A positive note.

I have found this forum very useful for all sorts of information and support over the last year. However, I think that many people find it at the beginning of their treatment when they are looking for an idea of how they are likely to feel in the coming months and years, and sometimes it concerns me that those newly diagnosed folk will believe that they are likely to experience every one of the worst case scenarios, because understandably it is usually when things go wrong or when we are worried that we post.

I know that I have been very lucky, that I have a strong constitution and a high tolerance level for discomfort, pain and inconvenience. And I do understand that many people have a much more difficult time coping with breast cancer and it’s treatment than me, both physically and emotionally.

But there are some of us, who don’t suffer too many side effects from chemo, are well enough to work throughout chemo and rads, who quite like the new bald look (though I missed the eyebrows and eyelashes), who don’t find losing a breast feels like the end of the world, who don’t mind the lopsided look, who don’t feel unlucky, who don’t ask ‘why me’ (after all why not me, bad things happen to good people), who haven’t lost their libido, who don’t worry about every new ache and pain (not because we are oblivious to the possibility of secondaries, but because we are too busy getting on with our lives), and who don’t feel like a different person once active treatment is over - we are the same people who have had a new experience that with a bit of luck our friends will never share.

I know I am lucky and I am not unsympathetic to all those women who suffer terribly during their treatment and have a terrible time, before, and after treatment too. Or to those women dealing with secondaries, for whom it is an entirely different experience to my own. Or to those young women dealing with difficult decisions about fertility or coping with young children - I was 49 when DX. But sometimes I think that those of us who are lucky enough to be able to just get on with it and then put it behind us are afraid to say so, for fear of upsetting those not so fortunate.

I got through my year without many problems - would have been happy not to have had the recon surgery or recouperation from that - but I got through it. I hope that I don’t have to do it again, but if I do I hope that it will be as easy.

If you are reading this as you embark on your treatment, the best thing that I can hope for you is that your year goes as well as mine. In the last year breast cancer got in the way of my life a bit … but it never became my life. I was Jacqui who happened to have BC - I didn’t battle it, fight it, beat it, or struggle with it. I just took a day at a time and dealt with it as I needed to - as advised by my medical professionals.

I am not special in any way. And I am sure that I am not alone. I was just lucky. But I just wanted people to know that not everyone has a terrible time. And it doesn’t have to change you forever if you decide it won’t.

Perhaps if I am a very good girl Father Christmas will bring me some of that “strong constitution” and “high tolerance for pain” so that I am not such a whiney loser.
Perhaps he could also bring me back my boobs, my ovaries, my libido, my partner, my career, my peace of mind and my dear friend who died of this crappy thing last month aged only 48.

I’m pleased for you that you seem to have sailed through everything, Jacqui, that’s great, but please don’t dismiss some of us for writing about bad experiences, because we need to air our views, too! My criteria for reading threads ( or other internet items) has always been not to read any that may overly worry me, or don’t apply to my current experiences, the clue is in the threads titles, I find!
None of us chose to need to have joined this huge gang, but it is a great place for honesty, and support, and I think many others will see it like that, too.
Heather.

Thanks Jacqui. That was a really nice post. It says everything that I feel about breast cancer. I’ve just finished chemo and have had very few side effects. I guess I have that strong constitution too. I am continuing to work and feel that its just a bit of an inconvenience but it won’t “change” me. People keep saying how brave I am but I am tackling breast cancer like I have tackled every other big hurdle in my life, by just getting on with it! I realise I am lucky and I know its easy for us to sound flippant about it and there will be many who wish they could have the same ride as us but we all know how cruel it can be for others. All I can say is good luck to everyone and lets hope 2011 will be a better year
Debs
XX

Good post Jacqui
We all have choices and we can let this ruin our lives or we can accept that life can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride and just go with it and get through it!
I lost my mum and gran to this, albe it at an old age but my lovely daughter got it at 26 and me at 49. We are not dwelling on it and getting on with life! My daughter had 6 x FEC and worked 2 out of every 3 weeks of the cycle. I am having FEC-t and carry on as normal. I belong to this forum to a. get info and b. encourage others and c. have fun and laugh.
We could all run around in panic like headless chickens but it will not help. We can all take to our beds and be scared of our shadow and of being infected by the great unwashed…but actually that won’t help either. I’m not tough I get scared I worry about the future…but hey who dosent whether you have bc or not.
I will not let this ruin my life nor that of my lovely family and encourage others to get over this hurdle along side me…we really can do it and go forward into the future…whatever it brings

Nice post Jacqui, its always good to read positive stories. I remember reading every single post when I was diagnosed, the ‘good news’ threads always gave me hope and I started this whole process hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
I was lucky with chemo and rads with manageable side effects, I also worked throughout. My surgery was pretty painless physically, but devastating mentally…as was the hair loss.
Its so important to show every angle and every possible senario, we are not all the same, we all react differently.
Well done in getting through this so positively and for sharing.
Marguerite

Thanks Jacqui for sharing a less negative experience of the whole thing. You might have thought you’d get shot down in flames but still posted for those of us who are nearer the beginning of treatment than the end and are scared. Your post (and others like it) makes us realise it’s not inevitable that life has to grind to a halt for the duration of treatment.

