Saturday, 10 June 2017

Taking control

Once you're diagnosed with cancer, your life feels like it's not your own and you're at the beck and call of others.  Even your body is trying to kill you.  You're swept up in what seems like a never ending series of appointments, tests, surgery, treatment etc. 

When I was diagnosed, I felt like I was spiralling out of control.  My lovely, happy life had been knocked sideways and things like work and planning for holidays had to go on ice.  That was totally alien to me.  It was a bewildering time and I felt like I was being bombarded with information from all sides that I just couldn't take in.

Take control of the bits you can

One piece of advice I found really invaluable was from another cancer patient.  She told me to treat my cancer journey like a project and break it down into various component parts.  I thought that was a really good way of looking at it.  

In simple terms, that means the experts do what I can't do, and I do what the experts can't (or don't need) to do.  For example:
  • I knew I was going to lose my hair and couldn't bear the thought of seeing it come out in handfuls or on my pillow in the morning, so I got it cut.  
  • I've also wanted to increase my fitness before treatment, so as I wrote about in my last blog I've taken up various activities.  
  • I've made up my own little first aid kit which I have with me all the time in case I get a cut or insect bite on my right arm. 
  • I put all my appointments and reminders into my phone so that I can keep track of what's happening when.
hair today...

almost gone

also started to take a tonic (not the type that goes with gin, unfortunately) from a health food shop which was recommended to me. It was meant to help boost my immunity before and during treatment.  I have to say, even drinking it with apple juice, it was the most disgusting thing I've ever tasted in my life.  I had to hold my nose as I drank it.  Ugh, what was the point of drinking something I wasn't enjoying.  I stopped taking it, believing that I would rather take my chances with the side effects of chemo.

Taking control of even the smallest things can make a real difference to how you feel.  I personally think my physical healing, my mental wellbeing and my social life have improved no end. 

Look good feel better

I want to briefly mention a workshop whose aim is to help women combat the visible side effects of cancer treatment.   

Again, for me, it was all about taking back some control.  If chemo was going to make me lose my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and make me look rough, I was going to do all I could to disguise the effects and make me feel better when I looked in the mirror.  

At the workshop there were about 20 women at various stages of cancer treatment.  It was run by a larger than life, funny, charismatic woman. She talked us through how to remove our make-up, moisturise properly, and apply our make up correctly.  I realised that I've been doing it wrong all these years!

It was a real hands on session.  Each of us was given our own goodie bag of beauty products that we actually used during the workshop and could keep.  

If you're a woman with cancer, I would encourage you to go.  It's brilliant and uplifting. 

You are not alone

If you have cancer, you are not alone on your journey.  There are lots of cancer charities who do tremendous work and are there to help and provide practical support if you need it.   

At the beginning, the information I was given about my cancer and all the support networks was mind boggling.  I just didn't know where to start and my mind couldn't make sense of, or sift through, the mounds of information.  But slowly and surely, through talking to the Macmillan Centre at the Belfast City Hospital and other cancer patients, I am learning more and more about the range of help and support that's available.  

I may or may not decide to take up all the support that's on offer, but I'm fine with that.  What's important is I know where to go if I need help and again, I'm taking control of all the bits that I can.

Next time

A mammogram, oncology, angels, prayers and a heart echo.


Let me know below if there's anything specific about my breast cancer journey you'd like me to blog about.

If you've enjoyed my blog, feel free to follow me on Twitter: @luvvacurry

1 comment:

  1. This is such a helpful blog, Karen. I'm sure others on the same journey are finding it a God send. xx


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