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My Cancer treatment

Tips for surviving social self isolation from a cancer thriver

I've been seeing so many posts about people freaking out about having to socially self isolate, and I'm sure people have lots of valid reasons to be scared, but for a lot of us on here with cancer, isolating ourselves from society isn't a new thing.

So, if you find yourself having to socially isolate, here are a few things, that won't break the bank, and that got me through a lot of months during chemo;

- Read. Read widely and indiscriminately. Read things that challenge you, read trash,  read about history and deep space and wild love affairs and real lives.

- Binge watch something. May I, if you've not already seen them, suggest iZombie, Schitts Creek, Community, Santa Clarita Diet.....

-  Clear out your wardrobes. And drawers. And shoes. Make charity shop or clothes swap piles for when you're able to mingle with society again.

-  Take yourself out into the wild and walk. Find somewhere open, where you're unlikely to meet many people, because self isolating doesn't mean you can't leave your house!

-  Organise your holiday photos. Don't tell me you've not had this on a mentalto do list for ever.

-  Take an online course. Loads of people offer free short courses, and I'm seeing a bunch of people moving conferences online and offering them free.

-  Start tidying up your garden. It's the right time and to be doing it and it gets you outside too.

-  Shop the house for things you can move about to redecorate with.

-  Work your way through your crafting supplies. I don't believe you don't have them. (Maybe some self isolating will be the thing that gets me silversmithing again rather than running about doing everything but creating?)

-  And stay in touch with people. Text. Video chat. Call. Email. I think it'll be easier if lots of people are having to self isolate because hopefully we'll be aware that people are on their own.

I won't lie, chemo was a very lonely time (outside a few friends), but if more people are experiencing this sort of world, I'm hoping everyone will help each other out with regards to staying in touch a bit more.

The sadness in saying goodbye to friends. Regularly.

Right now I'm sad. I'm sad and I'm angry. I'm sick and tired of my friends dying and the world not giving a shit.

Metastatic breast cancer is the biggest killer of women under 50 and people I know, personally and through social media, are dying - week in week out - of it.

But they aren't famous. They aren't influencers. So it feels like no-one cares.

No-one starts a petition, or a hashtag, or a movement, when these women die. No-one will when I die.

Women who are doing every single thing possible to stay alive. Taking every drug they're told to. Being positive. Living their lives to the fullest.


It's hard to be positive about a long life and a cure and beating the 5 year odds when people are dying all around you.

And it'd be easy for someone on the outside of cancer to ask why I'm still making friends with people with a MBC diagnosis if it's so heartbreaking when they die, but think for a second about what that means......because having cancer is incredibly lonely. Even your closest friends on the outside of cancer can't begin to understand what it's like. And now, just think about the most stressful situation in your life, and think about it if you didn't have any friends who understood what you're going through.

So those of us, young or old, with metastatic breast cancer cling together in a common solidarity of understanding how it feels to be dying, slowly, too soon. Getting angrier and angrier, as our friends die around us. Wondering when, not if, it's going to be our time, but also hoping for a miracle before that moment comes!

And then people wonder why I'm sad and angry and unabled to forget I have incurable cancer.

Why I can be happy for you, but sad for me at the same time

Over the last year I've watched friends flourish in ways I know that my life won’t be doing, and I wanted to just talk for a little moment about how hard this is for someone living with incurable cancer. Not so that they stop celebrating, or that people feel sorry for me, but more so that people understand when I retreat from certain situations – I am not being rude, I am just protecting myself.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve watched friends buy beautiful new houses and get amazing promotions or start fantastic new jobs or build themselves epic businesses or change careers. I’ve seen friends get pregnant and get married and celebrate big life achievements, or big birthdays.

But, let’s face it, barring a lottery win, there is not going to be a upgrading house move in our future, not with me working part-time – and working part time realistically puts a stop on job promotions or a career change. Just the fact that my current job pays my health insurance and has sick pay* would make it a crazy decision to move from my current role. And well there will be no babies - cancer has seen to it that babies are just something that aren’t in our future and has to be come to terms with.

