that they can barely remember a Christmas in their short lives where they haven’t had a parent on cancer treatment. I’m not happy that today I can’t stop bloody well crying, for no particular reason, except for those reasons outlined above, which are probably reason enough.

I’m happy because, well – I’m happy. And that’s my husband’s doing. Not because he made me happy, specifically (like most people with a penis, he acted like one a lot of the time,) but because he’d been through years of depression and complicated relationships, sought help, became a different man, and then met me. He encouraged me to get some help. He couldn’t counsel me, because we were married, but he did point me in the right direction and pushed me to do the work myself (which really pissed me off, because a lot of the time I couldn’t be arsed, and was a bit frightened of change.)

I’d been depressed for years. For as long as I could remember. I’d had a relatively difficult childhood and celebrated my sixteenth birthday in a young person’s psychiatric unit following an overdose of paracetamol and barbiturates, having lost three stone in as many months. Nowadays, my main parenting goal is to see my kids celebrate their sixteenth birthday in the local cricket club. You know, like normal people do.

But I did do the work. Not with my husband, but with several different counsellors over several sessions across several years, and I found my way. I screamed at empty chairs, I wrote letters to the people who’d wronged me, I found the answers for myself, and within them I found happiness. I found myself. I got to the stage where, just like my husband, I hadn’t had a wholesale change in personality, but I had completely changed my attitude, and my outlook. I’d become somebody I liked. I’d handle a problem or a conflict head-on, instead of chewing over it and worrying. I became inherently honest instead of making lame excuses. Things still pissed me off, and life wasn’t perfect because life never is, but my husband and I were happy with ourselves and with each other. What other people thought of us was pretty much irrelevant, because we’d stopped caring about that, but we always made an effort to just be kind. Shit still happened, our kids were little bastards a lot of the time, but I wasn’t depressed, and I’m still not. I’m sad. Very, very, very sad. And grieving – partly for that brilliant partnership which was based on truth, openness, understanding, and a LOT of good humour. Achieving that state of mind was a real battle, and I’m proud to say that I won it.

Now, I’m battling cancer, apparently, which is a term that gets right on my tits. Lots of people battle disease, or disability. My husband never gave up, and really did fight his cancer to the end. It got him. It doesn’t mean he failed. He did as much as he could. He couldn’t have tried harder, and seeing inspirational memes on Facebook from people who have “kicked cancer’s arse” or “won the battle” are a little bit hard to swallow for those who didn’t win theirs. It’s not a fucking competition. Nor has any of this been a punishment – he was just bloody unlucky, and I’m slightly less so.

Let me be clear about something. I’m not battling anything. I’m just sitting here, usually with a glass of wine, carrying on with my life, screaming at the children, and wondering when my next appointment is going to be. Yes, I have major wobbles over my forthcoming boob job, but I’m lucky because my sort of cancer is one that they know all about, and if it turns out that I need chemotherapy (still unlikely, but we’ll find out for sure after the first surgery,) I’m fortunate enough to live in the sort of ghastly northern town where badly drawn-on eyebrows and dodgy hairpieces are very much de rigeur, so I’ll fit right in.

Breast cancer, according to pretty much every medical person I’ve spoken to recently, is no big deal any more. They know what they’re doing, and unless it has metastasised, they can usually cure it. Sadly, I know there are exceptions to the rule – and although there are no cast-iron guarantees I’ll survive, I’m fairly sure that I’m more likely to die as I navigate my way to the end of our cul-de-sac, because I drive like a complete wanker. Losing a breast is horrible. Going through any kind of treatment is horrible. But for most women, it’s a blip, and all over and done with in a few months. Hair grows back, but breasts – and I bloody love mine – don’t, but they’re an appendage that every woman can do without, if they have to. Put it this way, no matter how much it’s upsetting me to lose one, if I had a choice between this, MS, Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone, or any so far incurable and debilitating condition, I’d reluctantly choose breast cancer every day of the week. And I’d certainly choose breast cancer over a deep and lingering depression.

