Annabel lies awake in the early hours after a night partying. She’s not worrying about how to get rid of an unsuitable man in her bed, but what to do about the hard lump she’s found on her left breast. An absorbing story of what happens when life swerves in unimaginable directions.
At the age of thirty-one – a successful architect and a single Londoner – Annabel is diagnosed with breast cancer. Overnight, her quest for love turns into a fight for life, and more.
Plunged into a world of treatment, which she keeps hidden from all but those closest to her, she learns a new way of living in London, a city whose moods and seasons reflect her own.
Hidden is a memoir of great courage and determination, told with wry humour and an architect’s eye. The story of how Annabel rebuilds her future will bring hope to anyone who has been forced to radically change direction in life.
‘Don’t you like it?’ asks Tanya, surprised by my unusual lack of appetite.
I pretend I had a big lunch. I think about telling her but know how worried she’d get. I want my mother. She’d know what to do. But she and my dad are on holiday.
The next morning, I surprise myself by calling the doctors’ surgery before work. I’d always thought I’d be the type of person who’d go into denial if something like this happened. Ignore it in the hope it might go away. They tell me my usual GP’s away for three weeks and offer an appointment with someone I don’t know. I refuse it, deciding I’d rather wait until I see my mother again and see what she suggests. She considers herself a fountain of medical knowledge even though, as my father continually reminds her, most of it’s based on hearsay and what she’s read in the papers.
My phone’s already ringing when I arrive at work. It’s George, the client for the new beauty spa we’re designing at Harrods. I’m the project architect.
‘Good, doll, I’m glad you’re in. I had a brainwave over the weekend. You know that space behind the lounge area. Instead of getting in yet another brand I think we should turn it into a Medical Spa. Somewhere you can pop in and get a bit of Botox in your lunch hour. There’s already huge demand. It’s only going to get bigger. Fax me the plans now so I can check the sizes work.’
I spend the rest of the day working on a set of drawings of the black steel counters for the hair salon. George calls at least once an hour. ‘Have you finished them yet? I need them like yesterday, sweetheart.’ Today, I’m grateful not to have time to think about anything else and to have to stay at the office until nine.
Later, alone in my flat, I tentatively reach my hand under my clothes. I haven’t been there since Saturday night. Slowly, I move my fingers towards my skin thinking, please make it be gone. But it isn’t. And that sick sensation rises in the back of my throat again. I run my fingers over and over it, like a worry bead, while wishing my touch could dissolve it.
Thank you, Annabel Chown and Love Books Group
About the author
Annabel Chown was born in London and read Architecture at Cambridge University. She worked as an architect for leading London practices and taught architectural design at Kingston University, then at thirty-one she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She started making notes while going through treatment and discovered a passion for writing.
‘Hidden’, her memoir about having cancer while young and single, emerged from this. Her writing about breast cancer has been published in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and ‘Red’ magazine. Annabel is also a yoga teacher. She loves cities, particularly London, and food.