Monday, 21 October 2013

How to treat a friend diagnosed with breast cancer - my view

Last week at a market one of my customers said 'we haven't seen you at Totnes (market) for a while'

'eeerrrrmmmm no........'

'Ah there's a story but I think this is the second time this week I've put my foot in it' He said

'No, no, no!' I said

I then told him about the bastard cancer.

He and his wife then bought some cheese and as I gave him his change he again said 'the second time this week I've put my foot in it'

Again I said 'No,no,no ....... not at all'

He then said 'I said to someone one this week I haven't seen your wife for a while and he said she died.....'

Oh bugger!!

It got me thinking.....

Back in May when OH and I had to go and see his shoulder Consultant (the one with the personality of a house brick!)  I picked up a magazine in the waiting room and there was an article ..........

Ten things not to say to a breast cancer patient

Now I found it very interesting and could relate to some of the things said as they too had been said to me but I also thought it was a bit negative and that perhaps it would have been better to have said what to say to your friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ok you ask ..... what should I say?

Well before the bastard cancer came along I probably wouldn't have known what the right thing was to say to someone else either so although you might feel you've said or done the wrong thing so probably have I and I'm not being judgemental or critical. Everyone does cancer differently.

You may well be defensive and say I've said some of those things but I meant well. Sometimes meaning well isn't always enough.

I am actually going to list some of the negatives because they were jaw dropping and well .......jaw dropping

The worst was the day I went for my biopsy, not knowing what the lump was and being told by my mother about a woman she knew who at 73 went for a mammogram at her request, was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have 7 weeks radio therapy .......'and you have to find a hospital that does it and its everyday. I think you have weekends off though'

Yes thanks........ For five days waiting for my results all I worried about was 7 weeks radio therapy and when I got the bad news the first question I asked the Breast cancer nurse was would I have to have 7 weeks radio therapy. Bless her .... she couldn't believe what I'd said!

Over the months others have cheerfully told me about Mrs. So and So who was burnt by the radio therapy and their friends sister whose reconstruction went wrong and then died, yes thanks I'm not having reconstruction ....  oh and someones mother in laws friend who had all the treatment and then it came back. Yes thanks! Then there's R who had an awful time with chemo and had to crawl up the stairs  ..... yes thanks ... I'm not having chemo

You'll be fine I had a scare too it was just a cyst ......... (errr no .... its been diagnosed as breast cancer)

I know how you're feeling ....... ( no you bloody don't ....... you haven't been diagnosed with breast cancer )

I won't phone but let me know if you want anything doing .......(no, don't put the ball in my court )

I didn't phone because I didn't know what to say .....( at least you're honest but just be yourself ....... talk about what we'd normally talk about)

Hat or wig? (completely gobsmacked at this one!)

You're looking well ....... ( yes I was only diagnosed two weeks ago so what do you expect?)

'How are you?'

 'Very tired'

'Well done'

...... whaaaaat??? if you're going to ask  how I am then at least listen to my answer

Then there was the person who avoided me .......  I know that you know because I heard you'd given someone the third degree about them knowing before you .......thanks for getting in touch and your support NOT !

Don't turn it back on you or when you had cancer and try and hijack the other persons experience .......  we are all different and our treatment is tailor made for us individually. Empathy not negativity is needed. You may be bitter after your treatment but please don't make us feel we should be the same.

I have certainly been surprised and disappointed at how certain friends have reacted to my breast cancer diagnosis ...... the ones I thought would be brilliant have distanced themselves and others who I wasn't particularly close to have been amazing ...... as the saying goes 'friends for a reason and friends for a season' ...... so true. I have to wonder why ... is it fear that they don't know how to interact or they're upset or they may not be able to handle what may happen in the future.

Dunno........  but at the end of it all I'm still me even with a dented boob and scar under my arm.

From the start I had friends who phoned or e-mailed and said is it ok if I come round and see you at such and such time and what do you want me to do .......... as I was so pleased to have company and see them we ate drank and talked rather than them doing the housework, gardening, ironing which I had lined up. It was just good to know that the offer was there if I needed it.

