Half way there!

I’m 34 years old and I have secondary breast cancer which has spread to my spine, ribs and hips (along with several other places). Until recently I was taking the drug Palbociclib but now my cancer is waking up again. As a result I’m on Exemestane and Everolimus. I was also prescribed 3 weeks of radiotherapy for my right breast. I’m now halfway through the radiotherapy, so this blog is about how I’ve been getting on.

Don’t tell the patient!

So when I heard I would be getting radiotherapy I was nervous but curious. I wanted to know what would happen. My oncologist (who I am starting to genuinely distrust) told me it would hurt. When asked what the benefits were she told me it would hopefully slow down the cancer. She was rather annoyed I had refused to agree to IV chemotherapy so wasn’t feeling chatty. Apparently wanting to maintain a decent quality of life for as long as possible is “not helpful”. Personally I’m not sure I’ll do chemo. I’m certainly not jumping treatments to start it! But she referred me for a planning CT scan and sent me away with a smile and kind word so I don’t think she is too angry 🤞. I was promised answers at the scan though about radiotherapy. I like answers!

So the day came for my planning CT scan. I sat down with the nurse to be told I wouldn’t be told anything that day as they didn’t want to “overwhelm” me by telling me the details. When pressed she said a big machine would deliver the radiotherapy. I then asked about side effects several times and I was told to buy a moisturiser without SLS. They promised I’d get all the answers on my first day of radiotherapy treatment. Eventually I was offered a link to some e-learning on life after treatment and survivorship post cancer. When I pointed out that I have stage 4 and won’t survive my cancer they looked awkward and offered me a parking pass for the duration of radiotherapy. In other words all I knew was buy moisturiser and prepare for a “big” machine 🙄. Strangely enough I didn’t feel prepared!

I then went in for a CT scan where they lined me up on the table in the same position I would be in for radiotherapy. I had my photo taken so they could make sure they were giving the right person radiotherapy. My photo was awful! They then started drawing crosses on my chest and sides – not a great time to be ticklish! 😂 I then had the planning scan which was fine. It was actually nice to have a scan without stressing about getting my results back! Then came the bad news. I had to get tattoos. Not cool tattoos either. I now have 3 very small black dots on my chest so that I can be lined up properly under the machine during radiotherapy. I was then given a list of radiotherapy appointments and ushered out of the door with a reminder to avoid SLS in my moisturiser. My first appointment was in 8 days time.

Cancer Twitter is awesome

Needless to say I was feeling rather overwhelmed by the lack of information I had. In fact I was terrified. So I turned to Twitter. As always the incredible people of cancer Twitter leapt to the rescue. I was sent tips, information about side effects and even videos of how it all worked. Panic over. I was ready for 1 May 👍

Erm can you come back tomorrow?

On 1 May I was ready and actually quite enthusiastic about starting treatment. En route to the hospital I saw I had a missed call from an 0300 number so I phoned back to get disastrous news.

After my scan, they designed a treatment plan for me. This would make sure my cancer got zapped as much as possible and my healthy bits would be avoided if possible. However, the plan wasn’t finished 😭. I was asked to come back the next day and hopefully they would be ready to begin. To put it mildly I was upset. They didn’t apologise, they just told me to come in the next day when I would get a briefing and start radiotherapy – they hoped.

Have you read my notes?

May 2nd dawned and I went to the hospital feeling more and more optimistic as my phone didn’t ring. I was called by a radiotherapy nurse and stood up to be told my plan was finished – they just needed to find the oncologist to approve and sign it 🙄

Once they did that I finally got my briefing on what to expect from radiotherapy. I got a hilariously generic sheet of paper with advice about side effects of radiotherapy on any part of the body for anyone. As a woman I’m not sure I need to worry about erectile dysfunction – at least not my own 😂. I was asked about what I preferred to be called. I was asked if I’d had surgery on my breast – at that point I got nervous. Surely they should know that? I was given new appointment times and faced the usual confusion when I said that I still work full time. Why does that always confuse people?

Then the radiotherapy started. I was asked to remove my top and bra and to lie down on a metal table. I was moved into the right position with lots of soup and ants being mentioned! Apparently it’s all about the angles! At first I thought they were calling me fat! 😂 (I’m paranoid) Then the lights flash on and off while a siren rings out. That is the signal for the staff to leave the room so I can get zapped. For what it’s worth, the radiotherapy machine really is big!

