This July I was diagnosed with cancer.
My immediate reaction I have to say was complete panic. I assumed that I was going to die, something that was reinforced by the fact that two years ago my sister Laura did die of cancer. Watching her go through that was terribly hard, and facing up to the fact that it might be my fate was immensely difficult.
The I realised that actually there is a good chance that I may not die of this disease at all. My cancer seems to be much less advanced than hers, and is certainly treatable. The unexpected thing once I got over the shock is that life just goes on. At the moment I am being treated with a hormone treatment that seems to be remarkably effective at shrinking my tumour. I don’t actually feel ill at all.
Eventually of course I will need surgery and other treatment to actually remove the rest of the tumour, something I am not looking forward to – I don’t suppose anyone does.
One of the hardest things for me has been actually telling my friends that I have cancer. Does one just announce it, like other life events such as new jobs, weddings etc? It would just seem too wierd. Plus at the time I simply could not bear the inevitable sympathy.
So instead I have adopted the strategy of just telling people if they ask how I am doing, plus those people I have to tell for practical reasons. Now I am putting it in this blog post partly as a way of avoiding having to tell more people directly.
Perhaps there should be a special card for the occasion, a cancer card, saying something like ‘I have cancer. Please don’t feel sorry for me. But feel free to ask any questions’.
It is true that having cancer these days is not a death sentence. But don’t let anyone tell you it is not a big deal. I have been used to measuring my future in decades, now I am forced to face up to the possibility that it may be measured in years or even months. That is a big thing.