Being taken out for girlie lunches was also great for making me feel normal even if I didn't feel one hundred per cent!

Its six months since my operation and I still have the get well cards up ....... you may find that strange but over the months I've taken great comfort in looking at them and reading the lovely messages over again, knowing so many people care. Looking at a hand written message is comforting.
 I've also had cards to add to the collection as friends have sent 'thinking of you' type messages during various stages of my treatment.

Since day one I've had certain friends who have texted, tweeted or e-mailed me daily then weekly then less so (as I've recuperated) to see how I'm doing ...... all unconditional and no pressure for me to reply. I mustn't forget facebook as although not a fan before the bastard cancer, my friends on there have been fab with their support and I've also been reunited with old friends who have been just as  supportive with their comments and personal messages. Makes you wonder why we lost touch....... shit happens!

'How lovely to see you' is one of the greatest things people can say to you when you're feeling shit and trying to hold it together ...... my farmers and fellow traders ..... you rock!

Hugs .... oh hugs are just the best thing ......everything is said in a hug ...... no words needed ....... market traders are fab at hugs and they made me feel so good, nothing better than when I felt shit! I can't thank the  twitter friends who turned up at markets just to give me a hug and say hello .... especially thanks to JGA and ET

Then there were the food parcels...... A and F and Sand A sent their amazing food back (unconditionally)with OH after a Friday market which meant there was at least one if not two meals I didn't have to think about ........ this was so appreciated.

If you don't know someone well asking 'Has it been a good day/week or a bad day/week for you' ...... is a good way of finding out how someone is feeling without being too intrusive

Small things are appreciated like when I blogged about my problems of having to hang free due to the side effects of radio therapy, a friend who was away told me where to find a top of hers in her wardrobe  that would disguise this ...... don't worry no breaking in was required I had a key and although I didn't go riffling through her stuff I appreciated the offer!                     

'You're looking well' ..... I know this was in the negative comments but actually eight weeks after my radio therapy everyone started to say it .......and it was such a boost because I felt better in myself too and to know that others noticed was brilliant.

As I've said this is my view and my experience of how I've found peoples reactions to my breast cancer diagnosis and how I've I appreciated friends love and support ...... we're all different and we all deal with things differently but maybe this will help you if in the future you have a friend diagnosed with breast cancer.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Media volunteer

Back in August around the time I had my first infection (that's how I can remember when it was) I saw on twitter that the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer were looking for media volunteers.

I wasn't entirely sure what was required of a media volunteer but clicked on the link and completed the online form.

A lovely lady phoned me a few days later and explained what was involved  and asked me about my breast cancer story ...... she'd already perused my blog so knew a bit about me!!

What is a media volunteer? I hear you ask.

Well when a journalist from a publication, radio or TV want to interview someone about breast cancer they contact the media department at Breakthrough Breast Cancer  (other charities are available) and depending on what story they're looking for a volunteer will be contacted and asked if they're willing/able to be interviewed.

A couple of weeks later I gave my first interview to a journalist writing for a health magazine.

The next call was the week of OH's shoulder op ....... a newspaper wanted me for a photo shoot for their health supplement .........

Great, no problem.......

errrrr yes problem........ the photo shoot was in London

..... and the other spanner in the works was OH's op so I wasn't able to do it.

On Monday I got a call asking if I'd appear on the Lorraine show on ITV to talk about the importance of going for a first mammogram...

Blimey ....... didn't expect that!

Yes no problem.......


Thursday 8am in London ........ go up the night before.

oh nooooooooooooooo ...................

A quick look at the diary spoilt it all.

I was booked to be at a farm for the day job at  6.30am ( could have changed it) however OH had his first physio session which couldn't be changed ........ he needed me to drive him to the hospital and of course wouldn't be able to look after himself or the ranch whilst I was away so I had to turn it down.

Fingers crossed that I'm able to say yes to the next request without any spanners in the works!