For radiotherapy on the breast you have to lie down with your arms above your head. This is surprisingly painful after a while. But basically you lie there while a very big machine moves around you and a silent invisible beam zaps you. At my unit they play music for you. A few days ago they were playing the Footloose soundtrack which is not helpful when you are trying to stay as still as possible! 💃

The radiotherapy team are lovely but they don’t appear to be told much about their patients. I’ve constantly had to remind them I have bone mets ☹. At one point they accidentally bashed my back against the table and I was in agony all day 😭. They also grabbed me by the ribs to move me. Ouch! The other challenge has been male staff being in the room. I have to admit that I felt really uncomfortable the first time it happened as my husband is the only man I’ve let see me naked before! Now I’m used to it I just walk in and pull my top off! 😂

8 down and 7 to go

Today was a great day. I reached treatment 8 of 15! Only 7 more doses to go 👍

In terms of side effects I do feel a little tired. Unfortunately the Everolimus is battering my immune system fairly hard which isn’t helping. Exercise seems to be helping though. Overall my skin is coping ok. I have one very sore point where the cancer had actually reached the skin and they are really targeting that area with the radiotherapy. As a result it is raw and very sore. But the radiotherapy staff are doing a brilliant job of monitoring it and giving me special dressings for the area. The rest of the breast I’m drowning in moisturiser and it looks and feels great.

Overall radiotherapy is proving hard but doable so far. I am however aware that the side effects will get worse before they get better so I’ll see what happens 🤞

The one thing I do know is that even if I’m asked I won’t be ringing the end of treatment bell in the unit. As a stage 4 patient I hate seeing it every day, let alone ringing it.

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What a season

One thing that regular readers of this blog might not realise is that I love AFC Rushden and Diamonds. They are a football team from my home county of Northamptonshire. The senior mens team finished their season on Saturday with a brilliant 9th place finish in their first season at that level. I was there cheering them on, just as I have been at many games this season and since their formation in 2011.

💎💎💎

So why does this season make me happy?

Simple – I lived for the whole season! I was given six months at most to live when I was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in November 2017 aged just 33. I didn’t expect to live long enough to see us get promoted last season, let alone see all of the 2018 – 2019 season. I’ve gotten another season of great football and exciting games. Even the defeats have been mostly enjoyable, simply because me, my husband and my walking stick made it! As a bonus some of junior teams at the club have had a brilliant year, especially our ever growing setup for girls.

I’ve had great support from the club as I deal with my more limited mobility due to the cancer. They arranged for me to be able to park directly outside the ground which is very helpful. There are accessible entrances to the ground and even into the club house. My cancer has spread to my spine, both hips, 7 ribs, my pelvis and left leg. In the future as I get worse I’ll probably need to use a mobility scooter to get around. I am very confident that will be possible at Rushden. If there are issues I know that the volunteers who run our club will do what they can to help. For that I am incredibly grateful to Rushden. Football isn’t the only love of my life, but it is definitely one of the things I want to live for to keep watching as long as I can.

💎💎💎

So why does this season make me sad?

Answer – there are two main reasons.

At every game there is a little part of me that worries if I’ll ever make it to another game. One day my cancer will kill me. I just don’t know when. I keep hoping I can delay it for as long as possible, but I’m already a year over the expiry date I was given. Unfortunately there is only one certainty with stage 4 breast cancer at the moment and that is death. Timings are to be decided!

This season has also made me dread my ability to attend away games in the future. With a few very noble exceptions the accessibility at many grounds is a joke. I will probably be in a mobility vehicle at some point. I really don’t know how many away games I’ll be able to attend when that happens. I know money is tight in non league football but many of these issues are simple to fix – even at old grounds. On a selfish note I would argue that complying with the law and making these businesses accessible is far more important than some of the ground improvements requested by the league this season.

