Stories of Cancer
Giving Voice to Real Experiences

Welcome

This site has been put together for people living with a diagnosis of cancer – at whatever stage in their journey – in the hope that it will offer comfort and a sense of recognition. Cancer can be an isolating condition and an isolating journey. Ultimately we go through it alone, however well supported we might be.

My hope is that the site will be useful and interesting to read, and that it will also encourage people to write about their experiences.

When I was diagnosed I wanted to be with other people in the same situation and to read books and stories of other people’s experiences. I found it difficult to find books that were about ordinary people’s thoughts and feelings. Plenty of stories of ‘cancer heroes’ running marathons or winning the Tour de France. Plenty to admire in those books, but not quite what I was looking for. The title of John Diamond’s book spoke to me: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too, but when I read it, it was only partly what I wanted.

As time went on I realised I wanted to read of other people’s deepest fears and their real struggles, without too much emphasis on the light and joy coming from the “gift of cancer”. [A friend said “If cancer is a gift, can I have the receipt please? I’d like my money back”] Ironically, cancer has ended up being something of a gift for me as, now, writing six years after diagnosis, without recurrence, my life has changed, for the better. Cancer has helped me to rethink my priorities, and now I have worked through (some of) the associated emotions I am learning to live a healthier, happier and more balanced life.

Who I am

I am a fifty-something year old woman – a woman who worked hard and played hard before cancer got me. I was running a successful business, with a small team of like minded people, own house, own car, doing well on the material and surface levels. Underneath I was, I now know, running too fast and taking on board too much stress.

When I got cancer it affected my life in a major way and I wanted to write about it in the hope it would be helpful to others. For the time being I’ve decided to remain anonymous; this site isn’t about me, it’s about the impact cancer has on us. I also want to encourage contributors to the site who may wish to be anonymous, to be honest about the medical help they got, to be critical when necessary and to do this without fear of upsetting their medical teams. Tell your Story

My pseudonym is Patience. I didn’t choose this because I’m a patient person – the opposite in fact – but because patience is a quality I had to learn in order to cope as an NHS patient. It’s only recently that I’ve connected the word patient with the quality of patience. As patients we are expected (expect ourselves) to be even-tempered, grateful and on our best behaviour, even though we are frightened, angry and ill.

Alone and Together
Cancer can be a lonely place to live. The island of illness isolates us. At a practical level we have to spend more time at home. In my case I stopped work (initially for a year) and my life became immediately quieter. We are alone and yet we still need the love and support of others. We are all different and our cancers are all different. Someone said there are around 200 different sorts of cancer.

Our reaction to the news of diagnosis will vary. We have different treatment regimes and are different in our responses to the same treatments. Finding others in the same situation can be difficult, especially if we have a rare cancer, and finding the support we need can sometimes feel impossible. Essentially, we are each alone in our individuality.

Yet we are all facing similar psychological, emotional and social issues:

  • the shock and trauma of diagnosis
  • coping with debility and limitations (often caused more by treatment than by the cancer)
  • financial and employment concerns
  • managing our medical care
  • coping with lack of control over our bodies and our health
  • coming face to face with our own mortality.

The Nature of this Site
Of course, over the years I did find books that helped me a lot. I also found myself writing my own story, based on my diaries and emails written at the time, and these now form the start of this site. I hope that others will send their stories for inclusion and that together we can build a body of knowledge about the realities of having cancer, and its emotional, psychological and spiritual challenges.

I hope this site will be helpful for people living with a cancer diagnosis. I also hope that it will be of interest to medics who, it seems, don’t get much feedback from their patients. I want the site to describe the impact that cancer has on those diagnosed, but also on those working with people with cancer. I think they don’t really have time to spend gathering feedback about the services they provide, so I’m hoping this will be an easy and accessible way for them to hear about what it’s like on the other side of the chemotherapy drip.

I think it will also be of value for anyone working therapeutically with people living with a cancer diagnosis – counsellors and psychotherapists as well as complementary practitioners.