Why we need to talk about the new ticking timebomb

A Cambridge graduate and former business high-flier, Clare Pooley looked like she had it all when she became a stay-at-home mum to Evie, 11, Kit, eight, and Maddie, six. But her fondness for alcohol began to catch up with her

A Cambridge graduate and former business high-flier, Clare Pooley looked like she had it all when she became a stay-at-home mum to Evie, 11, Kit, eight, and Maddie, six. But her fondness for alcohol began to catch up with her

A Cambridge graduate and former business high-flier, Clare Pooley looked like she had it all when she became a stay-at-home mum to Evie, 11, Kit, eight, and Maddie, six. But her fondness for alcohol began to catch up with her. Yesterday, in part two of our serialisation of her book, The Sober Diaries, Clare described being diagnosed with breast cancer. Here, she tells what happened next...

DAY 265 of not drinking

We’re meeting the oncologist for the first time. He takes a piece of paper, draws a line down the middle and writes on one side ‘positives’ and on the other ‘negatives’. He starts with the positives, listing things like size of tumour (relatively small), aggressiveness (mine’s a lazy bugger, apparently), etcetera. It’s a fairly long list.

He then moves on to negatives. He pauses, dramatically, like an X Factor host about to announce who’s in the final, then says: ‘Nothing.’ He says: ‘If you were my wife, I wouldn’t give you chemotherapy. It would improve your prognosis by less than 1 per cent’.

On that basis, it seems crazy to poison my body (yet again!) for three months.

I do need a course of radiotherapy and ten years of hormone therapy, but that’s all (relatively) straightforward.

The Prof then asks me how much I drink. I’m thrilled.

‘Nothing,’ I reply.

He looks shocked. ‘Very wise,’ he says, ‘liver disease is the next ticking time bomb among middle-aged professionals. We see it all the time.’

I bask in the self-satisfaction of the smug reformed character.

DAY 265 of not drinking: We’re meeting the oncologist for the first time. He takes a piece of paper, draws a line down the middle and writes on one side ‘positives’ and on the other ‘negatives’. He starts with the positives, listing things like size of tumour (relatively small), aggressiveness (mine’s a lazy bugger, apparently), etcetera. It’s a fairly long list

DAY 265 of not drinking: We’re meeting the oncologist for the first time. He takes a piece of paper, draws a line down the middle and writes on one side ‘positives’ and on the other ‘negatives’. He starts with the positives, listing things like size of tumour (relatively small), aggressiveness (mine’s a lazy bugger, apparently), etcetera. It’s a fairly long list

DAY 265 of not drinking: We’re meeting the oncologist for the first time. He takes a piece of paper, draws a line down the middle and writes on one side ‘positives’ and on the other ‘negatives’. He starts with the positives, listing things like size of tumour (relatively small), aggressiveness (mine’s a lazy bugger, apparently), etcetera. It’s a fairly long list

DAY 280

Fourteen years ago today I married John. Miraculously, he still seems to love me. I count myself lucky, as a recent study showed more marriages are breaking down because of the wife’s excessive drinking. It’s thought to contribute to as many as one in seven divorces.

Looking back, I see now alcohol was the root of most arguments. Some were spectacular, but most were tetchy debates when hungover about who was going to feed the baby at 5am. Then, after a few glasses of wine in the evening, drunken fights (inevitably started by me) about who wasn’t pulling their weight around the house.

Somehow John and I are still together. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I quit drinking before I drove him away.

This morning he bought me anniversary scrambled eggs on toast in bed. I started sobbing. He looked alarmed, assuming he’d done something terrible. But I was crying because I’m so grateful. Not just for the egg. For everything.

DAY 290 Christmas is nearly here: I have never done a sober Christmas. Even when pregnant I had (with my obstetrician’s blessing) a glass of wine on Christmas Day

DAY 290 Christmas is nearly here: I have never done a sober Christmas. Even when pregnant I had (with my obstetrician’s blessing) a glass of wine on Christmas Day

DAY 290

Christmas is nearly here. I have never done a sober Christmas. Even when pregnant I had (with my obstetrician’s blessing) a glass of wine on Christmas Day. Knowing it may be tough, I’m limbering up in preparation.

Step one is being honest, which means revisiting the Ghost of Christmas Past. I remember the white wine while wrapping presents on Christmas Eve, the glass of champagne while getting Christmas lunch ready, the glass of full-bodied red with the turkey.

But the trick is to force yourself to remember the others. Because I wouldn’t drink one glass while wrapping the presents, I’d drink a bottle. I’d often put the wrong presents in the stockings, leading to bemusement the following morning as Maddie would find football socks, and Kit a Barbie.

‘Ha! Ha!’ John would chortle, ‘Santa was at the whisky again last night!’ I’d wake up at 3am and toss and turn, sweating and hating myself, until around 5.30am when the kids would wake up.

Instead of joining in the joy, I’d hide my aching head under a pillow, panicking about preparing Christmas lunch for ten, on three hours’ sleep and a hangover.

By 11am we’d open the first bottle of champagne (the only day of the year when drinking before midday is obligatory). By 1pm, I’d have drunk most of a bottle and lunch would be going seriously wrong.

Sitting down for lunch was a huge relief requiring . . . a toast! After all — IT’S CHRISTMAS!

Final tally by the end of the day: two bottles? Maybe three? An afternoon and evening spent dozing on and off, trying to ignore the children. A toxic night tossing and turning, and Boxing Day

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