When my doctors looked at my scan, and my boobs, and the biopsies they’d taken, they knew what to do. The options might not have been ones that I liked very much (I mean, who wants a mastectomy, radiotherapy, and then the joy of taking Tamoxifen for ten years with all the thrilling side effects that come along for the ride? Not me,) but just because I don’t want them doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have them. I’d be a bit stupid not to, with no surviving parent to bring up our children, and I don’t want to die. They can cure my cancer, and I’m going to let them. They can cure it. They know what to do. Six months from now, in theory, I can move on from this, and while the mental scars will take time to heal, I hope they eventually will.

Mental health is a different beast altogether. Nobody really knows what to do. It’s all trial and error – drugs, talking, therapy, different drugs, crashes to earth – and there aren’t any easy answers. I see close friends who suffer with these silent, invisible illnesses, and I wouldn’t trade places with them for all the tea in the Co-Op. They don’t know how to help themselves, and much of the time it seems that nor does anyone else. Sure, I can give advice, I can listen, and I can hug. But the happiness has to come from within, and finding the end of the string to unravel it all can be a monumental task. Nobody can walk into a psychiatrist’s or counsellor’s office and be told precisely how quickly their cure will come, if it ever does. What works for one person may not work for someone else.

One in eight women will get breast cancer. To the population at large, when it happens, it’s the end of the fucking world. And it is, for a while. I’m not downplaying it – it’s bloody awful. Yet, the majority of us will walk away from our treatment with the rest of our lives ahead of us (if not an intact set of tits,) just as we did before. One in four of us will have mental health problems at some point in our lives, and to the population at large, when that happens, nobody fucking cares. Mental health patients, on the whole, are the ones truly “battling” illness. I’ve been there, and I promise you – it’s so much worse than cancer. Those of us who are fortunate enough to turn up to our appointments and be handed our cure on a plate should spare a thought for those whose cure eludes them. We should count our blessings, because it could all be so much worse than this.

Love Fanny x

Doing it for Tits and Nipples.

I never thought that a campaign for nipple preservation would be a thing, but it is.

Even though I’m practically qualified as a consultant oncologist after the last two years’ hands-on training, the whole process of my cancer diagnosis has been completely new territory. My husband had had several scans and described them to me in detail (well, basically, he said he’d just lain on his back and waited – much as he’d done in certain other aspects of our marriage, come to that,) but I was surprised to find that my MRI scanner was set up like a massage table, with a hole for my face so I could lie on my front, and two incredibly optimistically-sized buckets in which to place each breast. I actually laughed as I tried to stretch them widely enough apart to place enough flesh in each hole.

Before I went for my results, I started to hatch a plan. Maybe, just maybe, if I ask for some different treatment – chemo, even – those two tumours might shrink enough to let the surgeon just snip them out one by one, and I won’t lose my breast. I mean, really. Who the fuck asks for chemo? Me. I’m not frightened of it. My husband was on and off it for two years, and it’s only at its worst when there’s no hope left at all. I know this. I saw it, lived with it, and with huge sadness had to support the decision to eventually quit. I’m not in the terminal category – this would be a means to an end, and I’d rather temporarily lose my hair than permanently lose my breast. I can’t lose my breast. Not now. It’s too soon. Losing a husband and a breast in the space of six months, well – it’s verging on carelessness. (I already felt bad that I’d had my husband cremated and our dog castrated within the same week, but this seemed to be a punishment too far.)  Chemo would at least give me some time to think, and maybe get some counselling. What do I deal with first? The loss, or – well, the other loss? But don’t just drag me into hospital and take off my tit before I’ve even come to terms with losing my husband. Please. It’s the last fucking straw.

Two of my dearest friends had come along to my appointment. We’d all met at NCT antenatal classes eleven years ago, and we were the only three couples who weren’t a bit weird, or unprepared to stuff our children full of chips and Haribo from time to time. Our entire friendship had been built around frank discussions about vaginas, breasts, and our awful bloody children, so they seemed like a safe bet. There’s very little we don’t know about each other’s intimate regions, but barely know each other’s kids because we sacked off meetings in soft play centres for child-free evenings of Thai food and Prosecco years ago. Team Tits ‘n’ Fanny held hands and we all looked anxiously at the two ladies in lanyards who had come back into the little side room to give me my scan results, and who smiled. Politely.

