Once more with the cancer

It has been just over a year since the oncologist told me

That I had seven months to live if I had no treatment. She

was an angry little woman – outraged at my flat refusal to

consider chemotherapy. I expect her career is based on

the limited offerings of the medical profession so it is

threatening when somebody disagrees with her offerings.

She had previously told me that my stage four cancer is

inoperable and that it had spread to my hip – or is it my

pelvis? I have concentrated on the tumour on my lung

when I talk to my cancer.

I have had treatments of course. Cranio Sacral therapy,

Shiatsu and some homeopathy. I practise Tai Chi and

Yoga in a slightly desultory manner & have recently begun

Physiotherapy – poor old tumour scarcely has time to

grow – and it hasn’t! I have changed my diet a lot and

have been rewarded with the loss of a couple of stone,

well lost and I can wear clothes that I had despaired of

getting into and buttons tend not to strain any more.

I also talk to my tumour kindly and with love, it is NOT

my enemy, it is a group of wayward cells that have the

capacity to get well or stay as they are. It is nobody’s

fault that it has arrived to change my life. I met a woman

at the Penny Brohn centre who has kept in touch and

given me Shiatsu regularly and I agree with her that the

advent of cancer had not been totally negative. This

statement can cause outrage when I speak to some

cancer patients and their loved ones. In fact in the last

year I have ‘lost’ three people to cancer, a fact of much

sadness and a great friend of mine died last year after

four weeks of her diagnosis an excellent woman who I

admired for her bravery.

So I do know that I am fortunate in being diagnosed in

time and having an excellent oncologist now, one who had

the patience to allow me to choose my own course of action,

though initially she was dubious. Now she is delighted to report

no change. I see her once every three months. I am also

fortunate in being able to afford complementary treatments.

Though there are free treatments via the MacMillan centres

or local cancer help centres. And the brilliant Penny Brohn

centre is free with an option to donate. I will always be

grateful for going there for a short course and for meeting

my Shiatsu genius there (no guarantees of meeting one of

these paragons!)

One of the gripes I have with the NHS is that these options

are not offered widely when diagnoses is made. It is as

though the medical profession want to have a monopoly

on cancer. More likely they are too busy treating cancer

the best way they can.

Being a cancer bore pales into insignificance compared with

the shock horror of well meaning friends who treat me as if

I may be on my way out at any moment or tell me that I am

being ‘brave’. I am not; I am being my usual self preserving

self. I could do nothing else. But since cancer I have become

more appreciative of my surroundings and I have also realised that time is of more value to me – a new thought this – that I need all my energy to keep on an even keel emotionally and I

can’t afford to be stressed. So no more towering rages and

more peace. This has meant that I have altered some of my relationships, but gently - I hope.

7 Replies

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  • Flooziefoster, thankyou so much for your posting. I am sure we are in very different places with our cancer (age, progress of cancer etc), but I love your attitude. I love that you talk to your tumour, maybe I will do that also. You have enriched my day.

    I love your statements:

    "the advent of cancer has not been totally negative". I have acknowledged this in my own mind, and also to two consultants, but I am wary of explaining this when confronted by "shock horror of well meaning friends" that you refer to. I just try and change the subject as soon as possible.

    Still, maybe the result of this online conversation will be that I will be stronger when talking to others about cancer and my attitude. Yes, it will, so thanks for that also! Meanwhile And I treasure the peace of mind I have most days, these are the good days, they are precious jewels.

    A brief explanation of my situation and my attitude to it:

    I am 70, I live alone and with no family around me, in a city-centre flat and I am living with breast cancer. My attitude is based largely on being 70, having lived a busy but generally quite hard life, and wanting the best day-to-day quality of life possible during the time I have left - 6 months - 2 years - more? (I am sure that if I were young or in my middle years, my attitude would be very different.)

    Five years ago I had a lump removed + radiotherapy and tamoxifen. There have been no physical side effects linked to this but of course there was all the internal emotional turmoil of coming to terms with the diagnosis and a high level of anxiety which lasted for two years. But the third year after the operation was good. I had dropped all my personal and work related commitments and loved the fact that on a day-to-day level my life was much more enjoyable than it had been for decades.

    Two years ago a small lump was found on the other breast. I reluctantly had it removed - it was a different kind of cancer, I was told. Before this second lumpectomy I began to explore palliative care approaches, but I did not get any support in this from the consultant or the (otherwise very supportive) breast nurses.

    I was expected to follow this second lumpectomy with chemo and radiotherapy but I chose not to. The operation, unlike the first one, had left me in discomfort and some pain for a month afterwards, I was about to turn 70 and I was prepared to take a "wait and see" approach. I understood that further cancer, including secondaries, was likely to develop.

    So now I have had two good years of good health, good quality of life and wellbeing. During this time a lump began to grow on the same site over a period of about 9 months. A month or so ago I decided it might need some treatment or at least some attention.

    Using the NHS only I have been seen by a GP, a consulltant surgeon, a radiographer (for a scan) and an oncologist and started every time by telling them I only wanted palliative care. I have also researched current medical thinking about a palliative care approach. I expected to face battles with them, surprise, surprise but they have all been very kind and shown great understanding. I think maybe I have shown my colours by doing nothing about the growing lump for a year or more. Unexpectedly, my chest and abdomen scan showed no secondary tumours - I had resigned myself to this prospect. I have no fear of dying, but in my dreams I want it to be as quick and as non-medicated as possible - my final ambition is to have a good death - which I may or may not achieve.

