Ooh look, World Cancer Day just happened

It kind of passed me by. I’m never entirely sure what it’s for, anyway. My twitter feed had a few people saying “Yay! I’m cancer free now”, but other than that it didn’t have much impact.

However, a couple of things have happened that made me feel I should do a post here.

Firstly, my son came downstairs a couple of nights ago, looking like a ghost. Really pale. He plays this complicated online game, and from that has built up some online friendships. I kind of monitor them to make sure he’s not doing anything stupid, but didn’t really realise that he did has built up real connections with people over the years. He was pale because a Russian friend of his is stepping back because he has Stage IV brain cancer. He’s 20, and he’s not got much longer to live.

We talked about that, and my son also talked about the people he’s known online who’ve just kind of disappeared. And how he’s probably disappeared from people’s lives, too. I realised I’ve kind of disappeared from here, and that people who I followed have stopped posting. I’m sure it’s mostly for good reasons, and for positive reasons, but I wonder sometimes what happened to them.

The second is the whole World Cancer Day thing, I guess. The cancer narrative remains:

  1. Get cancer. Battle cancer. Beat cancer.
  2. Get cancer. Battle cancer. Lose battle. Die.

I’m sure there are more and more people like me who are living with cancer long term. I was first diagnosed 13 years ago. That’s a long time. It’s been a turbulent journey: I’ve had a lot of surgery now – bilateral mastectomies, oophorectomy (love writing that word), reconstruction, failed reconstruction on the other side. I’ve had chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I’ve worked my way through the anti-oestrogens. I’ve been scanned and prodded and X-rayed and hugged by NHS staff. (The hugging was entirely appropriate and extremely welcome at the time). I’m still here. Things have progressed a bit – I’m likely to start some new and nastier medication in a couple of weeks, but looking back it’s been OK. Apart from the flurries of madness in the few days around appointments, life has been busy and fulfilling. My children can’t remember a time that mum didn’t have cancer. I can hardly remember I time when I didn’t have cancer. It sits there. Most of the time we don’t notice it.

In fairness, the “battle” word is less prevalent than it was 13 years ago. It still annoys me, but I think there is a realisation that it’s inappropriate and painful for people who haven’t “beaten” the “Big C”.

Breast cancer is still pink. And still advertised with boobs. Sorry, chaps, I know you get it too. It must be pretty depressing for men to have to enter the boudoir of breast cancer. But that pink merchandise brings in lots of money for services and research, so we’re probably stuck with it.

So, overall, this is a positive post. I’m still here, still enjoying live, still creative, still laughing. I’m also still anxious about appointments, still grumpy in the mornings, still bored with lockdown. I’m boringly normal – which is an excellent thing.

About sarahsouthwest

I'm now in my early 50s. I started writing again as a way of exploring the world, and feel that over the last 2 years I have really grown as a writer. By day I work with children and young people with mental health difficulties. I juggle my own two children, my work, my writing practice, generally managing to keep all the balls up in the air.
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6 Responses to Ooh look, World Cancer Day just happened

  1. Ms. Liz says:

    Thanks for what you’ve shared in this post Sarah, there’s times I’ve wondered how you’re getting on. I’ve learned something too, it hadn’t crossed my mind to wonder whether guys get breast cancer but now I have my answer. Best wishes xx

  2. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  3. Ilene says:

    Glad to hear from you. Some weeks it is all but that keeps my screen full of words. I don’t want to have my virtual Friends wonder. But maybe it’s just my way of checking in with myself, ya know?
    I’m sorry your son has to go through that with his friend. It’s as valid a friendship as any and he will feel the mourning just as if he’d visited his Russian gamer buddy in person. But who better to help him through than you.

  4. Sheri Blackmon says:

    Thank you for sharing your difficult and encouraging story, Sarah. I’m amazed at the various ways you act on the world. The best to you!

  5. Your blog gives courage and strength to the cancer patient. Your hardship to tackle the disease is really fantastic. Hope you have a happy life ahead.

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