There are three tumours. Not two. Well done, me. What an achievement. There’s no way, with my minuscule mammaries, that they can do anything other than take away the majority of the left one to make sure everything’s gone away. There’s no other way of doing it, and chemo isn’t generally very effective on the type of cancer I’ve got, anyway. I’ll be on Tamoxifen for five to ten years, which will bring on the menopause but keep the disease at bay… but won’t ever shrink it down enough to do anything other than take off my breast. So, no option. I need the mastectomy. So sorry, they said.

It took a while to sink in. They explained the procedure. They told me that they’ll scoop out my breast like a pumpkin, and reconstruct with some material taken from a cow. I think that was meant to make me feel better. I wondered if I should shove a candle in my bra and sit in the window on Hallowe’en. Some surgeons prefer the sort of reconstructive material that’s taken from a pig, they added, but at my local hospital they prefer to use the product from a cow. I couldn’t really give a flying fuck, I thought, as long as I don’t start mooing. And they’re certainly not going to be milking me at any point soon.

I began to cry. They offered to show me some pictures, so I could see that the result wouldn’t be as bad as I’d feared. They fired up an iPad with photographs of reconstructed knockers. Few of them matched their counterpart in size or shape. And none had nipples. I sobbed. They said it was OK – there are plenty of options to have a nipple put on later. There’s even a drawer somewhere that’s full of stick-on ones, they said. But all sensation will be lost, and you’ll never feel yours again.

I couldn’t hold back the tears, and wanted my husband back. My friend said he’d probably be pissing himself, looking down on five women in a side room, scrolling through a catalogue of tits on an iPad.

They said there might be one more option. They’d see what they could do. They’d never had a situation before quite like mine – especially not in somebody so young – and seemed to want to help, which I’m very grateful for. I didn’t want to wait too long, though, as surviving for my boys is the most important thing, but they assured me that a couple of weeks here or there wouldn’t make any difference. There’s a specialist plastic surgeon a few miles away who might be able to take flesh from under my armpit, reconstruct my breast, AND keep my nipple, they said, but I’d need to have sufficient muffin top to do it, and they thought I wasn’t big enough. I offered the ample flesh from my arse. But that’s not an option, apparently. Bollocks.

We went to see the specialist surgeon a couple of days ago. She squeezed as much armpit flesh as she could, took a sharp intake of breath, and said she could probably manage a reconstruction with the limited amount of spare skin up top, but only just. She prescribed plenty of pie. The pictures on her iPad were wonderful. It was as if there hadn’t been a reconstruction at all on any of the ladies she’d worked on. She smiled and pointed out that I was looking at the Before photographs.

But, it can be done. Probably. Possibly. They need to get the cancer out ASAP, and as long as it’s still contained within the breast, I can then have the reconstructive nipple-sparing surgery three weeks later, followed by radiotherapy. My left boob will never look quite as fabulous as its twin sister, but it’s the best of a bad bunch of alternatives, and certainly better than dying. We’ll only know for sure when the results of the first surgery are back from the lab, but provided the lymph nodes and margins are clear of cancer, we can go ahead. That wasn’t the case for my husband whose cancer was never completely removed, but then, they had to break a rib and collapse a lung to get his out. This either confirms that he was a true pro, or an awkward attention-seeker. I only wish he’d been as reassuringly bog-standard as I am.

If my husband had been here, none of this would have mattered. He loved my boobs, but he loved me more. We’d have skipped into the nearest hospital and asked the first person we saw to whip off my breast and stuff it full of whichever animal product they bloody well liked. I don’t know why it’s so important to keep my nipple. I don’t even plan for anyone to see it, apart from me. But, I suppose, right now I can’t face looking in the mirror every morning at a reconstructed breast and a scar where my nipple should be, and being reminded just how much of our marriage that bastard cancer has already so cruelly snatched away.

Love Fanny x


I need to put on some weight pre-surgery, apparently. These should do the trick. (Picture:



Metaphorical Warts.

As I sit at the pool bar, I silently judge the figures of the women who walk past, and assume that the perfectly-formed ones must be as boring as fuck. I shuffle my cellulite between my tailbone and the barstool, and congratulate myself for being fascinating (despite being slightly generously-proportioned in the arse department) with another handful of nuts from the bar, washed down with a swig of the local brew. I wonder if I’ll ever enjoy exercise as much as I enjoy cake and wine.