    Even so, my oncologist has gently sweet-talked me into the prospect of chemo before surgery saying it is urgent, but he has also said that I can change my mind at any time (I am thinking about it and reading about it). Additionally and overlapping this process a consultant surgeon has given me a date for further discussion and a date for surgery - so which way to turn? Right now I am thinking yes, have the lump removed as I did 2 years ago and then decide what to do.

    I hope this explains why I can identify with your attitude and your statements. As for complementary care, two years ago the breast nurses told me that this was available (massage, acupuncture and support groups I think) on the NHS. However, this time round, the breast nurses and their support are noticeable by their absence. As you say about your first oncologist, there is a very negative attitude in some medics that they are there to do the job as they see it, and if patients say no - well, this could lead to the professionals at worst being out of a job, and it is likely also to challenge the basic principles that underpin their work.

    I have found support in two places - this is not advertising - I have no vested interests in the following.

    Firstly Dr Phil Hammond (witty and entertaining - NHS doctor, journalist, campaigner and comedian) - I recently attended a very thought-provoking but also entertaining talk he gave where he was constructively critical about aspects of medical practices - very relevant to me were his thoughts about the possibly questionable value of very invasive and high-tech procedures carried out on ageing patients. Chemo for instance? See his book "Staying Alive".

    Secondly - I love the four television series (I have the box set, and I am not a box set person) about a woman living in suburban America in her forties (with teenage son, husband, career) diagnosed with terminal cancer: "The Big C". It is beautifully acted, it is touching, perceptive and covers every aspect of emotion and practical experiences involved in the cancer experience, from first diagnosis to her (beautiful, touching and, yes, at times funny) death. However, it has the same hard-hitting black humour as "Mash" - if you like Mash you will like this. I can only say it made me laugh a lot while making me feel strangely supported by an American television series! It is mostly about her everyday life and her cancer journey although the box set says it contains "Very strong language, strong sex and drug references" - only very occasionally, I would add.

    I know this is a long message which I would like to cut, but really, I need to say all this somewhere. I hope it resonates with any others who might choose to question some of the cancer treatment they are confronted with. We need to support each other!

    Thankyou again, FloozieFoster. Be well.

  • Do read Radical Remission by Kelly A Turner PhD a wonderful book that someone on this site recommended when I

    wrote my first post on here. It is very helpful indeed. The message is to care for yourself in every possible way among other

    things.Listen to yourself & follow your own instincts. It describes a number of people's

    experiences of radical cures from cancer.

    But the most important message is to LOVE yourself including the tumour - which is after all part of your body that has become ill - & is NOT your enemy. I think of it as an errant child that can be guided back to health given love. There are

    many people all over the world who have succeeded in becoming well - in fact it is time that I read it again.. I have changed my diet quite a lot & have lost 2 stone in weight I will write more some time soon & meanwhile be kind to yourself. cheers Mo

    PS I am a bit older than you are

  • Thankyou for this, Flooziefoster. I have looked at websites about Radical Remission. It looks interesting.

    I agree, "the most important message is to LOVE yourself including the tumour". I can do this quite easily, even if other stuff is difficult. And yes, maybe for the first time in my adult life I am being kind to myself! - so most times (except when facing the health professionals) I am at peace. Hope you and other readers are too.

  • Keep up the treating your illness with love. Your positive and interesting attitude is a joy to read.

    I have had cancer.....(so far it;s not returned) and I have the thought that while I was scared and experienced the stress, and anxiety ....the journey was a kind of gift or lesson.......I'm still learning

    Sending you healing thoughts

    Love

    jean

    xxx

  • Thank you... very useful post .... I'm aghast sometimes by what people say .... and agree wholeheartedly that life is better when you stay calm and focus on healing.... but so much easier said than done.

  • Thank you so much for leaving the above posts as I am now going to go to sleep smiling. The dialogue is intelligent and funny and I love the comment about the desultory Way of approaching Yoda! Please forgive me if I have grossly misquoted you there but I am currently affected by some Oramorph! Not so much however that my appreciation of the dialogue has made me want to reply. I had a diagnosis of Endometrial cancer earlier this yearand had very radical surgery that included pelvic lymph node removed en block that has led to bilateral lymphoedema that extends to just above my tummy button! Regarding the cancer I changed my diet to an alkaline primarily juicing diet and from my biopsy to the histology after the operation it had reduced about two grades. I obviously don't know and we'll never know whether it was the change of diet, pure chance, or talking to my tumour. My attitude was very stoic and I decided not to waste energy fighting and to be accepting whilst at the same time encouraging the tumour to shrink. I am A qualified hypnotherapist of some 10 years or so so maybe that helped but I really don't think that I said I didn't think that anybody without any training would have done. I am 55 single and live alone so I'm finding things quite lonely at the moment for several reasons. Reading your posts however have made me feel more connected. Again, thank you

    Amanda

  • How lovely to get a reply like this, thanks so much! I am fortunate that I have no pain or symptoms though I have arthritis which is a pain. I really dislike this 'fight the cancer' attitude it is part of my body that has become

    unwell & it is still part of me & in my opinion is open the persuasion - as I tell it 'if I go you go & I am sure you would be far happier if you put your energy into getting well!' ( so shape up) I mutter sotto voce...I know there is no guarantee that this will work but meanwhile I carry on writing & living my life as I always have & though I get lonely sometimes I have a good life so if I do die I won't have spent my valuable time obsessing about cancer & being thoroughly miserable... I am 78 & I suppose this helps in the sense

    that I am no stripling & have had a good innings! We must talk again it cheers me to talk to like minded people. Cheers Mo

    There are other cancer blogs on mo-foster.co.uk

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