Guest blog: 7 things I have learnt from my cancer diagnosis
by Alejandra Solis, the Honest Cancer Mum
Diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with bone metastasis, February 2018. I am the mummy of two gorgeous kids, 8 and 5, and wife to a lovely husband. I write a blog honestcancermum.blogspot.com and share on most social media channels.
1.After the initial shock, life carries on
When I got diagnosed and heard the doctor say the words ‘you’ve got stage 4 breast cancer’ the world stood still, every horrible scenario went through my mind. I cried non-stop. But after a while I realised that actually life carries on, this is non-optional, it just does. I am a firm believer that the problem is never the problem, your attitude toward the problem is. I chose to be naively positive.
I took some time off to let it all sink in, be angry, cry etc… Then practical things needed organising: childcare, house work, kids need feeding, clothes need washing, house work needs to be done. In a way it’s exhausting but it also brings normality to your new life. Kids are amazing at keeping you going.
2.The cancer guilt is always there, especially when you are a mum
Kids have a funny sense of humour and a completely different way of seeing things. We decided to be straight with our kids. We told them what was going on. My 8 years old got it, and was sad and anxious but my 4 year old didn’t really get it and just said: “just rest mummy, you’ll be better soon”, which is what I say to her.
We have tried to keep life as normal for them, but kids are cleaver and they sense things. We are very open about it (not about the bone mets, this is too much to take on but about everything else). After all, it is our new normal, we are in for the long run and unfortunately, they are part of it.
My family is the reason to keep going. Being a good mummy and wife whilst my heart was breaking has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
3.Cancer is a party pooper
Every milestone is a bitter sweet moment. When you are a planner like me, it’s hard to know your long-term plans might have to be rushed a little bit.
We, as a couple have plans, and it’s scary and sad to know I might not be here. I really hope I am, but you just never know. So, we plan to live every day as best as we can.
The kids are the worst triggers. My little girl talks about her wedding and having babies etc, and I just hope I get to see the day. My eldest wants to be an artist and live in a treehouse with his best friend… I wonder what type of jobs they will have, what will they look like, will they be ok? Will my cancer affect them growing up? If and when I die, will they cope? Will my husband be ok? Oh it’s horrible, the uncertainty of a life sentence, for a crime I did not commit, just bad bad luck!
4.Being creative is a sword of two very sharp edges
2018 was a horrible year, especially if you have a big imagination like me, it’s hard to control your mind and stop it going to dark places.
I have planned my funeral, kind of. I know what I want, I have updated my will, I have spoken to my husband about it all. He was not impressed. It’s not something I am planning to do soon, and I am hopefully that oncology will eventually find a cure for it all, but if not… it will be a very nice big pink firework that spells ‘CIAO’.
5.You become THE cancer person
Even though I look the same and feel well, people do treat me differently. They ask ‘how are you?” with a different tone, they look at me like I am a wounded puppy.
I am very lucky to have a great support network. I can’t imagine going through everything without them. They been a shoulder to cry on or to laugh with hysterically. They have cooked, dragged me out the house, they even made me join the gym. It’s amazing what happens when women support each other. Raising kids takes a village, my village has been the best village ever, and I will be forever grateful for have amazing and family and friends.
6.You bring mortality to the people around you
Some friends have taken my diagnosis quite hard, some actually stopped talking to me for a while or tried to avoid me at the playground. One of them came forward after a while, and said she just couldn’t handle my diagnosis – she was gutted for me, but it also scared her. She said that if it happened to me, it could happen to her, or anyone at such a young age.
It’s true, before my diagnosis I felt invincible, I felt like my long life was guaranteed and I never ever though that the safe feeling would be taken away from me in a single 20 min appointment.
7.You become an expert in oncology
Since my diagnosis, I have read every article, every research published, every forum post, I joined Facebook groups, I talked to anybody that would listen, doctors, oncologists, nurses, other patients, I have contacted Oxford and other universities who are researching cancer, trying to find a cure, I have offered my diagnosis and to an extent my body to help them help me.
But at the end, my life is in the hands of my amazing oncologist, Dr M, who I trust and believe he has my back, literally! Finding an oncologist that gets you is important. Clicking is important. I know we will never be BFFs and go for drinks, mainly because he is possibly not allowed to, but I needed my oncologist to see me as a person, not a number. Placing my life in his expert hands is ok, although I like to be in control and I like understanding the decisions being made. And I like to think of myself as part of the team… after all, it’s my body, my life.