Getting to Grips with it all

23rd August – the day after diagnosis

I must have dropped off to sleep eventually as I woke with a start. I knew that something was not right. Then I remembered that something was horribly wrong, I have cancer.

My daughter was getting ready for work and we had a brief chat. She was already taking a very positive line and telling me that statistics are on my side and just to think about Kylie Minogue. A big hug and she rushed off for her train.

I had no idea how I would break the news to my elder daughter who gave birth to her first baby just three weeks ago. Up until yesterday we had all been on such a high. The arrival of our new grand-daughter had been magical and suddenly our bubble had been burst. One thing I knew for sure is that I wanted nothing to overshadow or spoil this wonderful time for my daughter and her husband. Whatever my problems, as a family we have so much to be grateful for.

But for now I was adrift. Normally, I would rush to the office or be at my computer writing articles. Today, I couldn’t face either.

Straing at the empty computer screen I made my first big mistake – Googling breast cancer. Trawling through statistics, descriptions of mastectomies and the debilitating effects of chemotherapy only fuelled my fears. Suddenly my life was in turmoil. I had a diary packed with events and trips. Would I be able to make any of them? Would I need major surgery? How long would I be in hospital? Would I be able to work at all?

In the current mood of uncertainty, I decided to concentrate on getting the year-end documentation ready for our accountant. This mundane task was an undemanding distraction and Inland Revenue waits for no-one, not even cancer patients.

My husband stayed home to keep me company but the mood was tense. We were in no man’s land. Summer had vanished and it was grey and rainy outside.

As I plodded through the balance sheets my mind kept going back to the life I had just 24 hours ago. Now I could see that it was just perfect, I was overjoyed at being a new granny, and the future was bright. Now, I was doomed. If only, I could go back to last month, how grateful I would be. I had taken all that happiness for granted. If only………….

Fortunately, before I completely drowned in my own self-pity, I caught sight of a book on my desk that I had recently reviewed called ‘What Is, Is! – The Power of Positive Acceptance’. This is one of the most practical and sensible self-help books I have ever come across and I thought now was a very good time to re-read it.

The message of the author, Graham Price, is a simple one. When bad things happen, you wish they hadn’t. But putting all your efforts into wishing that things were different is a complete waste of time and will keep you stuck precisely where you are – in utter misery. Common sense of course but Graham’s words of wisdom were exactly what I needed right now.

I needed to face up to the fact that I had been diagnosed with Cancer and there was no changing that. Rather than wasting my energy on wishing I could go back to the time before the cancer diagnosis, I needed to accept what had happened and put my energy into working out a strategy for recovery and getting my life back together.

For a start I decided to gather some statistics, accessing only the most reliable websites. At least it became clear that until I had some idea of the grade and type of my tumour, I was shooting in the dark. But with survival rates after five years ranging from 60 to 80 per cent I was determined to join the majority. I also couldn’t predict the extent of surgery or follow up treatment that would be needed. It could be anything from a lumpectomy to a complete mastectomy.

Then I reviewed the facts rather than my fears. I had excellent medical care and I would soon know what treatment was planned. It would probably be a bit scary but, taking one step at a time, I was sure that I would eventually get through it. I also felt that a positive and cheerful attitude would certainly be more helpful to my family who were after all sharing this with me.

When my daughter arrived home and asked me how I was doing, I felt my sense of humour returning. ‘Exhausted, battling with Breast Cancer all day is very hard work!

She looked relieved that I was in such good spirits and went on to chat about how many people we know that have dealt with breast cancer years ago and lived to tell the tale. Diana Moran, the Green Goddess was diagnosed over twenty years ago and looks absolutely vibrant, ditto Olivia Newton John. Nancy Reagan was diagnosed back in 1987 and is now over 90 and let’s not forget Sheryl Crow, Maggie Smith and Jenni Murray.

Till today I had always thought that cancer in any form was a death sentence. Perhaps my conclusions had been drawn from focusing on bad news – particularly after losing one of my closest friends to the disease three years ago. But the truth is that the majority of women do survive and get back to lead a normal life.

Today was the most difficult day, waiting for the results and contemplating the unknown but it also turned out to be one of my best days as I changed my attitude from negative to positive which I think is the only way forward.

More to follow ……………….

Here’s the thing

  • You need to allow time to accept the news of the diagnosis, but do try not to look just at the negatives. Like mine, your attitude about cancer may be very dated. Medicine has progressed and survival rates have increased dramatically in the last twenty years.
  • I thoroughly recommend reading ‘What Is, Is! – The Power of Positive Acceptance’ by Graham W Price. It certainly straightened out my thinking and gave me a much more positive attitude. To read my full review of Graham’s book click here.
  • Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Statistics vary according to grades and types of cancer and like, me, if you haven’t got your results, what you are reading may not apply to you at all. Treatment will also depend on the pathology results, so although it is incredibly difficult, try not to worry about things that may never happen.

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