It was marvellous to see how successful the #BreastCancerRealityCheck campaign was last week, as tweet after tweet laid bare the reality of what it is to live with breast cancer. I actually found the whole process surprisingly cathartic. Previous long forgotten and buried emotions surrounding the time around each of my diagnoses bubbled up to the surface as I tweeted some of my own experiences as well as reading others. What resonated most with me was the sense of community felt as we recognised and identified with each other’s realities. These emotions were further compounded as I attended a funeral over the weekend of someone I went to school with who died from cancer, albeit a different type.
During the week, as Winter is approaching, I decided to be proactive and get a general medical check up with my family doctor. I decided to get the flu vaccination again this year plus get some blood tests done. As I usually get a slight reaction any time I have a vaccine, I drank loads of fluids and was feeling self-congratulatory that I was so well the following day. However that evening I developed an upset tummy. The next day was spent mostly in bed. I don’t know whether it was due to the previous days’ events but the constant nausea, weakness and the large bruise and tenderness on my arm reminded me of when I was on chemotherapy. Between all the resurfaced emotions and psychological associations I was feeling very sorry for myself. Thankfully it was all short-lived and the next day I was much better.
I then thought, imagine if this was my reality every day? Having to rely on chemotherapy or radiotherapy for the rest of my life? Knowing that each treatment will make me have to deal with all the side effects that treatment brings? Deciding there is no other option but to experience regular nausea, have little or no appetite, peripheral neuropathy, radiation burns etc in order to prolong my life? That is the reality of so many women and men with secondary breast cancer. That could quite easily be the reality for me or you in the future. Thankfully more women and men are living longer with secondary breast cancer but there is still more research needed to improve the quality and longevity of their lives.
I am continuously grateful to be so well and this day even more so as it is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day (13th October 2017). I certainly feel very small pitying myself over a trifling tummy bug.