Some of the issues I have come across at away grounds as a mobility impaired female football fan aged 34 this season are:

  • No step free access to the ground at multiple clubs. A drop kerb or ramp really isn’t that difficult to buy.
  • No option for wheelchair users to sit with friends at multiple clubs. At one club we saw a disabled man having to sit over 10 metres away from his friends. They all looked really upset about it.
  • Hardly any clubs have step free access to the club house. Even if they do they aren’t signposted so you have to find a steward and ask. Steps can sometimes be very painful for me. One steward at an away ground just told me to stop whining when asked for help. Another steward told me I couldn’t be disabled as I wasn’t in a wheelchair. Another one accused me of being dumb for not knowing. But he did tell me the answer, even as he laughed. It turns out the “obvious” accessible entrance was on the far side of the building and labelled deliveries. Silly me for not guessing! Now I don’t ask for fear of the answer.
  • One club in pre season had no step free access to the club house. I did ask then. Problem was that ALL the catering facilities were in there. They had a disabled toilet outside. It was inside the gents toilet. Apparently female disabled fans don’t exist 🤔🙄. That club described themselves as disability friendly and highly accessible 😂🤬. At the moment I can handle steps – I’m not sure what I’d do at that highly accessible club in a wheelchair. At least I shouldn’t need the toilets in the gents as I wouldn’t be able to buy food or drink in the club house!
  • At another club I was refused entry for 10 minutes until a second steward arrived to open the accessible gate. The steward on duty refused to open it. No seating was provided to wait on. I had to take painkillers just to watch the game after that.
  • At another ground I decided not to attend as the host club stated they weren’t obliged to offer seats for away fans. If that is true the FA should be ashamed of their regulations. The club stated a very small number would be made available upon request to a steward. Statements like that make me doubt how I would be treated in the ground, especially if the steward refused my request as I don’t “look ill”.
  • Just this weekend I attended a ground that charges more to sit down during games. That meant that as my legally protected disability of cancer prevents me from standing up all game I had to pay extra. There was no disabled discount. It also meant my husband and father had to pay extra to sit with me to keep me company. A great way of directly discriminating against the disabled 😡. I’m so grateful that AFCRD just charge the same for seating and standing.
  • Hardly any clubs post accessibility information online. Even including guidance on disabled parking spaces can massively reduce stress for people like me. If we feel welcomed we attend games and spend money. Money keeps the clubs going. Hence accessibility is good business.

I just want to emphasise that none of these issues occurred at AFCRD!

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Despite all of the issues at away grounds, I am incredibly proud to be a supporter, member and part owner of AFC Rushden and Diamonds. This club means a lot to all fans, myself included. Our club slogan is “one fan, one vote, one community, one club”. It is a message of unity that I think is sometimes lacking in the cancer community, but that’s a different blog which is coming soon.

As always thanks for reading. If you haven’t already done so please check out the Institute of Cancer Research drug access work. I’m supporting The Institute of Cancer Research’s 10-point manifesto calling for change to improve access to innovative new treatments for people with cancer because I want to live long enough to see 30+ games next season as well. Read their report to find out more and please help spread the word: https://www.icr.ac.uk/drugaccess

#DrugAccess on social media

Reflections on a night in the hospital

As many of you will know, I have incurable but currently treatable secondary breast cancer. I’m 34. For the last year I’ve been stable on a combination of Palbociclib and Letrozole to control my cancer. The problem is that while Palbociclib isn’t chemotherapy, it does batter your immune system fairly hard.

On Friday night I had a slightly sore throat. On Saturday I was shivering and boiling at the same time. I was also having really bad muscle cramps. At 9:15pm my temperature was 37.2. By 9.30pm it was 37.4. Now for most people that is normal apparently. I range from 35 to 36.5 as a normal temperature. In other words it was time to ring the chemo helpline. After a flurry of questions they advised that I went to see them. Immediate frantic packing of an overnight bag in case I was kept in followed. Incidentally some very sensible person on a #bccww chat on Twitter had suggested creating an overnight bag for circumstances like this. It was on my to do list! Oops!

My wonderful husband drove me to the oncology unit. First issue was that the doors were locked. Rang the helpline back to be told which side door to wait by. Was let in and taken to a chemo bay while they finished up whatever they were working on. About 20 minutes later I was taken for tests in the main helpline area. Second issue was my temperature. “Oh 37.2 is normal”. Erm not for me it isn’t. After that I had to explain Palbociclib. Nope it’s not chemo. No it is not immunotherapy. Yes I’m sure it’s not chemo 😡. Then the rest of the tests which went ok apart from the dreaded insertion of the needle for the bloods and IV. To be fair the nurse did a great job of keeping a straight face when she asked if it hurt as I screamed at the top of my voice. Turns out putting a needle into the same spot as the PET scan people used the day before is rather painful.

