Introducing Rosemary and her Cystaract
She named her blog after a cyst: that cyst led to her breast cancer diagnosis in 2015. She posts blog articles and videos, and she is soon going to be a grandmother! Please allow us to introduce Rosemary.
Rosemary in her own words
I’m Rosemary, aged 54 and I live in the UK (and No, I do not know the Queen!). I’m married and we have one son and are about to be grandparents for the first time in May 2016 (about 5 weeks’ time!) In 2015 I had a regular mammogram screening which identified a cyst which required further investigation. That further investigation also identified another area of concern and a core biopsy diagnosed breast cancer. Surgery in the form of a wire guided local excision and lymph node removal followed with 20 sessions of radiotherapy to zap away any remaining cancer cells. I was lucky enough to have a Oncotype DX test on my tumour that indicated that Chemotherapy would not in my case be any more effective than Radiotherapy and Hormone therapy. I currently take a combination of hormone therapies and preventative interventions to minimise a reoccurrence, they are causing quite typical side effects alongside the ongoing side effects from the surgery and radiotherapy. There is no history of breast cancer in my family and my diagnosis was a complete shock, to me and my family.
Hence, the blog’s name: Cystaract
As I mentioned when I had my first mammogram it revealed a cyst and that triggered a call back for me and further checking. Thankfully and quite coincidently, the cyst was in the same breast as the tumour although in a different area and the tumour although significant did not show up on the mammogram results. That cyst was actually a lifesaver for me since its presence and the timing of the screening meant that the cancer was discovered. I’m grateful to that cyst for raising the flag of concern and in some ways facilitating the advanced investigation; without its presence, the cancer would have carried on growing and potentially spread before it became noticeable through other checking methods.
Sharing experiences can be hugely beneficial
I like writing and also enjoy communicating with people I know and those I don’t. As with many bloggers, my aim was to create a portal of information initially for people who knew me and my family who wanted to keep up with what was happening with me. I discovered that not only were people interested but that the actual process of reflecting, capturing and writing about my actual experiences and feelings about it began to provide me with a hugely beneficial method of making sense of the experience of having cancer. As time went on I began to notice that readers of my blog were located worldwide, across 20+ countries and that fascinated me. Obviously I was gaining a readership of both known and unknown people and it occurred to me, and I’ve found it to be mainly true, that many readers were cancer patients themselves who like me, were searching for information and experiential reflections to inform them of aspects of their unique context.
I also found that writing about situations in lots of ways is easier than having some conversations face to face and I see that blogging therefore opens up communication particularly in a situation where some people find discussion difficult and emotional.
Rosemary is also a vlogger!
Beyond blog posts, I also posted a vlog: a video-log! I enjoyed it very much, although haven’t as yet repeated the experience. The feedback that I had was really positive and came from people who I hadn’t seen in a while; they mentioned that actually seeing me on screen was good and it had made them smile. I vlogged because I was feeling that it’s sometimes easy to hid behind words but filming yourself talking is much more revealing and I felt like a change. I also wanted people to see that cancer patients do not always have bald heads and no eyebrows, we can look “normal” and yet still have a serious illness. Also, it’s not all doom and gloom.
Try sharing your experiences, or guest blogging
If a patient feels it’s the right vehicle for them, then sharing experiences via blogging is absolutely recommended. I have made some solid and robust friendships through connecting with other cancer bloggers and they’ve been a great source of support, information and kindness. I’ve also been in contact with some cancer charities through it and the opportunities to spread the word through them have, I hope, helped others. The blogging community in general is a worldwide club that people are able to easily join. It’s cost free, therapeutic and connected. Both my son and my mother have guest-blogged on mine and I feel that a blog gives caregivers a voice in an otherwise complex and highly emotive world.
Rosemary and her son
Use the cancer community to help fill your gaps
My message to patients out there is that there is a wealth of information available, not all of it helpful and accurate. Consume it as you need it and keep hooked into your own instincts. Find your own path through whatever is ahead of you, whilst some of us may have paced it before you, your trip may be very different to ours. Use the cancer community to help fill your gaps, to offer friendship when you need it and to extend that support to those who are supporting you. Don’t put up with second best from anyone or anything. When you feel low, take stock of the treatments that might be making you feel bad but are intended to do you good; you will hopefully feel well again soon.
Try not to focus exclusively on your cancer diagnosis; yes it’s pretty central to your life right now, but you’re more than a diagnosis. Live!
More about Rosemary’s blog