The boys and I are on our first holiday without my husband. I was wary of taking them to a new place on my own, but in fact, all those trips we took as a family have paid off. They know how airports and hotels work, and (on the whole) how to behave in a foreign country. Apart from my son’s not-so-hilarious prank of changing his iPad home screen to a picture of Osama Bin Laden as we rushed through Frankfurt Airport Security on a quick connection, things have gone reassuringly smoothly so far. We’ve spent a few days by the pool, managed to hire a boat without a man in the family to take control of the entire transaction, and even indulged in a bit of culture (although too much culture usually ends up with a child suffering from some sort of life-threatening illness for which ice cream is the only known cure.) The younger twin tells his new friends that his dad is away on a business trip, which hurts, because it means he’s not yet able to accept the truth. On the other hand, I want people to know that I’m happily married more than I want them to know that I’m widowed. I’m certainly not on the market. I am happily married – it’s just that my husband is dead, which is why he’s not here. Even though he would have been, in a heartbeat. If he still had one.

The body and soul that we fall in love with and marry is not usually identical to the one that we die holding hands with. That’s part of the fun. We all evolve as characters, become more like each other, and kind of chill out a bit once we’ve had a slice of that great libido-killer, wedding cake. My husband and I had pretty much tried to stay the same size over the years, without doing any real exercise, and without quitting the wine, or the chocolate, or anything really. We did have a gym membership, and imagined the weight might melt off in the sauna or jacuzzi, simply because we’d made the effort to turn up. Our quitting smoking coincided with my pregnancy, and although my body changed while I ate for three, my husband raided the fridge every time he craved nicotine. By the time I was ready to give birth, either one of us could have passed for the one carrying twins. He didn’t have the luxury of breastfeeding two babies to ping him back into shape, and although I quickly slipped back into a size ten, he took eight years to really try to lose the weight, because, to be honest, he didn’t really try at all. With 25 years between us, I did recognise that it was easier for me than for him, but his lack of commitment to getting back into shape drove me around the bend. I asked if he wanted to look after his body enough to see his kids grow up. I was only being dramatic – I didn’t actually think he wouldn’t be around to see them grow up – I just wanted him to be a bit slimmer. To prove that he wanted me to find him attractive. To show that it mattered.

About four months before he was diagnosed with cancer, we went through a fairly difficult period. To get back on track, we traded searching for bachelor flats on Rightmove for a Slimming World subscription and a daily sexathon. That was an idea I found here, during a browse of an old Saturday Guardian, and it’s a technique I can highly recommend. I don’t mean flicking through the Guardian will save your marriage. I mean flicking… oh, never mind. Anyway, he lost weight, and so did I. We got on well, we laughed a lot, and we were happy. Not because we both suddenly had fabulous bodies, but because we loved one another enough to at least try to be attractive to each other again, and as extra little kindnesses automatically slipped back into the relationship, the pounds fell away from us both.

I don’t think his losing two stone was the be-all-and-end-all, but at the time, it mattered. I’m embarrassed to admit that now, because just over two years later, all that was left of the slightly unkempt and chunky fellow of before was a bald skeleton with spirit and skin, in his trademark brightly-coloured t-shirt, whose jolliness covered the physical and mental pain behind it.

The body is simply a vehicle for the soul. I didn’t marry my husband’s body. The body I married was a bonus fourteen years ago, but I actually married the laughter. The fascinating ideas. The pisstaking. The generosity. The intellect. The adventures. I also married the morning breath, the stubbornness, and the refusal to ever eat fruit. But they were all part of the package, and the package came within that body, which contained that wonderful, frustrating, hilarious soul. And he married me. Not for my lovely breasts (and they are bloody lovely,) or the bottom I’d never liked, or my dodgy complexion. The whole me.

And that’s why, without him, I’m petrified of having a part of me sliced off – a part he loved.  After his operation, he was embarrassed about his scars, but the boys and I had seen him through the surgery, seen how the scars had saved his life, and were grateful for what they represented. The scars had helped his wonderful soul to keep on going for a year longer than it should have.

