I realised this morning that it’s two years since my double mastectomy.
Thinking about how much has happened in those crazy couple of years, it actually seems much longer. I would love to say that as soon as active treatment was finished, that my family and I went straight back to pre-cancer ‘normal’ life… but that would be a lie. The truth is that nothing is ever quite the same again.
Your illness bubble suddenly bursts (and lots of people stop praying for you: it’s almost a tangible difference), everyone says how well you look, and you are expected to pick up exactly from where you left off, with nothing more than some scars and shorter hair to mark the ‘journey’.
The reality is so much more complicated and difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t gone through it.
Perhaps some stats will shed a little light:
“At least 500,000 people in the UK are facing poor health or disability after treatment for cancer –
At least 350,000 people living with and beyond cancer are experiencing chronic fatigue.
Around 240,000 are living with mental health problems, which can include moderate to severe anxiety or depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
This is a small part of a long list, provided by Macmillan cancer support.
Many relationships break down soon after a cancer diagnosis as well, especially when the patient is a younger woman. And with the hormone treatments that I was on for a while, they are so soul-destroying that the fact that any marriage survives them is a miracle.
Cancer’s slimy fingers reach into every aspect of your life: your health, your mental health, your relationships, your parenting, your career, your finances, your vision of the future, your life expectancy.
I want to say that I am actually very optimistic about the future, and I am not afraid of cancer or even of possibly dying young (although would rather not); but it’s no use pretending that I am the person that I was before. And Mike and the kids have been through the mill too: their lives have been massively affected and changed too.
The best advice that I could give to anyone who is close to someone with a life-changing illness (or their partner or child) is to be kind, listen and don’t fob them off with “Oh, but you look so well.”
Anyway, I was meant to be talking about my double mastectomy… it’s only boobs, if you have to have one, you’ll get over it, and I would much rather be alive in an imperfect body than be a gorgeous dead person. 😊
I’m still fabulous, I’m still here, and I’m going to live the best life that I can.