Monday, 10 October 2011

Some times it's the little things that get you down!

At the end of the month I am hosting a fund raising event in support of Breast Cancer Care and I thought it would be the simplest thing in the world to buy an elegant, long dress in pink. However, I discovered that finding one that was mastectomy-friendly was very hard indeed and really brought home to me just how much having breast cancer affects my life, making even the most mundane of things a trial and a chore. It's very hard not to end up depressed and disillusioned about it all!

As it comes up to the first anniversary of my diagnosis I have been thinking about five things:

1. Breast cancer changes your life - for ever. It's something that you have to find some way of living with because once you have been diagnosed and treated there will always be that niggling worry that it will pop up again somewhere else.

2. Life is precious and easily stolen from you. Guard it carefully and use it to the full!

3. Value your friendships, but be prepared for those who you thought you could rely on the most to fall at the very first hurdle. Sadly far too many of my friends were incredibly unsupportive and the only good thing that came out of that was a shorter christmas card list! I was shocked at how many of my long-standing friends deserted me when I needed them most and indeed equally shocked that now the trials and tribulations of active treatment are over, just how many of them now want to have more to do with me again. There is always someone who views your illness as an opportunity to take advantage of your vulnerability and when it happens it can be very shocking. Thankfully I have the most fabulous husband and a very supportive family who, along with the friends that did stay around, gave me lots of support when I needed it.

4. Britain's National Health Service is nothing short of brilliant where I live and I have had nothing but care of the finest standard. I am hugely grateful for this because sadly it's not a reflection of a lot of people's experiences of the NHS.

5. Never underestimate just how much having breast cancer will affect you psychologically and emotionally. It's not just the scars that you can see that you need to adjust to and it's not a good idea to ignore this. Whilst the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I developed as a result of all my emergency, life-threatening treatment has subsided greatly, it still rears it's ugly head and catches me out when I least expect it. This plus the psychological impact of the changes to my body has taken its toll over the past year and I have a long way to go before I will reach a place where I can truly be happy again.

I could add considerably more to this list and I will probably talk more about them over the coming weeks but I think it is fair to say that nothing really prepares you for life after diagnosis. You just have to plough your way through it as best you can and hope for the best whilst preparing for the worst.

Most importantly I have discovered that there is life and it is worth living - I just need to work at how!

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