Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer

A message about cancer


For most of my life, I thought that cancer was something that happened to other people. In my ignorance I had no idea about what would be appropriate for someone newly diagnosed with the disease. I offer these thoughts in the hope that they will be seen as constructive. From my experience of more than three years living with metastatic (secondary) breast cancer, many of us in the cancer community share my concerns. You are welcome to pass this message on to others if you feel it may be helpful to them.

1. What's that in my inbox? Maybe one day someone has sent you an email message about cancer, asking you to forward it to all your friends. Please could you consider leaving me off the list. The messages have good intentions, to raise awareness - but I am already all too aware. Many people with cancer do support cancer charities anyway, perhaps by direct financial giving or volunteering in a charity shop. (It's often recommended to make a habit of NOT forwarding "chain" emails anyway - they clog up people's inboxes and can overload ISP servers.)

2. Pink or other cancer-themed products. When you give these to me, it is kindly meant but it leaves me in a difficult situation. I may wear a pin badge or buy merchandise supporting my hospital or a charity, but that is my choice. Do buy the products for yourselves or for healthy friends and family members, but someone about to start chemotherapy would probably prefer a standard pampering gift rather than a pink ribbon T-shirt or mobile phone charm. If you are not sure, please ask! - some items would be much appreciated and, of course, would benefit the charity too.

3. The future. Thankfully, these days most types of cancer can be cured if they are treated early enough. But breast cancer is unusual in that it can recur 20 or more years after the original diagnosis. So if someone has had breast cancer, try to avoid the words "all clear" even if they apparently had successful treatment. Wish them many happy years of continuing good health. For those such as myself whose cancer has spread beyond the breast there is no cure. We will be on treatment for the remainder of our life, however long or short that will be (cancer in the bones can sometimes be controlled for many years, but if the liver, lungs or brain are affected the outlook is not so good). We want to enjoy the normal activities and the good things in our lives, and to maintain loving relationships with family and friends.

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for all your support for me. If I have unintentionally offended you or if I could have said things in a different or more tactful manner, please tell me soon.