We have now entered September which is a really busy “awareness month.” I have my own personal crusade which is #BloodCancer, plus #GynaecologicalCancer, and a very special one for me is also #ChildhoodCancer, I’m sure there are many others too! My work is not tumour specific so I am involved in most cancers in one way or another and initially I never really understood the Awareness Months, but now I do. Cancer dominates our lives and we tend to be hearing about it more frequently. There are numerous charities for most common tumour types and it is an opportunity for them to focus on a common goal, and get the public to concentrate on their cause and issues. Personally speaking I think this way of working should be done all year but that is a blog for another day!
The politics of cancer has always intrigued me, as I naively thought that naturally everyone would be working together towards a common goal, but how wrong was I? There is so much wonderful work being done by some of the smaller organisations that struggle to benefit from cooperation and publicity by some of the larger ones. My personal experience has shown me that no matter how many people say lovely things about people’s work, most find some imaginative excuses why they can’t share it. This includes many who are constantly requesting me to share theirs!
Several years ago Kaz (founder of Womb Cancer Support UK) and I ‘found’ each other on social media. We immediately understood each others work and had much in common, including cancer changing our entire lives. Kaz discovered there was very little information or awareness happening around womb cancer, so she decided to do something about it and her support work began. This group is a very active group and is an incredible resource about information and support for other ladies affected by this particular cancer. I am in awe of this lady’s incredible passion and energy for the cause, and also shocked to find that there is no official charity for this cancer. The work that Kaz does with her team is self funded and relies heavily on goodwill and volunteers. To this day I fail to understand why one of the larger organisations in this area cannot find a way of working with these ladies.
To tie in with raising awareness of womb and gynaecological cancers I invited Kaz to share some of her personal thoughts about cancer, which you can find below.
“We live in a society that seems obsessed with labels; and I don’t just mean the ones on our clothes or the cars we drive. We like to label ourselves too. Whether it be our job title or a label that describes how we look or how we dress or what music we like. But when it comes to something like cancer – what label we use to describe ourselves and others can often have a more emotional effect on us that the usual superficial ones we use daily. Once we step into the world of being diagnosed with cancer, labels become an important part of who we are and how we are seen and treated by others.
You become a cancer patient; sometimes you feel just like the number on your medical records. Let’s face it, you have to repeat your date of birth enough times that it sometimes feels like everyone in the hospital should know when your Birthday is!! Family and friends support you; wrap you in cotton wool; try and make this part of the journey as easy as possible for you. Then when treatment is over you become a cancer survivor – you beat cancer, got through treatment and survived it all. People around you, those same family and close friends expect you to move on and get on with your life. It’s gone, right?
Then comes the day you finally get the all clear – who are you then? Many cancer patients find it hard to go back to who they were before cancer entered their life. There is no doubt that cancer changes us as individual people but it also changes how others see us. Some of us become much stronger emotionally and psychologically whereas others find it hard to adjust and withdraw to become a shadow of their pre cancer self. Those who had to give up jobs they loved often find it hard to re-adjust not only to the drop in income but also the status and lifestyle that came with that job.
Marriages and relationships end or are strained beyond repair yet others become so much stronger as adversity makes us appreciate each other so much more. Long term friendships disappear although often new friendships are formed that can last for many years. Finding a new place for ourselves that we feel comfortable with can take some time but eventually most of us settle into our new life after cancer. Very often it’s quite different to the one we had before and we see things with a fresh perspective. It’s often then that we realise that a label isn’t really that important after all!”
I would like to thank Kaz for sharing her personal thoughts and for all the incredible work that she and her team do. Without these incredibly selfless people the cancer support landscape would look a whole lot different. But we need to encourage this sort of work, in a sector that has very limited resource, not view it with suspicion! Big is not always best in cancer, particularly in the area of support.