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Some of the things they don’t tell you about being a cancer survivor!

So, you have been diagnosed with cancer, you had the conversation with your specialist and they delivered you that life changing piece of information. The battle ground is set and your determination to win overshadows everything else, you now live and breathe cancer. Those trivialities of life regain a new perspective.
You become an inspiration. You are reassured at every moment, by everyone you know, that you are a warrior and a special kind of person, in fact you have become incredible.
You have a focus, but more importantly you have support. You have those all too frequent hospital appointments that feel intrusive and yet reassuring. There is a friendly caring voice at the other end of a phone at all times. You are offered treatment and support from a plethera of sources such as charities like Haven, you are potentially offered counselling before your surgery and you have a plan for your treatment. A timetable and a structure to your life. Everyday of your life cancer is on your mind and if you catch a brief moment when it takes a back seat, rest assured that someone or something will remind you that its still there. As they say, the elephant in the room is the biggest you have ever encountered. Some address it, others avoid it, regardless of the tactics there is no avoidance.
You battle and battle and then you battle some more. You plan, you enjoy your time with your family, you have a new appreciation for the beauty of life and you view things for the first time again, like a new born just opening their eyes. Some boosts and some falls along the way but you make it through the treatment and you are given the all clear. Now you can breathe. 1000 people are diagnosed with cancer everyday. You are not alone at any point in this journey.

If you are one of the cancer warriors, a cancer survivor, do you stop being a hero and become less inspirational because you have survived and are no longer battling?

When I had my last operation and I received the news that I no longer had any risk of getting breast cancer again in my life, there was an uneasy feeling of an anti climax. All that build up and focus of energy suddenly had no place or necessity.
Did you ever experience that when you were taking exams? All that studying and energy focused into a brief moment of time, then nothing. An abyss of uncertainty. No support because your “well”. You’re not a brave warrior any longer as you have nothing to battle. Are you even inspirational now? Are you simply just continuing as everyone else does?

Someone said to me “Emma, no one cares about a cancer survivor, they are only interested in the sob stories of someone struggling and battling”! The inference was real, cancer survivors are no longer interesting. They have survived, won the battle and emerged victorious. However, as you attempt to transcend back to reality and stand at the edge of a precipice, you realise your safety nets have been removed. At the point of stepping into the unknown and facing a black hole that seems infinite and unending, this is when you most need the support and yet it seems to have been taken away when you need it more than ever.

Those little messages that you thought were so insignificant that gave support and encouragement, praising you for being that inspirational warrior, all begin to dry up. As one of my fave cancer warriors said the other day “I get that now when I have a sleepy day and post about how tired and lethargic I feel, people support me but I wonder what their response will be in 6 months time when “I should be over it and not whining by now?””

The friendly reassuring voice on the other end of the phone is no longer there. No free counselling to help you deal with the life changing treatment and surgery. No help dealing with your new body shape and trying to maintain your confidence as well as perhaps a relationship at the same time. Trying to learn how to dress, your new wardrobe, maybe a new body shape. Whatever you are dealing with you are now running solo. You may have friends and family but it doesn’t take them long to expect you to be back to your “old” self again. Doing the same chores that you used to do. Going to work and putting in the same hours as before. All those allowances are gone. All those offers of help have vanished like the rabbit in the magicians hat. The aftermath is possibly the hardest part as there is no clear battle. The free fall effect can be devastatingly real.

One of the simplest things I struggled with was finding underwear that was comfortable and that actually fit me. I rarely am able to wear a bra now so a lot of my clothes become inappropriate as you can see through the fabric and see that underneath I am naked. Dressing becomes embarrassing. No one warned me that my reconstruction would save my life but create such difficulties in the ensuing days.

I have always tried to reach out to people and offer that support they lack through my website and positivity on social media. I am hoping to grow this into another avenue and hopefully will be working with other cancer survivors to deliver something very special.

For now though, if you are a survivor or you know someone that is, have a think about the transformation taking place. The caterpillar to pupae and then butterfly is a reality and some handle this part better than others. Some days are easier than others.

Be there to give the survivor a hand, to help them through those days of fear when they think about cancer coming back. Be there to support on the days that they mourn their old life. Be there when they need a shoulder to cry on. Be there when they achieve a small victory. Be there when no one else is. Be aware that although the battle may have been fought and won, this warrior is facing a new enemy that is cloaked and devious and a strategy cannot be planned or a logic applied. The new battle has now begun and could last longer than you anticipate.

