Whilst 2020 has been a terrible year for everyone thanks to COVID-19, cancer has continued impact the lives of so many people. Which means that it’s been more important that ever to provide support and advice for those going through breast cancer treatment and those who are finishing treatment and moving forward. And thanks to all my amazing contributors, over the course of 2020 tickingoffbreastcancer.com has shared a lot of valuable advice, support and encouragement for those impacted by breast cancer. In case you missed any of it, here is a recap…
Let’s start with the impact of COVID-19 upon the lives of people going through cancer treatment: Joh wrote an excellent comparison of the parallels between cancer and coronavirus; Miranda wrote a great blog about the impact of lockdown on living with secondary breast cancer and Abigail wrote one about accessing treatment during the lockdown. Sadly, Abigail died in October. Abigail was a great supporter of and participant of the tickingoffbreastcancer.com community and I was devastated to learn of her death. My thoughts and love go to her parents and her sister.
I absolutely love collaborating with people within the cancer community. And some of my favourite people are the team behind Ancora.ai. We spent quite a few weeks planning and putting together content for a focus week on patient access to clinical trials. Thanks to Ancora’s expert knowledge, there is now a huge amount of helpful information up on tickingoffbreastcancer.com about clinical trials and accessing clinical trials. This includes:
Secondary breast cancer
Back in September, I decided to bite the bullet and deal with a difficult topic: secondary breast cancer. I wanted to raise awareness for people who’ve had primary breast cancer, about the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer and generally bring them some information about life with secondary breast cancer. After a shout-out on social media I was inundated with offers to write content and get involved. This led to an amazing week of content from so many amazing women.
Liz and Leanne helped me put together the basic introduction to secondary breast cancer for women who have, or have had primary breast cancer and a list of suggested questions for primary breast cancer patients to ask your oncologist. Ancora kindly got involved with the focus week and provided some excellent advice on finding trials for secondary breast cancer. And with some research and tips from the social media community, I created a list of support resources for anyone diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.
However, the highlights of the week were the amazing personal accounts of those who’ve been diagnosed with, and who are living with, secondary breast cancer:
- Nic wrote about the point at which she was diagnosed;
- Flori told us about life with regular treatment and the “I can” mentality that she’s had to develop;
- Clare, a CBT therapist, wrote about how she’s used CBT in relation to her own secondary breast cancer diagnosis and she gave some simple helpful tips to incorporate into daily life;
- Miranda shared four key issues relating to life with secondary breast cancer – identity, honesty, reframe and not rushing;
- Kate wrote about being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer; and
- Jo Taylor of ABC Diagnosis participated in a Q&A about living with secondary cancer whilst also being an incredibly focused patient advocate.
In addition to posting all of this fantastic content on the website, I also did a a few live sessions on Instagram talking about the support and resources available for people diagnosed with secondary breast breast cancer. This included a Q&A with Lisa, the amazing founder of Make Seconds Count; a live chat about the importance of raising awareness of this topic, and chatting to Nic and Laura (aka the Secondary Sisters) about living with secondary breast cancer in their thirties. You can view these over on IGTV on Instagram.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer
I’ve posted a few personal accounts about the point of diagnosis. Abigail wrote about being diagnosed with breast cancer whilst still breast feeding. Kendra wrote about how she and her sister were diagnosed with different types of cancer within 24 hours of each other and the impact of this on their family. Hannah wrote about being diagnosed at the age of 25 while her friends were getting engaged, married and having babies.
Going through treatment
This year I’ve posted plenty of guest blogs about going through breast cancer treatment. Jenny in Australia wrote about going through breast cancer as she reached her one year anniversary. Jo wrote about going through treatment and the impact that it had on her family and marriage. Harriet wrote about how writing became a therapy for her during/after her treatment. Sarah wrote about how cancer had a positive impact on her friendships. Jackie wrote about how exercise helped her through treatment. And I was delighted to post an article from one of the wonderful Breast Cancer Now clinical nurses on how the Breast Cancer Now helpline can help people going through breast cancer.
Navigating life after treatment has been a popular topic for guest bloggers and readers alike. These wonderful personal accounts have included: Emma’s blog about coping with that difficult point between finishing treatment and trying to regain some normality in life; Joh’s blog on dealing with the cancer aftershock; Anne’s account of coming to terms with what she went through; Lisa’s blog about developing PTSD following her diagnosis; and Tina’s blog post about rebuilding her life after breast cancer.
