In the famous book and movie, Kevin is a young boy displaying characteristics commonly associated with sociopaths, who carries out a massacre at his school…
In Germany, Kevin is the boy at school that the teachers dislike. He is likely to come from a lower-class background, with parents who are not well educated and probably unemployed – all traits that are very much frowned upon. Apparently he is likely to be a troublemaker in class, and may even end up more likely to form habits such as smoking.
In my case, Kevin is an invasive ductal carcinoma, a bunch of ever-dividing cells invading not just my breast, but also every aspect of my life.
Now, while this is definitely not the kind of news either you or me ever, ever wanted to hear, I’ve slowly come to accept that it’s not the end of the world. An excellent group of people at hospitals around Leicester reassure me that we caught this early, and that it is very treatable. But because I am very young, they are coming for Kevin with the big guns. The scary guns. Chemotherapy. Surgery. Radiotherapy. (Incidentally, my treatment is called FEC-T, and Alex is my witness that I couldn’t resist a Father Ted joke when I heard that, which confused the heck out of my oncologist ^^ #growingupbritish).
As if that weren’t enough for me to deal with, this intense treatment plan means that for a fair few months I can’t travel. Which means I can’t visit the group of national and international fingerprint labs who have been so willing to work with Francisco and me, and keen to assist us in our data collection. It means I can’t go to the big European Conference on Visual Perception in Barcelona this summer, nor can I go to the massive Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society symposium in New Zealand in September – even though my abstract got accepted! Things I have worked hard towards and that I have been looking forward to for months. I really hate Kevin…
While I’m receiving treatment (read: kicking Kevin’s weedy butt) I will suspend my studies for a few months. This is an option all PhD students in the UK have, and takes some of the PhD-related time pressure off me while I make Kevin pay for trying to mess with me. Basically, I take a break from the PhD (I can always do some writing or coding if I feel up to it), and when I can get back to work the extra months will be added onto my PhD deadlines. My supervisors Doug and Lisa, as well as our superstar (He even got the official award!!!) admin Tom have been incredible in shielding me from most of the related paperwork, and so far the grad school and HR seem supportive, too.
Personally, one of the hardest parts of this diagnosis was having to tell my friends and family. I approached each of these conversations with tremendous daunting and anxiety, hating myself for having to cause such pain to the people I love the most. I needn’t have worried.
I have experienced such an unbelievable outpouring of love and support. And I learned that I don’t have to be strong all of the time, because I am surrounded by wonderful people who will be strong for and with me.
I don’t know when I’ll next resurface in the INTREPID blogosphere, but rest assured that in the meantime I’m staying as involved with my project and group as I can (while kicking Kevin to pulp). Thanks to everyone who’s supported me in the PhD journey so far, and special thanks to everyone who provided me with so much love and support during the last months; I look forward to getting better and continuing with my PhD as soon as possible!
This is me a week after my first round of chemo, sporting a chic pixie cut