At that point I met the ward doctor. Once I’d explained Palbociclib again we went through why I was there. This was 11pm as I explained it for the 3rd time – once on the phone, once to the nurse and then to him. I mentioned the PET scan the day before. “Your last scan was an MRI in December”. No it wasn’t. I had a PET scan on the Friday. “But it isn’t in your notes, was it a scheduled one?”. Yes it was and it probably wasn’t in my notes as Gloucestershire patients are referred to the Cobalt Unit which then schedules, scans and passes the results (and bill) back to the NHS. As he left to go order more tests including a flu swab he remembered the line “my name is …”. Always good to know! Don’t get me wrong the staff were lovely but I’m a great believer in getting the basics right. To me names are basic.

3 hours later I was cleared of having a serious viral or bacterial infection. I was flu free! My neutrophils were low but apparently I was otherwise ok just feverish and cramping like nad. When asked why I didn’t feel ok they decided to keep me in for the rest of the night for observation and give me IV antibiotics as a precaution. I’m still not sure of what caused me to feel ill, but mystery is fun right?!

So I said goodbye to my husband at 2am and followed the nurse to the ward. I’ve been in nightclubs that were less noisy. Machines were beeping, patients were wailing and others snoring. I seriously need noise cancelling headphones before my next hospital stay. But I got 4 hours sleep! Then the ward day began at 7am! First up checks – where I learned my temperature was down to 36. Celebrations. Far more normal. Then 2 slices of toast for breakfast. Then I got my morning jug of water. You get 2-3 jugs a day and 4 or 5 hot drinks. Other drinks are available from the hospital shop or relatives. Upon asking I find out that my husband is allowed to visit me as they’ve expanded visiting hours. Awesome!

Doctor does his rounds and seems lovely. Tells me I just need to eat lunch and then my prescription of antibiotics should be ready. He then wants to check my breathing so I lean forward as requested. Ouch alert! He starts tapping my back over the ribs. I screech very loudly in pain. He immediately looks worried and asks if that area is tender. Well I have back and rib mets from my cancer. Two of my ribs have literally been eaten, so yeah it’s a bit tender! He restarts and is luckily much gentler. Phew! All clear on the breathing front.

Then I wait for food and antibiotics. Lunch is either corned beef hash or a cream cheese sandwich. Not sure either is that healthy. Turns out the hospital can’t cook food onsite. It’s cooked 10 miles away and reheated on arrival. Yummy!

Husband arrives at the same time as an orderly who wants to take me for a chest x-ray. Query this with nurse who asks the doctor. Apparently the x-ray was ordered the night before but new doctor didn’t think it was necessary. But, I could have one if I wanted! Seeing as I’d had a PET scan less than 48 hours before I didn’t want one! Radioactive Kit is not a happy Kit.

I finally got my antibiotics just before 2pm. 5 times a day for 6 days as a precaution because my neutrophils were low. Lucky me. It’s a good thing they arrived then. The next patient for my bed was due at 14:30! Maximum bed utilisation by the NHS.

In case anyone is wondering which of the highly appetizing meals I chose, the answer is neither. They forgot to order me anything the day before, so no hospital food for Kit! I just went home and had fruit! Every cloud has a silver lining!

Talking of positive things, I love cancer Twitter! I posted at 2am I was in hospital and almost immediately started getting lovely and supportive messages. Thanks everyone 😘

So what is the point of this blog?

  • NHS staff are wonderful but overworked and underpaid.
  • If in doubt ring the helpline.
  • You know your body – if something is wrong don’t let yourself be ignored.
  • Buy noise cancelling headphones.
  • Take short sleeved pyjama tops to hospital. My long sleeved top didn’t exactly work with an IV 😂
  • Hospital food sucks.
  • Cancer Twitter is awesome!
  • I really wish that those wonderful NHS staff would read notes and listen to patients a bit more sometimes.

I’ve now had two days coughing away in bed at home, but feel a lot better. Hopefully I’ll be back at work tomorrow. Daytime tv is awful!

More than just cancer

Today at work we were joking over lunch about what our superhero names would be. The formula we agreed upon was your key attribute followed by your sex.