Barbara Ehrenreich’s brilliant article on the Tyranny of Positivity with cancer is excellent reading.
guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/02/cancer-positive-thinking-barbara-ehrenreich

I work coz I have to…I own a business and so therefore its not an option as if I don’t work everything goes pear shaped and bills don’t get paid! It has nothing whatever to do with courage nor strength of charecter…however normality however it is achieved and what ever it means is vital to mental health…not just for me but my family who are going through all this with us!..I have my first TAX next week…I have no idea if I will cope, i have no idea if I will get some terrible infection and end up in hospital, I have no idea if I will complete the course or throw in the towel. I get chemo brain, I feel crap sometimes, its not a walk in the park its being voluntarily poisioned!

We are all weak at times just as we are all positive at times…life is…well life…?

deleted

Maybe it would be worth re-reading Jacqui’s original post. She says she knows she has been lucky with less side effects than most and that she is sympathetic to those who have a worse time. The site would give a very unbalanced view to anyone who had just been diagnosed if it just showed posts from those suffering the most.

With respect missmolly, I specifically said that I was lucky with chemo and rads…
Courage? Depth of Character? I normally hear that nonsense from those who have not been diagnosed. I have never heard anyone with BC say that. No, I worked through necessity and the good fortune to be able to.
You only have to read this forum to know that most women have horrible chemo experiences, some horrific, many of my good friends included. But, there are those who have an easier time… and I for one have felt guilty to be one of those. Every time a friend posted about a bad experience I would ache, I hated the unfairness of it all, the lottery…
I have never for one moment thought ‘Bully for me’, or thought of others as ‘failures or weaklings’… what an awful, disrespectful and cold thought to have. Please know that even those of us who have had an easier time, would never for one minute think of others as that. Never.
No one persons experience is more important than another’s, there is not a script in all of this, every persons experience is unique and as valid as everyone else’s.
Perhaps it would be more palatable to know that in my case, as much as chemo and rads were ‘easy’, I have struggled enormously… not always physically but in other ways. I am scared, I hate my body, I miss me (the old me), I am ashamed that no-one outside my immediate circle knows that I have breast cancer, I am so sorry that others have it worse than me, I truly am…
BUT, for ME, chemo and rads were manageable. For any newbies reading this, hope for the best and prepare for the worst – this is NOT a one size fits all disease.

Marguerite

Hi,
Its great to hear of other peoples positive expierences , hopefully it will help some of the Newly DX ladies to hear that there are some people who manage get through all the crap that is cancer and its treatments and come through it relitively easily ,im pleased for those that seem to have sailed through everything, and have been able to put it all behind them ,but i wish it could be like that for everyone, unfortuneatly though sadly for many people cancer and its treatments can and does have a devastating and lasting effect on peoples lives.

Cancer changes lives,it certainly did mine anyway, not just going through the horrible treatments,and copeing with the residue SEs its much more than that, it stole my carefree life and my future peace of mind and thats something that i cant ever get back to normal.

Like others, i have never said “why me” neither, i too have always thought “why not me” im no different to anyone else ,i just got hit with the cancer stick, like all of us have .
Cancer Treatments and our individual reactions to them are very different though for everyone , and none of us know how we will react SEs wise untill we have them ,we may be lucky or we may not be so lucky ,

I remember when i was having my first chemo the nurse said to me that some people do manage to go to work while haveing chemo and just seemed to sail through it all with very few SEs , but unfortunatly for other people they can also sometimes be very ill indeed on chemotherapy , so it realy is the luck of the draw as to how each of our bodies react to all the different cancer treatments ,but one things for sure ,its doesnt have anything to do with haveing a high pain threshold, or a strong constitution, or being able to just get on with it, i wish it did .

like a lot of ladies i too am a very positive person , and i also consider myself to have a high pain threshold,pre BC i hadnt taken so much as a painkiller in 30yrs , even with frequent severe migraines/ bad period pains/flu/ect . "i just got on with"as i hated taking any kind of pill for anything .
Ive had 3 children all natural births (no pain relief at all) and certainly not easy births by any means,so i can certainly stand pain, but… the chemo for me was a different matter altogether and it blooming well floored me “literaly”, some days i couldnt put one foot in front the other, i hated every single thing about it and i hated how very ill it always made me feel.
Fortuneatly for me i was lucky with the Rads and they were a doddle, but i know for many other people they were not so easy, so i was lucky with that particular treatment.

Im realy pleased to hear that some ladies have had a good expierence with their own cancer journeys, because it gives others hope at a very frightening time in their lives ,and it would be wonderfull if everyone could get through this cancer crap unscathed and be able return to their normal lives, but sadly i suspect for many people they are not quite so lucky and their whole cancer expierence has ultimeatly had a massive impact physically and mentally on their lives,
Cancer isnt a minor illness by any streach of the imagination , it is a life threatening desease and is something to be lived with, because for all of us that have been DX the reality is it will always remain a threat in our future lives, so it should never be dumbed down and be seen as an easy thing to go through for anyone because it isnt. BC is an unpredictable desease and like many other ladies on this site sadly i have seen many wonderfull ladies loose their life to this cruel vile desease .Hopefully we will all be very lucky and never have to go through any of this rubbish again!
All the best to everyone.
Linda

Linda,

I totally agree with what you have just said and how you have expressed it. Thanks

vickie

We are all unique and so are our experiences and how we deal with them. Breast cancer should bring us together and not divide. There should not be judgement but support. My love goes to all who find themselves here and whose lives have been affected by this disease in one form or other. X Tina

Well said, Tina. I love reading about the successes and triumphs of other women and I am pleased to be able to support others, just like I have been supported on this site.

Thanks for your comments, particularly Marguerite (who has so often posted helpful and supportive notes here), Nottsgal, Linda and Debs. I really didn’t want to pass judgement on anyone else, and was nervous about posting for fear that it would appear that I was.

I am sorry if I offended you missmolly, half scottish or anyone else. I tried to express that I realised I was lucky, and do not see posts from less fortunate folk as whinging. I know that our experiences are all different and like Marguerite sometimes feel guilty that I have ‘sailed’ through this experience. I was not suggesting that a positive attitude can change your outcome or experience. I am simply aware that we mostly post when things are bad for us and that some of us who are fortunate could balance that out a little for people starting out with their treatment. I felt fortunate to be able to work, I did not see it as something to be proud of, or heroic in any way, but knowing that it is at least possible for some people, may prove helpful to others.

My Mum died of cancer at 60 after 14 months of hell, and my best friend is in hospital following a dreadful reaction to her first tax. So I am not unaware of how it can be. And I was not judging anyone else.

Good luck to everyone.

Jacqui

Very nice post Jacqui.
Happy Christmas all.

I’m glad to see a ‘positive’ thread but know from being on this site in the past that such threads can become very heated and would urge everyone to respect individuals’ experiences/opinions/thoughts. None of us asked for this disease and like any illness, we all deal with it differently and our bodies cope in completely different ways. By the very nature of this forum, people will visit it when they are struggling/in despair/frightened a lot of the time and are looking for encouragement and hope. Personally I didn’t dare visit it until I had finished chemo and had my mx and anc and even then was very wary.

I always say to people how lucky I was to get through chemo reasonably ‘easily’ with only the odd blip and that I was very fortunate in that I was in a job where I could afford to be off sick and so avoid the infection risks of being round people coughing and spluttering all over me! There were times when I felt like a failure that I hadn’t been able to continue at work but no-one around me would have expected me to and my boss immediately said I had to be off as long as it took and that when we met up, it wouldn’t be in the workplace so we would meet for a brew and for me to give him my sick notes.

My ultimate return to work was a nightmare and all the treatment has taken it’s toll and I no longer work. Fortunately (again) I get a pension even though I was 42 at retirement and after a long period of adjustment I adore my new life and am so grateful I have had this opportunity to spend time with my parents,OH and sister that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Yes, there are still a lot of side effects to cope with but at the moment I’m managing.

I’m taking the positives out of it as much as possible and hope that anyone newly diagnosed can read this and be hopeful of joining those of us who came through treatment without succumbing to too many of the horrid side effects.

Liz

PS - What I have written here does not in any way lessen the sympathies I have for those who do end up with the most awful side effects and have to stop treatment or for whom treatment doesn’t work. My heart goes out to you all.

Good points from everyone, and you didn’t offend me, Jacqui, I think I was just feeling a little over defensive.
My Mum had kidney cancer aged 59, and got bone cancer aged 69, (after 10 good years), so I know how you must have felt about your Mum, too.
Happy Christmas to one and all,
We DESERVE it!!
Heather.