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.
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During the day I leave my body behind. Work is frantic. George calls constantly, now from his boat in the South of France, to talk about his various brainwaves. In the brief pauses when I’m not thinking about the design of a Chakra Balancing Room or a manicure table, I try and persuade myself that it’s just a hormonal fluctuation. I once read in a magazine that nine out of ten breast lumps are non-malignant and I repeat this to myself like a mantra. At times I think I’m going mad and just creating a huge melodrama in my head.
But in the evenings, when I return to my body and my fingers tell me nothing has changed, I get scared again.
Two things happened recently, which at the time I didn’t pay much attention to. Now they keep coming back to me. I was out on a date a few weeks ago. In a crowded Soho bar, he said to me, ‘There’s something very other-worldly and ethereal about you.’ I didn’t fancy him but was flattered. It made me sound both mysterious and calm, an intriguing combination, though I’m not sure I’m either. Now his words make me think of someone who’s about to disappear and, in a slightly crazed state, I start convincing myself that this clean-cut Greek economics professor was some sort of psychic.
It was Easter last weekend, and on Good Friday I went to a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion with my family. It was at St George’s on Hanover Square, the church my sister and Axel were married in last summer. Towards the end, as the choir lamented Jesus’s death, I had the strangest vision of my own funeral taking place in this church. I saw my coffin being carried down the aisle. Now I’m convinced I’m psychic too. Or just mad.
I tell no one for over a week, curling my secret tightly inside me.
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.
You can read more, including blog posts, at annabelchown.com