Anne Shewring was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. At the time she wrote about her treatment and her life in a blog called ‘Anne is Keeping Busy’.
In a special new series for Live Better With, Anne looks back at that time and shares her thoughts and experiences once again…
Introduction: Why was I keeping busy?
In July 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 45. My son was 11 and about to transfer to secondary school.
In 1996, my sister, then 33, had died of breast cancer. I had been part of a family-screening programme as a result and the cancer was picked up in my routine, annual mammogram. Still, the diagnosis was a huge shock and I didn’t cope with anything resembling dignity.
I barely ate for two weeks and shouted at poor hospital administration people if they needed to move appointments. I could only think about dying.
But then, as those of you who have been through this know, I developed a dreadful, grim routine. The panic was still there, as was the dread, but it became about the long haul, about finding a way to make time pass.
This was nothing to do with being brave, or any of that nonsense. It was just about how to avoid losing my mind.
My treatment – a lumpectomy, followed by six rounds of FEC, and then, because I am a BRACA1 gene carrier, a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction at the same time from my stomach – was over by February, 2012. I was treated by the Barts and the London Hospital, who I don’t think put a foot wrong – massive shout out to them.
Still, treatment is one thing; being over something is a bit different. That process goes on.
While I was being treated, people kept telling me to keep busy. In some ways, this was fatuous advice, as if keeping busy would make all the bad stuff go away. On the other hand, what else was I going to do? So that’s what this blog was about, the busy-ness and the lovely people who helped me.
Two more things.
Firstly, reading these entries back is a bit anxious making; no one is ever completely free from this. However, it also made me think that even in the last seven years, things have come a long way in how we talk about this stuff. Look at the amazing You, Me and the Big C podcast.
Still, I hope there is something here that rings a bell for anyone going through cancer treatment. I really hope so.
Secondly, perhaps a warning. I live in Central London so I have a lot of great free stuff on my doorstep. I also live really close to lots of my friends, and I am lucky enough to be able to afford cups of coffee and the odd lunch out. I know this isn’t the case for everyone so the practice of keeping busy might be much harder. Plus, although my treatment was grim, I could still get up in the morning and – mostly – enjoy a slice of cake.
I know everyone’s circumstances are different. This is just how it was for me.
Part 2 of Anne is Keeping Busy will appear on the Live Better With blog soon. If you would like to talk about any of the issues raised in Anne’s cancer diary, why not share your thoughts and experiences with the Live Better With cancer community.