Thursday, 4 September 2014

Support and Superwomen


So I’d like to give this next post a slightly different flavour and focus on some of the positives (yes, you read that right) since my diagnosis of breast cancer.

One of the first things I did after my diagnosis was tell as many people as I possible. I know that not everyone deals with it like that, but I just wanted it out of the way. I felt there no way I could just pretend that everything was ok and hide it from everyone around me. In my head I now had a massive neon pink sign (yes pink – it’s the colour of breast cancer don’t you know?) above my head pointed at me saying ‘person with cancer right here’.

I had some lovely, supportive responses and have continued to receive lovely kind messages since then from a number of those people. I’ve had offers of help and displays of kindness from some unexpected sources.

Two days after my diagnosis, I decided last minute to run the Race for Life, which was an incredibly hard thing to do. It was only 5k which is a very easy distance for me physically but the emotional toll was far worse. I will admit a few tears were shed before the race began. I received some incredibly generous donations from people for my efforts, all of which go to Cancer Research UK, an organisation that works continuously to find new and pioneering treatments for cancers like mine.

I’ve had some frank conversations with friends about how much support I’m likely to need over the next few months. I very rarely ask for anything from people, both emotionally and practically, so this is going to be very hard for me. But luckily, I have some amazing friends who I trust to be there for me at the hardest time of my life.

One of the first things I did when I was diagnosed, was call Breast Cancer Care who run a service called Someone Like Me. They can put you in touch with a volunteer who is a few years down the line since their diagnosis, but in a similar position to you. Within a couple of hours I had a call from a volunteer who was diagnosed when she was 30 (she is 34 now) and had an incredible frank and open conversation with her which made me feel so much better (well as much as I could do at that time). She now rings me regularly and it is so helpful to discuss what I’m going through with someone who has been there and has come out the other side.

She also mentioned a network on Facebook for younger women with breast cancerFacebook network for younger women with breast cancer. Yes! Facebook is actually good for more than just repeated updates about what you’ve had for dinner, your child’s toilet habits and photos of drunken nights out! The network has over a 1000 members now and is quite possibly the best thing I have ever found on the internet. Until now, I have never appreciated how wonderful women are and the strength and support that they can provide. These women are all at different stages of their journey – at diagnosis, active treatment and beyond and are going through some awful times but still have the time and energy to speak to others about their fears and concerns.

I recently met up with a member of the network I had been talking to for a while, an incredibly brave lady (she won’t like me saying that!) who was diagnosed on the same day as me. It was wonderful to meet her, albeit only for an hour before she went wig shopping. However, I had a massive anxiety attack and ended up throwing up all my tea and cake outside the café. But if anyone is going to understand it’s her right? This is the beauty of that network. There is no judgement, no concern or question is too silly or too small and there is always someone there to talk to day or night. They truly are Superwomen and I am so, so grateful that I have found them.

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