Friday, 18 October 2013


When I wrote about my memory loss, I had so many lovely messages from people.......  a lot said it was due to the stress of what I'd been through and others made me laugh about how they were having similar problems and weren't even taking tamoxifen!

It made me feel so much better...

Once I'd told you all about it, my memory then seemed to improve......

Coincidence?? ....... dunno

No doubt my medical records now have me marked as insane after mentioning it to two Doctors but hey ho I think I was anyway!!!

Last week I had the WI talk I was dreading as it was at the previous one that I forgot my words and made me feel that the tamoxifen was causing it and had to ask OH what words I was looking for!

So how did you get on??? I hear you cry!

Well apart from the fact that they didn't tell me when I was booked that there was no parking at the hall or nearby..............

I was in a complete tiz and stressed when I arrived as it was dark and all the streets were residents parking only so I had no idea where to abandon the car ..........thank goodness OH had decided to come with me at the last minute as I think I'd have just turned round and gone home if I'd been on my own!

It wasn't the best of starts and I was pretty uptight as I began my talk .........

however ...... I didn't forget any words and didn't once have to turn to OH for help!

My memory still isn't what it was but there is definitely improvement ..........

Was I over reacting before ???? No! I definitely had a problem......

Was it stress??? maybe....

Are the tamoxifen responsible?? ....... dunno the jury is still out.......

In other news......

I am now taking my tamoxifen when I go to bed and to date haven't forgotten it .....

The infection cleared up pretty tout suite with the last lot of penicillin and I haven't found anymore ingrowing hairs nee stitches!!!

The insomnia hasn't been too bad recently (probably speaking too soon now!) but I'm generally managing nearly five hours sleep instead of three .......and the hot flushes have stopped!

Have I missed anything??

No don't think so ......

You're now up to date with my world!!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Darby and Joan!

Where does the time go????

Well ten days since my last post I thought you'd like to know how Darby and Joan are getting on.....

Darby is right handed ....... his right shoulder is the one operated on and in a sling.

The consultant told him to be creative with his left hand......

Joan is still waiting.................... ha ha

Breakfast time..... Darby is trying to butter his toast left handed ....

.....its like a three year learning to use a knife

Joan 'would you like me to butter your toast'

Darby 'yes please this is difficult'

Lunch time....

Darby 'Please can you serve me salad and butter my roll'

Supper time.....

Joan 'Would you like me to cut up your food???'

Darby ' If you could'

At least unlike a three year old Darby can use a fork and Joan is relieved that she doesn't have to wait for the 'I've finished' call outside the bog to then go in and wipe his bum!!!

Darby has to go to the Surgery .....

The weather is colder so no shorts and sandals!!

Joan has to put his socks and shoes on and tie his laces ..... she thinks its just like having a three year old!!

The only consolation is that he isn't have any tantrums (well at least not yet)

Darby and Joan go out in his van .....

Darby clings onto the door handle (but doesn't squawk)  and says 'you get swung around in this seat don't you??'

So far Joan hasn't been able to demonstrate her lane discipline to Darby in his van yet!!!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Home for the bewildered

To put you in the picture...........
I am currently taking Penicillin four times a day on an empty stomach and tamoxifen once a day after supper!

OH having had his shoulder operation, has to wear a sling for six weeks and is taking paracetamol and Ibuprofen with food.

Well you've got to laugh ......... its like Darby and Joan here in the home for the bewildered

A conversation after supper.......

Darby 'Have you had your tablet?'

Joan 'No I can't take it for two hours, I've just eaten.......... oh you mean the tamoxifen, no I've forgotten again'

Darby 'Here' hands Joan a tablet 'and I've got some water'

Joan 'have you taken yours then?'

Darby 'Yes!'

They then collapsed into laughter.........

Bath time......... (no shower in this house)

Darby can't lower himself into the bath one handed and can't kneel (due to his knee replacements) so has to stand up.

Joan soaps him

Darby 'I'm cold'

Joan 'of course you're not ........ stand still'

She rinses him off with jugs of water 'oh you are cold aren't you?'

Ha ha ..... welcome to the home for the bewildered!!