How Marie is talking openly about breast cancer
Marie has been blogging since 2015, and has a unique way of writing about her experiences with breast cancer. This has even led others to reach out to her. Let’s get to know her better…
Writing about cancer helps rationalise it
I love writing and am better in some ways with the written than the spoken word, so putting my feelings about my diagnosis and the treatment ahead was a way of getting my own thoughts, concerns and humour out on paper, albeit virtual. Somehow writing it down helps to rationalise it, on one hand I can find a way to see the light in the day-to-day life of a breast cancer patient, but also to deal with the pain and the worry and the horrible bits. It’s a bit like writing a list, once it is down you almost don’t have to bother or think about it anymore. But it gives you something to refer back to, how life has changed, how I’ve progressed through chemotherapy and eventually surgery and the shock and sadness of being diagnosed.
I wanted to do something to keep my friends and family up to date, I have a big family and not all in England and I’ve also lived and worked overseas so my blog is for them too. I think sometimes with such serious diseases like cancer, people don’t always want to ask all the time, how are you, what’s next etc, it can make them feel uncomfortable or worried they might ask when you when you are having a bad day. My blog is a canny way of taking that uncomfortableness away for them. And of course, if it helps someone else through this horror then that is a huge bonus. A couple of people have already written to me and said it has helped them enormously and another went for screening after having a sore breast, she was too worried to go and then read my blog and went. Thankfully she was fine.
Counting down to the last few chemotherapy treatments...
“The sickness lottery wasn’t in my favour, it seems”
I consider myself fit, healthy and active, don’t drink or smoke and eat lots of fresh fruit and veg, I do yoga and look after my health and fitness and have done so for well over 30 years.
There is no history of breast cancer in the family, my godfather died of throat cancer but he was gassed in the trenches in World War 1 and he smoked a pipe, so my diagnosis was a huge shock. I guess I fall into the ‘no known reason why I should have breast cancer’, bracket.
Heart disease is rife in my family and that’s part of why I’ve made such an effort to go the gym, swim and eat well. I don’t want to suffer like my mother did for so long with her heart. However the sickness lottery wasn’t in my favour it seems. Cancer really can affect anyone and I’m testament to that fact. I have stage 3, ductal carcinoma and am HER2+, so am having Herceptin injections every 3 weeks for a year, and Perjeta IV, although the latter just prior to surgery.
I work for a tea company and also privately support a women’s health charity primarily with their work against Female Genital Mutilation.
A blog post about one of the toughest days became Marie’s favourite
I think my favourite post would probably have to be ‘Mama said there’d be days like this’, it was about one of the toughest days I’d had since being diagnosed so I choose it because for me it was about the hard reality of my diagnosis and the trail of tests I had to go through before chemo started. I was still in shock and scared and worried and that day was hard to deal with on top of everything else I had going on emotionally. Writing about it was tough as it laid my feelings open and was very frank about what happened. But personally I always like to see some positive and on that day it was the Doctor who did the biopsy, he was a kind and most intuitive person and he was quick to find out about me and keep me distracted while he talked about the history and beauty of the country he was from. I bumped into him weeks later when I was waiting for a scan and he remembered me and stopped again to chat. So it’s my favourite not just because I got through that day but also because I met someone amazing and brilliant and despite the gore, he made me feel safe and I needed that.
Cancer is about getting real about what’s happening, and our feelings
My blog is important for me to keep my family and friends posted on my cancer treatment and how I am, so the aim is just that and I know they enjoy reading it and I often hear from them afterwards either in the comments section or an Email, text or phone call. I hope to keep them involved and to feel a part of it, rather than apart. But also I want to talk openly and frankly about breast cancer, while it is everyone’s personal choice to tell people about their condition, for me I personally feel that it should be talked about. It’s a vile life stealing and heart breaking condition that way too many women and men fall victim to. I had no idea before I got breast cancer how prevalent it is, we live too much in a bubble of ‘this won’t happen to me’. I’m proof that it can and it has. But you can get through the treatment, chemotherapy is awful and the side effects aren’t any fun at all, but you get through it. I want to strip it down and talk about the realness of what’s happening to me and how I feel. My hope is that it will give people courage that are starting out on this journey, that they won’t feel so alone and frightened.
Blogging: a therapeutic way of expressing yourself
I’d certainly suggest it as a way of expressing yourself, sometimes it’s hard to keep saying the words about how you feel, you can feel like a broken record and you just wish for a day that doesn’t involve thoughts or words about cancer. A blog has been a great way to get those thoughts down, store them for when you may or may not want to look back at them, but to get them out of your head. It’s therapeutic and a kind of diary of your treatment and hopefully path to good health again. It’s also been fun for me as well, when I’m stuck at home a lot avoiding germs – to have something to do and fun photos and images to look for and take pictures to illustrate my blog.
Marie’s message to other patients is clear: Don’t ever give up.
…Don’t ever give up. I don’t mean that in some sappy way about pink ribbons and going on a journey and all that stuff. I just mean, do everything you can to look after your body and mind, it helps to feel you have some control back and when you go through chemo it helps with lessening the side effects and will hopefully give you a boost when recovering out the other end. Do what you can to be well, and don’t stop, whether it’s diet, talking or writing about cancer. I believe there is always hope and don’t let fear rule you; it will stop you from being happy today.
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