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. (Read part 1 here.) In this instalment, Anne records the start of her chemo treatment…

September 15 2011 – The day after

Actually, it’s the day after the day after, but who’s counting? Tuesday saw the first of my chemo rounds. It’s a strange combination of the mundane and the horrific.

They have me sitting in a dentist-type chair, opposite another row of people in dentist-type chairs, all of us looking a bit like the fat people in WALL-E, who no longer have the muscle power to walk.

Lovely nurses plug me into hugely toxic chemicals. Volunteers and orderlies offer me magazines, cups of tea and sandwiches, repeating my name many, many times, I assume to check that I am getting the right hugely toxic chemicals.

My wonderful friend, A, is there the whole time, while RMD (husband) drops by with non-NHS coffee.

No pain, although the nurse does run through an alarming list of “things to look out for”, while doling out grim looking drugs to help deal with said “things to look out for.”

So, in general, a thumbs up to Barts.

The only blip was a completely incredible woman who sat opposite us. She was accompanying her thin, ill-looking friend who was receiving chemo, but who said nothing the whole time.

On the other hand, our incredible woman, who had gone blind in one eye on Monday (“I was seeing six Ant and Decs”) insisted on talking at a massive volume to anyone and everyone about her own relationship to cancer. Mostly, this consisted of a long list of people she knew who’ve had cancer of all kinds, who’ve suffered in most of the hospitals around London, and been let down by services the length and breadth of the capital. This was before she got on to her sister, who had been married nine times to nine men who “all died.” It wasn’t clear whether they all died from cancer or other, non-specific ailments.

Turns out, this kind of general, bleak moaning is NOT what’s useful to hear while screwed into the chemicals. It’s annoying and depressing, and, while I’m not a particular fan of thinking positively, this ranting to an audience of people who have no choice but to listen did not seem fair.

I was cross for a while, and wondered about asking a nurse if she could do anything, but then thought about all the support and help I have received since this kicked off; from family, from old friends and some new ones, from the hospital, from people I’m paying and from volunteers from cancer organisations, from work, and even from my great hairdresser. If I didn’t have all these people maybe I’d be talking to anyone and everyone in the middle of a chemo ward.

Best not to judge.



Part 3 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.