Alongside posting personal accounts on life after treatment, I’ve been delighted to post expert advice on dealing with this part of recovery. To start with, the wonderful cancer confidence coach, Allie Morgan, started her series of blog posts for us with 1) a blog on how to rebuild your confidence after cancer and 2) a blog about how to talk to people about having cancer.(There’s more to come from Allie next year). And I was so pleased to post Jo Evans’ expert blog on dealing with the impact of breast cancer on your sex life. This topic is always difficult to address, so it’s been great to be able to share such an informative guest blog. Alongside this, Lisa shared her personal account of how breast cancer impacted her libido and how she deal with this.
Male breast cancer
Reminding us that men get breast cancer too, Rod wrote a fantastic guest blog about what it’s like to be a man going through breast cancer.
Food and nutrition articles are always really popular and this year I was delighted that Ryan Rylie of the Life Kitchen shared one of his fabulous recipes from his new book: cauliflower korma. I always enjoy working with the fantastic Jane Clarke and her team at Nourish – Jane kindly shared her expert advice for eating during chemo. Then, later in the year Victoria Nelson, a registered dietician, wrote a guest blog giving her expert evidence-based nutrition advice concerning some of the well known breast cancer diet myths like can you eat soya? what about dairy? And more.
Why people do what they do within the cancer community
One of the things that I really like about running this website is the opportunity to meet people who devote a significant amount of their time to helping people with cancer. These are the people who volunteer, retrain in a new career, start businesses, set up charities and non-profits and raise awareness. I’m always really happy to share guest blogs from these people and this year I’ve posted a number of such blogs: the wonderful Charlotte wrote about setting up Drain Dollies (those fabulous little bags for carrying around you post-surgery drains). As parents of little children, Nic and Jen set up the amazing Little C Club this year and they wrote a blog post all about why they did this. Claire wrote about why she came to be a cancer counsellor and the sorts of things she does for cancer patients. Emma, who was only diagnosed with breast cancer last December, set up Pink Parcels, delivering goody boxes to cancer patients at her hospital and she wrote all about why she did this and how it helps her fellow cancer patients. The fabulous Helen Addis (aka the Titty Gritty) participated in a Q&A about why raising awareness with her change and check campaign is so important to her. Emma wrote about why raising awareness is so important to her following her own run-in with breast cancer. And Lee shared her story about setting up tooktake, a labelling system to help patients remember to take their medication.
Research projects and studies
Along with connecting with people who’ve had breast cancer, charities, support resources and experts in their fields, I often hear from people who are working on research studies and projects about breast cancer and who’d like to share their projects on tickingoffbreastcancer.com. An example of this is Laura, who is doing a clinical psychology doctorate at Kings College London, who wrote a guest blog about research into anxiety and resilience after breast cancer and her work on the Frame Project with Dr Collette Hirsch.
Lymphoedema is a common side effect of breast cancer treatment and we’ve been lucky enough to have a guest blog from renowned experts about the causes and possible treatments: Oxford Lymphoedema Practice.
Support groups and resources
I’m always really pleased to share guest blogs from support groups and resources about how they can help breast cancer patients. This year I’ve shared posts from the brilliant Wigwam cancer support organisation and from the fabulous OWise App about the great work that they both do.
For friends and family
Tickingoffbreastcancer.com is not only for cancer patients, it’s also for friends and family who want to help. Two specific guest blogs for friends and family that I’ve posted this year are: 1) what not to say to a cancer patient by Laura, and 2) tips for people for when their colleague returns to work after cancer by Rach.
Huge thanks go to everyone who has got involved with tickingoffbreastcancer.com this year. Thanks to the people who’ve shared their personal accounts. Thanks to all the experts who’ve written guest blogs giving brilliant tips – these have all been really well received and provided valuable advice. Thanks to all the researchers, charities and support resources who have written blog posts about their support services and directing patients to places where they can access important support. And thanks to everyone who has supported my guest bloggers by reading, commenting and getting involved in the conversations and for generally supporting the website. There’s a lot more to come in 2021…