Monday 29 August 2016

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Stronger

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Why is the word stronger highlighted? Because, 'stronger' is an obscure word, ambiguous and highly context dependent. To break down in the face of traumatic experiences is normal - if we lose a loved one, if we are diagnosed with cancer, yes, we become depressed and distraught. This is a normal reaction. So do these reactions then mean we are not strong?
How can we define strength in such circumstances?

Resilience is the way by which we rise rising from the point of breaking down. Resilience is not about being tough and numb, and avoidant. The first step to practicing resilience is acceptance and embracement, and to accept means to show flexibility in how we decide to engage with the trauma. This is the opposite of avoiding and turning away. Strength is the flexibility by which we engage with trauma, learn from it, and choose to be resilient.

We discovered that this is an incredibly hard practice, because it is so much easier to avoid, ignore, and inhibit and bury the source of trauma because we fear it may define us, limit us, and belittle us, hold us back and ultimately make us a victim to it.


Thursday 25 August 2016

My view of life through cancer-tinted glasses ~ Caroline

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As any person who has ever had cancer will tell you, once you hear that fateful diagnosis, your life is forever torn in two - life BC and life AC. There is no going back.  They say cancer changes you, but what if you didn't know who you were BC?  I know what the name on my birth certificate says, but who is Caroline and what makes me different from everyone else?

I am a daughter, sister, wife, mummy, runner, triathlete, vet, cancer patient, vegetarian, but those are all things attributed to me rather than me per se.  Maybe I should be grateful that cancer has given me a greater degree of self-awareness than I ever would have found on my own.  Without a doubt I have a different outlook on life than I did BC, my values have changed and as I search for meaning and a sense of purpose I find myself looking inward.

As I do so I look at all my relationships and what they mean to me. I finally understand that change has to come from within, and in doing so accept that certain relationships are probably never going to change.  That acceptance brings me a sense of peace that has been a long time coming.

I am the master of my own fate.

Cancer is now part of who I am. There is no escaping it, especially since my last appointment where I was told the family history clinic would follow me for the rest of my life. There will be no returning to the way things were, no end to the appointments.  The mention of the family history clinic brings a renewed concern about the genes I've landed my children with, and thoughts about when I should broach the subject with them.  Not yet, they're too little, let them enjoy a worry free childhood for a few more years, as long as I remain NED (which stands for no evidence of disease, a delightful phrase uttered by oncologists who will never declare me cancer free.)

I read something the other day that described the first year post cancer treatment as the 'tofu year.' This made me laugh as I have stopped eating meat and dairy products, and do enjoy a smoked tofu salad or an iced soy latte. I am not so keen on green tea, and as I believe you have to drink 7 cups a day for its cancer reducing properties to have any effect, trying to force 1 cup down my throat every now and then seems a bit pointless.

I will never know why I got cancer. Yes it runs in my family, but that still doesn't explain why me instead of my sister or my cousins. But equally why not me? I have no idea if changing my diet will reduce the risk of my cancer returning, but I have read several books and scientific studies that point towards a western lifestyle as being a contributory factor to the huge rise in levels of certain cancers over recent years. I do feel healthier, and more importantly I feel like I am doing something - the doctors have done their bit, now it's my turn.  I am no saint though. I still enjoy a glass of wine as much as the next person, and will never give up my morning coffee.

When I was first diagnosed and going through treatment I never questioned why. I told myself that it was all down to bad luck, and that I didn't have the energy to answer the unanswerable.  I now know that I was quite naive to think that I would be OK with that as time went on. I have spent the past year asking myself that question in so many different ways. I have searched my soul, dug through my past, meditated on it, and finally am back at square one being unable to answer it, but I have reached a level of acceptance that I could never have achieved without having done the work.

I also think I'm OK with the idea of a recurrence, but of course I'll never really know unless it happens. I don't know why I'm so convinced that it's only a matter of time before the bast*rd comes back, but at the moment that's where I'm at.  Maybe as more milestones pass by, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, I'll have more faith in my body's ability to stay healthy.

Meanwhile I shall continue to search for answers to my many questions, in the knowledge that cancer has given me increased clarity about who I am.  Cancer itself hasn't changed me, but it has given me the impetus required to make long overdue changes.

In other news, do you like my new cycling socks?

Wednesday 24 August 2016

A Deadly Inheritance - Leaning To Live With Hereditary Breast Cancer ~ Tamsin ~ HuffPost Blog

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"It’s March 2011. “I’m sorry, you have a BRCA1 mutation,” says the Genetics Consultant. I’m not expecting this news."
We're so proud to share Tamsin's recently published post for HuffPost UK where she talks about how she's learned to live with her hereditary breast cancer.
We're especially thrilled because up until April 2016, Tamsin had only ever written a piece for the YWBC blog. With encouragement and support, she's developed her technical expertise to blog and the confidence to find her voice. We hope that Tamsin's experience will inspire anyone who might be reading this post wondering whether they could write.
Please do contact Vicky, Tamsin or Naz if you would like to submit a post. We'd love to hear from you! xxxxx
Submissions can be emailed to:
The blog address is:

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Are We Ever Really 'Cancer Free'? ~ Amanda

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Getting fed up by my mood swings. Why don't I talk about it anymore they ask, because I'm really fed up with the topic of cancer I say. It feels like everyone has cancer or has had cancer or knows someone who has. Friends dying and friends relatives too. I really try not to be negative about it and I don't want to be a bore, but it's very hard trying to stay positive. So I'm up and down like a yo-yo!

There are survivors out there who really do walk on sunshine for the rest of their days, run marathons and savour each day. I really do try to walk on sunshine most days. But there are days I feel that I have somehow failed for not being all inspirational.

I don’t know if I have cancer cells hiding, waiting to mass again. But I'm a healthy vegetarian and I manage short walks to keep active, within my current pain levels.  All I know is that I am holding steady in a state called "No Evidence of Disease".

I have been told that everything looks great on all my blood work, and my tumour marker is low. But I immediately began to punish myself for everything I’ve done wrong as a survivor, including not eating a clean, sugar-free diet, not doing triathlons, and not being super positive at all times. Even though I know all of that is no guarantee that my cancer won’t come back.

I've had a few scans and “No evidence of disease,” my Oncologist said!  I live a pretty great life, and should be on top of the world!

Death stalks us all, that’s the nature. Maybe survivors are just a bit more aware of it. I cope with short walks. I cope with making fun out of my Franken-tits!  I cope by actively redirecting my thoughts, or so I think, or am I just in plain denial. If I don’t cope and just feel sorry for myself, I just go under and hit the depths of depression and anxiety I'm trying to avoid.

Still, it’s good to complain about being a survivor. I can complain and I will complain! And then, having done so, I will shrug and say, but seriously, it could be worse.

Positive thinking got me through Cancer and I aim to make it get me through life.

Originally posted on Amanda’s own blog on 20th June 2016: