From guest blogger Jane Bissell
I don’t think anything prepares you for a diagnosis of cancer.
Another Breast Cancer Awareness Month - traditionally October but now creeping into September with pink things everywhere - will soon arrive, and as a friend of mine said, ‘You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of breast cancer these days.’
I wonder if people who haven’t had cancer are like I was before I received the news of my diagnosis. I was aware, having regular check ups, knew people who were living with cancer – but still when I was told I had breast cancer, I had never felt so alone. I simply could not believe it had happened because cancer was for other people, not me.
It took about two years and writing two books for me to grasp the reality that it had actually happened.
It’s 18 years since my first diagnosis, and going on three since the diagnosis of my second primary. Much has happened. I’ve had ups and downs at annual checkups, but am well. My mother who was such a source of strength for me throughout those years has passed away. I now earn a living as a writer which I am almost certain would not have happened had I not been diagnosed with cancer and been financially forced into thinking ‘What else can I do? What other skills do I have?’ It’s a path that I am grateful for, one that I had always wanted to travel before cancer arrived.
There were times during the year after the first diagnosis that I felt as if I was doing the business all by myself, even though I was very well supported by family and friends. It’s a certain type of loneliness that I hadn’t experienced before – one that I often felt comforted through by my cat Betsy. I know that sounds strange, but her constant, quiet, undemanding companionship was something I needed.
Both times I was diagnosed during October and so when that month rolls around, I celebrate the fact that I am still here, Betsy gets a special treat (she’s 20 now and, like me, still chasing her plastic balls around the living room) … and my thoughts go to others who may have just heard the news we all dread but never expect.
Jane Bissell is a writer and life writing workshop facilitator living in Auckland.
Visit her website to find out more.