In order to prevent deaths from cancer it is imperative that we raise awareness of the disease, which is why we’ve poured through some of the most insightful and informative blogs from cancer patients on the site.
Without further ado, here are 10 things that people with cancer want you to know.
1. Being told you have incurable cancer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end
Stevie Gill was diagnosed with ovarian cancer one year after being given the all-clear from bowel cancer.
She wrote in a blog post: “The cancer had spread to both ovaries and my peritoneum – I was told that at this stage it was treatable but not curable. Luckily my mum was there with me, but we both broke down.
“To be told you have incurable cancer at the age of 30 is a dreadful shock; my immediate thought was that I was going to die.”
But it wasn’t the end for Gill, who underwent treatment and has continued to stay strong, despite being told her cancer has spread to her womb, rectum, large bowel, small bowel and pelvis.
She continued: “2015 has been a year of highs and lows. There have been some really dark times, so much so that I didn’t know if I could carry on, but my friends and family have got me through it.
“There were also some happy times like my brother getting married in August – I was so happy that I was there.
“I now have a new job and some amazing things to look forward to in 2016. Cancer will not get the better of me.”
2. Exercise can help you take back your life, during and after treatment
Jackie Scully believes that the day she put on her trainers and went for a jog was the day she took control of her cancer diagnosis.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a cold April day in 2014 and my then-injured dad joined me as I plodded along a muddy country lane with very little energy – and even less hair!
“Cancer had, by that point, taken my dignity, right breast, tummy fat, hair and taste buds.
“But, on that day, I took something back. Running showed me that I could be stronger than the disease trying to take my life away. And, by taking just a few steps in the right direction, I had the power to change that life for the better.”
3. Cancer can take your fertility, but it cannot (and should not) take your relationship
Sammy Orchard was diagnosed with womb cancer in 2015, which left her requiring a hysterectomy.
Being left unable to have children was devastating for Orchard. But, with the help of professional counseling and support from her husband, she has been able to struggle through.
“It’s very much the loss of our ability to conceive that I am still finding harder to come to terms with, rather than the cancer itself,” she wrote in a blog post.
“I have a wonderfully supportive husband, family and group of friends… I know I am very blessed, and I feel a great deal of shame to not be thankful for the things I have in my life that I should be grateful for, but I am still struggling to be at peace with the loss of being able to carry a child, or being able to give my husband I have been with for 14 years a baby.
“Things are still tough and we are receiving clinical psychology sessions from the Bristol Royal Infirmary which we are grateful for. At present it feels as though life is at a standstill, things are still sinking in.
“I have just returned to work on a phased return, and am taking things slowly. It has been good to have some routine back, and my workplace has been fantastic and has provided great support.
“My husband and I have recently moved house and are putting our focus and energy into making it a home. Right now we are spending some time getting to know the pre-cancer, pre-fertility ‘us’ again, with the hope of looking at alternative ways to start our family in the near future.”
4. Losing your breasts to cancer doesn’t make you any less of a woman
“It’s not made me less of a woman with no boobs,” said Gill Roberts, who had a mastectomy. “I’ve not regretted it for a day. I am confident and sexy and wear lovely clothes. And my partner, Ian, and I are closer than ever – we are getting married in August!”
Sarah Cretch also had a mastectomy, without reconstruction. She wrote in a blog post on HuffPost UK: “A year on and I know I made the right choice for me. My boyfriend still loves me, I have been able to return to full time work, go on holiday and live a ‘normal’ life.”
5. Knowing you are going to survive is the best news you’ll ever hear
Alison Guttridge was diagnosed with bowel cancer after noticing that she regularly bled after going to the toilet.
She said: “Nothing can compare the feelings of shock and complete sadness on hearing you have cancer. Other emotions like anger and ‘why me’ are inevitable, you try to push them to the back of your mind but with each new day they come crushing back once again.
“The only saving grace was the support from family and friends and my own unending ability to conquer this disease within me. I knew I had to stay focused and positive which paid off when I was finally told: ‘We can cure you’.
“I cannot express how liberating it was to hear those words, even after being told I would receive a permanent colostomy and every part of my rectum removed, to know I was going to survive was the best news I’ve ever had.”
