World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4th to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.
Most of us are aware of cancer. We’ve seen it in our own family, our friends family, or family of Susan’s down the road. We have all, in some capacity, heard about it. Often, those stories we hear are incredibly upsetting and scary, but I wanted to come here and tell you about the hope, too. There’s plenty of survival stories too.
What even is it?
Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer came into my life a few years ago, in the form of skin cancer in a family member. It didn’t really shock me, I had an understanding that cancer was ‘everywhere’, I remember thinking ‘it’s going to get us all one by one’ because the media coverage on it was on an all time high and seemed overwhelming. Luckily, the skin cancer was treatable, and the skin was simply removed.
Cancer then crept back into my reality, this time for another family member. It came roaring in, like a racing train on a cold, quiet night. I felt like I was on the rail tracks, like the world was silent apart from the sound of the impending hit of the train on my body and mind. Because as soon as I heard the words ‘cancer’, I knew for sure that shit was about to get really really scary and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing.
And it did. The cancer was detected on the kidney. And it was growing. We didn’t know how fast and we simply didn’t know a lot at all first of all. Luckily the NHS rushed my family member through the process of having scans and checks, as their described pain was enough to make the consultants panic.
I remember hearing the words ‘It might be terminal’ coming from the consultant and my stomach felt like it was going to eat itself with stress and panic. I couldn’t comprehend the reality of those words, I still can’t. There were talks about my family members pain level and the probability that it didn’t look good for the future. They were rushed into a scan, to see if it had spread.
The hours crawled…
They seemed to stop.
They seemed to go backwards…
Until I had the call.
It hasn’t spread.
The relief of that moment was something I can’t describe to you but writing this is such a positive experience. I feel lucky; for my family, for my friends, for everyone. The fight could have been so much harder.
I wanted to share some experiences below of what I have learnt, having a family member with Cancer.
Listen to your body. If you’re not feeling right, go to the doctors.
I know personally I struggle with this. Most people I know do too. They don’t want to go to the doctors all the time, or even once or twice. You know your body and you know your usual energy levels and bowel movements. Those two things, if they change at all, suddenly, please go to the doctors. Please. I often think when I feel ill that ‘it’ll pass’ and it probably will, but my family member wasn’t right and kept going back to the doctors for more antibiotics and they didn’t send them for a scan until it they’d been back and forth a few times… which leads me onto the next point.
If the doctors aren’t doing enough, tell them!
This is no joke. If you’re going back and forth and you’re not getting the answers you need, ask to see a different doctor. Your health is the most important thing here, forget niceties. Remember you know your body the best, and although they’re highly trained and I’m sure, lovely people, they might need to know just how concerned you are. Scans are available and we should be sent for them if medication isn’t working. The fight with cancer can start before you even know you have it.
Read up on symptoms of cancers that are high risk in your family history
I’m not saying scroll through pages of scary symptoms of cancer and convince yourself that you’re ill. I’m saying read up on the symptoms of the cancers you’ve heard have been prominent in your family history, and just make yourself aware. The quicker you can detect it, the quicker something can be done about it. For example, Kidney Cancer symptoms are extreme tiredness, back pain and changes in your peeing habits. Your kidney will stop working as well, causing bloating in the face and around the kidney.
Contact Macmillan or any cancer charity
Going for treatment can be scary, especially if it’s a big operation. You can seek support by going on https://www.macmillan.org.uk and using the ‘chat with us’ option on the site. Although I haven’t used it myself, I know it’s been a great source of comfort for people who have cancer, or who have experienced family members with it. Treatment is positive in the sense that something can be done, but it doesn’t come alone. It comes with it’s own fears and worries, it’s normal to want to talk about them.
Prepare yourself for hospital
This is practical advice. Pack a bag, get a tablet/phone that you can take in with you so you’re not bored and reading through your 54th magazine. Pack your comfortable clothes, and clothes that are easy to take on and off, your body will be recovering after treatment and you won’t be able to move too much.
Give yourself time to come to terms with what has happened
You’ve gone through a massive change in your life. Physically, emotionally and maybe even financially if you’ve stopped working. You have fought for some time, and you’ve come out of the other side. You’re surviving, but maybe just that. Your emotions are battered, and you feel lost. What is life going to be like now? Who am I now? What will each day feel like? Will I ever get back to how I was? You’re going to be grieving for the loss of your old self, and for the loss of your old life, that is absolutely normal. You may feel denial, grief, depression… but hopefully you also are on your way to acceptance. This process can be significant and can really take quite some time. Let yourself feel those emotions, you are justified in your feelings. Any feelings.
I haven’t had cancer myself but I have experienced it in many people around me, and so have experienced the emotions, fears and positive outcomes of different situations. I, of course, am not a source of all-knowing support and I’ve linked some websites below that can provide you with specialised support. If you’ve read this far down, I imagine you’re going through it, or know someone who is going through this now and my advice to you is that you’re doing incredibly well. It’s unbelievably draining and painful but there is always hope, always. Find the hope, find the positive and you’ll find your new life.
- For further information on cancer support, please visit https://www.macmillan.org.uk – this site is a huge source of information, support and humanity.
- Make a donation today: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/donate#/
- If you want to share your thoughts on anything that I have discussed and want to talk about your experience of course please leave a comment, I’d be more than happy to reply to any thoughts you have
- If you feel you need support and are struggling in any way shape or form, please visit: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/coping/getting-support/talking-to-us