13 Things You Know If You're Being Treated For Breast Cancer
The world changes a bit when you hear those words "it's cancer" - but not necessarily for the worst. It's a steep learning curve, but one with lots of highs to counteract the pretty rubbishy lows
1. Your emotions are completely out of your control. When you wake up in the morning and think "I have GOT THIS today" you can't guarantee that by the end of the day, you won't be a quivering mess of snot and tears.
2. You're conflicted over whether or not to eat all of the food or just stick to fruit and veg. You know the whole "sugar feeds cancer" thing is a myth (and you listen to the people in the hospital - you know, the professionals, rather than trusting what you read on the Internet) but you still feel just a leeeeeeetle bit guilty when you eat a handful of Nerds you bought in a nostalgic throwback to your youth.
3. You feel all of the guilt. Even though you KNOW getting breast cancer was not your fault, you feel bad for inconveniencing the surgeon when your boob springs a leak and you feel bad that your long suffering boyfriend/friend/parent/sibling is labelled as your carer because something decided to mutate in your body
4. You can't concentrate on any of the amazing books you've bought/been sent in preparation for your recuperation, so you end up re-reading Harry Potter. I mean - this isn't a bad thing. Obvs.
5. When recovering from surgery, you realise just how short an episode of Sex and the City is. When you accidentally watch a whole season in a day without really thinking about it, and only stop for meals or a brisk walk around the park.
6. You miss exercise and you almost don't recognise yourself as a result. 4 years ago, you'd not have even sniffed at 8 weeks of an enforced reduction in your usual exercise routine. Surgery takes away your ability to run, swim and do yoga. So you're stuck to combatting cabin fever with those brisk walks around the park and Netflix marathons instead of actual running.
7. You have a deep rooted and intense appreciation of the NHS. Even though you've always known it's the absolute cats pyjamas, the treatment you've received is second to none and your gratitude knows no bounds. If you could, you'd give every medical professional you meet a hug or a high five and you'd even be willing to pay higher taxes so more people can experience the quality of care you've received at the most tricky time of your life.
8. You find humour in the most unlikely of places. Like in the assisted conception unit when you end up dressing like you work in a cheese factory, or when you joke about what Halloween costumes you'll be able to rock when chemo has made your hair fall out. When you try on wigs with stripper names like "Candy" and you get teased for the way you laugh when you're on morphine. (8.1 - it is these moments that keep you sane).
9. Your boobs (actually your body) will pretty much become public property. You'll be surprised at how quickly you get used to having serious conversations with your knockers out, and how little you care about who sees your boobs in a clinical setting
10. You feel like you talk about cancer literally 24/7 and you'd give anything for cancer to be removed from your vocabulary/memory Eternal Sunshine style for just a couple of hours. You surprise yourself when you realise you haven't thought about cancer for a couple of hours, or more impressively, if you manage to temporarily forget you've got the thing and carry on your day like normal.
11. You end up making new friends who are also on this mad (xfactor word) journey. Again your inhibitions are completely discarded and you find yourself chatting with them openly about your boobs, drug side effects (including bowel movements), and your fears and thoughts on this whole alien experience. Though you wish to god these people you've come to care about quite a lot, very quickly, didn't have to have cancer, you're kind of glad you've got them to go through this with.
12. There will be bad days but there will be a LOT of good days too. More than you expected when you heard those words "it is cancer". And you'll surprise yourself with how resilient you are to shitty news and crappy circumstances. You'll find the good bits in pretty much every day and, true to the cliche, you'll think more about the stuff that's important than ever before and stop sweating the stuff that pales in comparison.
13. Just how lucky you are to have such a solid bunch of people around you. Just how loved and supported you will feel by your family and the friends you have chosen as family. They'll give you strength when your outlook is dark and they'll let you cry when you need to, laugh when you should and make the whole process of kicking the heck out of cancer that much easier
Alice-May Purkiss was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2015. Her blog, www.alicemaypurkiss.co.uk, is following her treatment, and trying to find the funny side of getting a breast cancer diagnosis at 26 years old. She's working on getting women to check their boobs more frequently through her #CheckYourChebs campaign across social media