Hello! Following on from previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2) here are some more reasons why I'm thankful I was diagnosed with cancer.
6. I've discovered that one person (me) can make a difference
And on a bigger scale than I thought possible. Here I'm talking about the times where I have challenged The Sun newspaper on their use of Page 3 models in a breast cancer awareness campaign. I wouldn't have done this if I hadn't been diagnosed with cancer. It started with a blog post written as an open letter to The Sun. I know I keep showing off about this but I've had almost 10,000 hits on that, plus there were articles about it on Buzzfeed and The Debrief. The result was that the No More Page 3 campaign got some more publicity and loads more signatures on their petition (There were over 1,000 new signatures on the petition on the day when No More Page 3 circulated a link to my post!) Since then, I've written more, and had a response (albeit a ridiculous one) from The Sun's Head of PR. The No More Page 3 campaign is incredibly powerful - just this last week three major retailers (Tesco, Waitrose and Marks and Spencers) have decided to change their displays of The Sun to keep them out of the sight of children. I feel incredibly proud that I was able to contribute a bit to this campaign, because I think it is so, so important. And all I did was write a few blog posts. That's all I did. So it makes me wonder, what could I do in the future, when I'm not also dealing with the bullshit that is chemotherapy? I want to do more, I want to make a difference, and now I believe I could. So I'm going to.
7. I bounce back a bit quicker
I'm very sensitive. I know this because everyone tells me I'm too sensitive. I also know this because I'm so familiar with feeling hurt and feeling stupid. And it doesn't take much. If I think that you've thought for just a second that I'm being annoying or stupid then I'm going to feel upset about it. ("You" being almost anyone, but the more I care about you the more upset I get.) I'm not sure at the moment where I stand on this, whether I think I need to toughen up or whether I think sorrynotsorry, this is who I am (probably somewhere in between the two). BUT, either way, since being diagnosed with cancer I think I bounce back from the hurt a bit quicker. This is partly because of how valuable time is to me now and I don't want to spend it being sad, and partly because people are being so nice to me just now (which, thinking about it, is because I've got cancer haha!) and that cheers me up. Anyway... I think I'm moving in a positive direction.
8. I'm writing
A couple of weeks after being diagnosed with cancer I started writing about it here. I loved writing when I was younger and thought I was ok at it. I'm not sure what happened exactly but it's been a long, long time since I've done any real writing and I'd come round to thinking I was rubbish at it (for example, a few years ago in some feedback for an appraisal at work, someone said my writing skills "are good, although not outstanding". I was gutted.) I think this is now the 49th blog post I've written since being diagnosed with cancer so I've written a lot. And I love it. As I've said before, it's incredibly cathartic, taking all that stuff out my head and dumping it here instead. But also.... people have been really nice about my writing. I mean, really, really nice. I'm going to get a big head! This includes my friends who are obviously obliged to be nice to me regardless, but it also includes people who don't know me at all (and it also includes the person who had said my writing was good but not outstanding - the compliments I had from that person had me bouncing off the walls I was so happy!) So I think I would like to write more. Not just on this blog. But, in my future, I would like to write more, and I think maybe I could, and I think maybe I will. I didn't think that was a possibility for me before all this. So, thank you cancer.
9. I get to reduce my risk of cancer
Yes I know. I've already got cancer. But I'm a genetic mutant and I KNEW that, however until I had cancer, I couldn't convince the experts of my mutant status. Because of the family history they still considered me high risk for breast and ovarian cancer, but not enough to have any preventive surgery or screening until I was at least 40. So, before I had cancer, I was at risk of cancer and I was terrified, and nothing was being done about it. In my family, cancer has been aggressive, and a death sentence. I got lucky this time - my cancer is not aggressive. I should be ok. And now, while the experts don't (yet) know what gene fault I have inherited, they've relocated my file to the "Oh Shit, Definitely a Genetic Mutant" folder, and I get to have the preventive surgery. This has a HUGE impact on the risk of me getting another breast cancer, or ovarian cancer in the future. The "population risk" (ie the risk with no genetic fault) for women in the UK of getting breast cancer is around 12-13%. After surgery, mine will be around 5%. And by having my ovaries removed, my risk of ovarian cancer will be pretty much zero. So while I will need to live with the risk of recurrence of the cancer I have now, at least:
1. Hopefully that won't happen because I am lucky to have a slow growing, non aggressive cancer that has been caught early.
2. I will be monitored very, very closely from now on.
3. I won't be at risk of ovarian cancer which is dangerous because it tends to be diagnosed late.
4. I will have very significantly reduced risk (to a lower risk than the average woman) of a new breast cancer (and one which is more aggressive and more likely to kill me than the one I have now).