My soul will not disappear just yet, as long as a well-qualified person in a white mask with a big fuck-off scalpel cuts off my left breast sometime soon (preferably while I’m asleep.) But, there’s a hole inside my soul – bigger than my C-cups, and even bigger than my husband when he was at his biggest, heaviest and cuddliest. It’s why I’m baffled that I still judge and compare and hate my body, because the heart that beats inside it is as whole and as full and as generous as anyone else’s, and I wish that my husband’s body – in any shape or size – was with us now. I wish that he was here to love my body, as the husbands of those ladies-of-all-shapes-and-sizes around the pool love them; metaphorical warts and all. All I have now is a box of ashes which I can’t bear to let go of and bury in the churchyard. But it doesn’t make me laugh or tell me I’m beautiful, or reassure me that it’ll all be OK, lovely boobs (or lack of) notwithstanding.  On the contrary, it tells me that I’m completely on my own.

If my husband had survived, we’d have laughed about this. We’d have called ourselves the Frankenstein’s Monsters and thrown some sort of Hallowe’en-themed party with extra added gore jokes to celebrate the ridiculousness of it all. But I don’t have my Partner in Pisstaking, and there’s nobody left to reassure me that I’m just fine being me, and to love me because of my flaws (and my soon-to-be bionic breast) not in spite of them. Not for the first time, I’m completely fucking petrified, and I miss him. Every wobbly, opinionated, unshaven, and infuriating last bit of him.

Love Fanny x



Seven Bells and a C-Cup.

Were there always so many bras and little tops in department stores? I can’t say I’d ever noticed before. Sports bras, padded bras, and skimpy cleavage-flashing numbers with glittery fabric. A few weeks ago, I might have walked up to them and fondled the material and checked the price tag before thinking better of it and walking away. But they’re on every fucking rail as I wander aimlessly through the shops, trying to think what last bits we need for our holiday. Since I’m soon going to be having my left tit hacked off, there’s not a lot of point in buying something to flaunt what I’ve got, when fairly soon I won’t have it anyway.

Then, I see t-shirts my husband might have worn. Shopping trips were always fairly simple for him and me, on the rare occasions we did them. “Do I like this?” he’d ask, and then shrug, and completely trust my judgement when I said yes or no. He couldn’t be arsed arguing, but he always looked pretty good to me (as long as, like most husbands, he didn’t attempt to dress himself from head to toe too often.)

I want him to hold my hand as we browse the clothes rails in the store. To cry with me in front of all the bras, and to tell me he doesn’t care how much of me they take away – that he loves me for me, not for my great pair of tits (although he might still admit to them being a bonus.) I want him to tell me that it’ll all be OK, and to say he wasn’t really keen on those lacy bras anyway. I want him to ask me if I really need another jolly fucking scarf because the peg in the bedroom is full of them, and to roll his eyes and say that the one I’ve picked out is identical to the 93 others I’ve already got. It isn’t, of course. He never did understand scarves. I’d have ignored him and bought it anyway, if he’d been here with me, staring at all the scarves and the dresses and the bras. But he isn’t, because he’s dead.

In some ways, I’ve forgotten to grieve for my husband in the days since my diagnosis, because my head is just too full of breadwinner money worries, boy timetables, dog walking schedules, questions on how the fuck I’m going to break this news to everyone, and visions of prosthetics awkwardly balancing inside a sturdy bra. It’s just the same as it was when my husband was diagnosed the first time around, and we didn’t sleep for weeks, but all I could think about was how much time I’d need to master his recipe for the world’s most epic roast potatoes before he had to leave us. He knew I’d manage it. Not rocket science, he said. (The roast potatoes, that is. None of us were really expecting me to be having to juggle widowhood and more bloody cancer all at the same time just two and a half years later.)

I miss my husband every second of every day, but I’m sure he won’t want me to join him yet, wherever he is. He knows I’ve got two important jobs to do, and I promised I wouldn’t let him down. Those important jobs are currently beating the living crap out of each other in the sitting room over something to do with the Xbox. Will those little boys suddenly treasure me, and each other, or will they fall apart when they hear the news? Will their anger eat away at them, or at their friendships, because they can’t safely take it out on the only person left who understands and loves them unconditionally? Will they try to look after me and help us all to work through this as a family, or will they resent yet more effing cancer and a mum at half measure? Will that important job of mine become impossible because cancer has killed their Daddy and knocked seven bells and a C Cup out of their Mummy as well? Only time will tell. But time is precious. At the very least, whatever happens, we still have plenty of that.

Love Fanny x