And, don’t get me wrong, I have been so, so happy for them, I have celebrated with them to the best of my abilities and I love them for moving their lives forwards - but it’s also been really painful at times to watch people do all these things because I know so that so many of these events are ones that I won't get to celebrate in my life. I can't help but be jealous and have a tinge of regret too. Which makes me withdraw from situations, and then I worry that people don’t think I am happy for them.

It's just a really strange situation that I never anticipated being in, and I am still figuring out. And I know I won't be the only one. 

I just want to say to everyone I know, please don't stop telling me your awesome news, just know why I might have to take myself out of certain situations, or drink my weight in beer....... 

*which I am incredibly grateful for and I know I am so lucky to have so please don’t bother me with telling me how privileged I am. I know I am more fortunate than some, but I also have incurable cancer so, lets face it, I am not winning any luck competitions.

The Hierarchy of a Cancer Patient

Well, this might be a little controversial, but I don’t think I’m going to be saying anything that isn’t true. It’s something I have and still experience regularly in the cancer world - especially when dealing with the press and national brands 

It seems that there is a check list that gets run through when they are looking for people to feature. 

I assume this is so the myth of what a cancer patient looks like can be carried on, but I can't totally say......

So lets take a look at the hierarchy of the cancer world as seen through the press calls I received l for BCAM. 

First, lets start with the type of cancer you have.

Obviously, during BCAM you hear the story over and over again, that having breast cancer means it's the ‘good’ cancer. You know, the one they can do lots for. I heard a lot about the ‘good cancer’ when I was first diagnosed. Because everyone knows breast cancer is the best one to get. It’s the one you don’t die from, right? It’s the one they can cure. Sure it is!

And then when I got my metastatic diagnosis I heard something similar – ‘at least it’s only in your bones’. Yup. At least the cancer I have, that has spread and is now incurable is only in one of the places that it can go to kill me. Yup, still super lucky

And do not get me started on the people with or after a primary cancer who have told me that ‘at least I don’t have to live with the fear of my cancer coming back’. Because living in fear of your cancer returning – which, granted I only had 8 months of, is worse than living with the knowledge it has and is trying to kill you!!

Then there’s the issue of your hair.

Now, any self-respecting cancer patient will know that unless your hair fell out during chemo, you didn’t really ‘suffer’. 

Or that’s what is portrayed to us in the media. I know I've never had to brave the shave so I don't quite know what it's like to be bald. But take a minute to recognise that those of us who cold capped suffered just as much. We had to sit with that ice pack on our head  AND then we've had to deal with the crappy regrowth afterwards. So far I have had 2 full blown party in the back mullets in my lifetime, and neither were given to me by Toni and Guy in the 2000's.

And don't get me started on the drugs that don't make you lose your hair that so many of my friends are on. How do they equate in the "bald is beautiful" world that has been created?

But so many of the emails asked for a photo of you with no hair..........

And, if it's breast cancer - your boobs

It seems the like the best way to make people aware about breast cancer is to ask you to get your tits out. Because it's a tricky situation, figuring out which bit of the body breast cancer affects. Or so it would seem that the national press thinks, given the amount of emails that go out asking for people who are willing to supply a page 3 style shot. 

Which leads me to believe if you get your tits out, you definitely rank further up the hierarchy when looking to get your story out there. Especially if there are scars to get out too.

I wonder when bowel cancer, or lung cancer, or brain cancer patients will be asked to get their affected areas out?

A London-centric address

Yes, we all know that nothing happens outside of London, and if you can't get to London by 4pm tomorrow for the photoshoot, you're no use to anyone! 

And now, lets chat about a legacy........

Yup, there is nothing the press like more than to talk about how sad it is that someone with cancer has children. As if it those of us without children don't quite make the grade on their sadness scale. Lets ignore the infertility we're facing. lets ignore the fact that we have full lives without children. Lets ignore that our cancer is still affecting those around us to a crazy degree. 

So, yes, I know, this isn't ALWAYS the norm in the press, but if you'd have seen some of the emails I've had over the last few years, you'd be amazed or horrified. One, last year, by a major international fashion designer sent out a casting call for people with 1. A mastectomy. 2. A bald head. 3. Visible scars.......... which all just perpetuates the myth around what a real cancer patient looks like - right? 

But all this explains why, of all the press opportunities I've received of late, I've only taken part in one of them!