6. Speaking out about your struggles will help
“Sometimes it’s just easier to say stuff out loud to someone who has been there. To someone who knows how it feels. To someone you don’t have to be strong for. To someone you don’t have to worry about,” wrote Claira Hermet in a blog on HuffPost UK.
“I want everyone to know that if you ever face this situation or any other like it, it’s ok to seek out counsel in someone else who has been there. It is AMAZING to talk. It’s ok to think, wonder and worry about how you will feel about your body after the process is over and how the changes will impact your future.
“From my experience it’s hugely helpful to reach out and talk to other people because you realise that the fears you have are normal, you realise from others that the fears disperse with time and that you can learn to love you body maybe more that you ever have before.”
7. If you know, deep down, that something is wrong with your body, get it checked
Ellie Philpotts’ mantra is: “If in doubt, check it out.”
“It’s probably not cancer, but sadly it is getting more common. Persistence is key – my symptoms could’ve been longer dismissed as glandular fever if I hadn’t returned to the doctors.”
Similarly Emily King-Dutton believes doctors could’ve caught her cancer earlier if doctors had listened to her.
“It was a whole year before I was diagnosed and I think that if the doctors I saw had listened to me and taken my symptoms a bit more seriously that it would have been caught sooner,” she said.
“I was about 11 when I started to get really bad stomach pains and aches – I always seemed to be ill. From what I can remember (I’m 17 now) I went with my mum to the GPs surgery at least once a month for about a year to try and find out what was wrong.”
Eventually doctors realised she had a tumour on her kidney.
“I went straight on to chemotherapy treatment which was horrible,” she recalled. “Then I had an operation to have the tumour (and half the kidney) removed. But after that they did tests and found it had spread further, which was really frightening, and I had to have my whole kidney removed.”
Amanda Adams added that the biggest lesson she learned during her cancer journey was that “early diagnosis is key”.
“It’s important to know your own body, trust your instincts and take action when you know that something isn’t quite right,” she said.
8. Cancer can improve your life (in some ways)
“You won’t think it at first,” wrote Ellie Philpotts in a blog post, “but cancer can improve your life.”
“I may have lost hair, a ‘normal’ teenage experience (if anything can ever be classified as normal!) and a total peace of mind regarding health, but I gained opportunities; inspiration; friends; experiences and confidence.”
9. It’s not you, it’s cancer
When Amanda Adams starting losing friends shortly after her cancer diagnosis, it hit her hard.
“I lost many friendships in the months that followed and it was a very dark time,” she wrote in a blog post on HuffPost UK.
“People around me didn’t know what to say or how to act, and many avoided me altogether.
“Despite feeling hurt at the time, on reflection I realise that it was not me and my cancer that pushed people away, but the fact that they too were scared, frightened and unable to comprehend the enormity of it all.”
10. Losing your hair doesn’t mean you’re losing control
Laura Regan wrote: “As a cancer patient, particularly as a female, losing your hair has to be one of the most emotionally challenging things to deal with.
“It doesn’t matter how tough you are, nothing can prepare you for the horrible feeling of putting on your shampoo in the shower, and removing a whole handful of hair. It was at this point that everything really hit home for me.”
She continued: “There is no sugar-coating it – losing your hair is a hard thing to go through, as I always knew it would be. That is why I tried to approach my hair loss in the most positive way possible. I knew that I couldn’t fight my hair falling out, so I had to take control of the situation as best as I could.
“I decided I would do that by making sure that I got most of the hair removed myself. Leukemia now controls most of my life, but here, I would make the decisions.
“It began with the haircut. It was only roughly two weeks after my diagnosis, but I was determined to get my hair chopped whilst I still had the chance. When I told the hairdresser in the hospital that I wanted to get a pixie cut, she looked at me like I had gone mad.
“As my hair continued to fall out, I knew I had to make a difficult choice: I decided to get the rest shaved off. Whilst this was a difficult decision for me, it was a liberating one too. Once again I had taken control of the situation.
“My hair may have fallen out, but at least it had happened on my watch.”
The Huffington Post UK | By Natasha Hinde
February 4, 2016