Some of the things they don’t tell you about being a cancer survivor!

So, you have been diagnosed with cancer, you had the conversation with your specialist and they delivered you that life changing piece of information. The battle ground is set and your determination to win overshadows everything else, you now live and breathe cancer. Those trivialities of life regain a new perspective.
You become an inspiration. You are reassured at every moment, by everyone you know, that you are a warrior and a special kind of person, in fact you have become incredible.
You have a focus, but more importantly you have support. You have those all too frequent hospital appointments that feel intrusive and yet reassuring. There is a friendly caring voice at the other end of a phone at all times. You are offered treatment and support from a plethera of sources such as charities like Haven, you are potentially offered counselling before your surgery and you have a plan for your treatment. A timetable and a structure to your life. Everyday of your life cancer is on your mind and if you catch a brief moment when it takes a back seat, rest assured that someone or something will remind you that its still there. As they say, the elephant in the room is the biggest you have ever encountered. Some address it, others avoid it, regardless of the tactics there is no avoidance.
You battle and battle and then you battle some more. You plan, you enjoy your time with your family, you have a new appreciation for the beauty of life and you view things for the first time again, like a new born just opening their eyes. Some boosts and some falls along the way but you make it through the treatment and you are given the all clear. Now you can breathe. 1000 people are diagnosed with cancer everyday. You are not alone at any point in this journey.

If you are one of the cancer warriors, a cancer survivor, do you stop being a hero and become less inspirational because you have survived and are no longer battling?

When I had my last operation and I received the news that I no longer had any risk of getting breast cancer again in my life, there was an uneasy feeling of an anti climax. All that build up and focus of energy suddenly had no place or necessity.
Did you ever experience that when you were taking exams? All that studying and energy focused into a brief moment of time, then nothing. An abyss of uncertainty. No support because your “well”. You’re not a brave warrior any longer as you have nothing to battle. Are you even inspirational now? Are you simply just continuing as everyone else does?

Someone said to me “Emma, no one cares about a cancer survivor, they are only interested in the sob stories of someone struggling and battling”! The inference was real, cancer survivors are no longer interesting. They have survived, won the battle and emerged victorious. However, as you attempt to transcend back to reality and stand at the edge of a precipice, you realise your safety nets have been removed. At the point of stepping into the unknown and facing a black hole that seems infinite and unending, this is when you most need the support and yet it seems to have been taken away when you need it more than ever.

Those little messages that you thought were so insignificant that gave support and encouragement, praising you for being that inspirational warrior, all begin to dry up. As one of my fave cancer warriors said the other day “I get that now when I have a sleepy day and post about how tired and lethargic I feel, people support me but I wonder what their response will be in 6 months time when “I should be over it and not whining by now?””

The friendly reassuring voice on the other end of the phone is no longer there. No free counselling to help you deal with the life changing treatment and surgery. No help dealing with your new body shape and trying to maintain your confidence as well as perhaps a relationship at the same time. Trying to learn how to dress, your new wardrobe, maybe a new body shape. Whatever you are dealing with you are now running solo. You may have friends and family but it doesn’t take them long to expect you to be back to your “old” self again. Doing the same chores that you used to do. Going to work and putting in the same hours as before. All those allowances are gone. All those offers of help have vanished like the rabbit in the magicians hat. The aftermath is possibly the hardest part as there is no clear battle. The free fall effect can be devastatingly real.

One of the simplest things I struggled with was finding underwear that was comfortable and that actually fit me. I rarely am able to wear a bra now so a lot of my clothes become inappropriate as you can see through the fabric and see that underneath I am naked. Dressing becomes embarrassing. No one warned me that my reconstruction would save my life but create such difficulties in the ensuing days.

I have always tried to reach out to people and offer that support they lack through my website and positivity on social media. I am hoping to grow this into another avenue and hopefully will be working with other cancer survivors to deliver something very special.

For now though, if you are a survivor or you know someone that is, have a think about the transformation taking place. The caterpillar to pupae and then butterfly is a reality and some handle this part better than others. Some days are easier than others.

Be there to give the survivor a hand, to help them through those days of fear when they think about cancer coming back. Be there to support on the days that they mourn their old life. Be there when they need a shoulder to cry on. Be there when they achieve a small victory. Be there when no one else is. Be aware that although the battle may have been fought and won, this warrior is facing a new enemy that is cloaked and devious and a strategy cannot be planned or a logic applied. The new battle has now begun and could last longer than you anticipate.