I have to admit that I was struggling. When my turn came up I wasn’t sure what to say. After all what is the key thing about me?

I’m sad to say my first thought was cancer. For just over 16 months cancer has been a massive part of my life. Then I got angry at myself. Yes I have incurable but currently treatable secondary breast cancer. Yes cancer is taking my life away from me. But I realised I really don’t want it to take over my life. Cancer is stealing my future and my health. I can’t let it have everything. I am so much more than this disease.

For example, I am:

  • A feminist (a fairly radical feminist as it happens and proud of it)
  • A football fan. I love AFC Rushden and Diamonds.
  • An animal lover. Very few things make me happier than visiting animal sanctuaries.
  • Obsessed with politics. I studied International Relations at Aberystwyth University and loved it. I care about what is happening in the world and want the world to be a better place.
  • A wife. I love my husband more than anything in this world. We met when I was 18. Married when I was 22.

So yes cancer is a big thing about me. But it isn’t the only thing about me as I realised today – probably for the first time since my diagnosis. I am me. I’m cool with that.

I know this mini revelation of mine might seem insignificant or stupid, but I’ve been so busy adapting to being a cancer patient that I forgot to just be Kit. I forgot to remember all of the things that make up me. I forgot that there are things cancer can never take from me. Or if it can take them, it should be prepared to work really hard to do so!

To keep hold of me, I intend to try and follow 4 steps.

  1. I aim to Tweet at least one thing a day that isn’t cancer related.
  2. I will aim to do at least 1 fun thing every weekend. Either go to a football game or visit an animal sanctuary.
  3. I will get involved with trying to make the world a better place. Not sure how yet. But I have a voice and need to use it in the time I have.
  4. I will try and be kind to someone every day, to see if I can improve their world just a little, even if just for a minute.

I will aim to stick to these resolutions. But, I will be kind to myself if I can’t for any reason. Life is just too short to do anything else!

Incidentally the superhero name I went with – Stubborn Female 😂💪

They’ve broken me!

Thursday broke me. I love the NHS but for the first time ever I’m going to be making a complaint about my GP surgery. Apologies in advance for a rather long blog.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have incurable but currently treatable secondary breast cancer. Apart from my cancer I also have two relatively serious long term health conditions. As such I’m a regular visitor at my local surgery. Until my cancer diagnosis I was incredibly happy with them. They saved my life a few years ago by finding my thyroid condition. I was singing their praises.

I should explain my GP surgery is spread over 3 different locations around the city. I normally attend the main site. I have a named GP and am listed as a “Gold Standard” patient due to my cancer. I used to love my GP surgery. But over the last year they have broken me mentally and very nearly broken me permanently physically 😢.

My GP told me (and my husband) I would be dead before I turned 34. Well I’m 34 and closing in on 35 so I can forgive them for terrifying me.

I was originally on morphine straight after my cancer diagnosis but was getting sicker and sicker. I couldn’t eat, drink or walk. The GP just kept giving me anti sickness drugs. 6 weeks after diagnosis I was taking 16 pain and anti sickness pills every single day. I was also getting nearly daily anti sickness injections. A great way (not) to spend Christmas. The GP told me it was a natural part of dying and prescribed more drugs. In late December I ended up being taken to hospital by ambulance where I spent a week feeling like I was about to die. It turns out that I was reacting badly to the morphine. After I left hospital I was told I had to stay on the drugs ☹. I would just need more drugs to counter the side effects 🙄😤. Instead I just stopped taking them overnight. Turns out morphine withdrawal sucks 😂. After my GP found out, and had stopped shouting at me, she admitted that there were alternative pain pills which she prescribed me. I now take 3 pain pills a day and have had 4 anti sickness pills in 14 months. Win! Incidentally the GP was possibly right to be annoyed with me, but nobody was listening to me or offering alternatives. I felt like I had no other choice but to stop taking the morphine. This was all horrible to endure, but I didn’t complain. After all they were nice people doing their best and I hate to make a fuss.

I started getting two injections via the nurses at my GP surgery as part of my treatment. Denosumab every month to strengthen my bones. Zoladex every 3 months to shut down my ovaries. My oncology team only had to ask twice before the surgery agreed to give me the injections. I had the first round at the hospital as the surgery had delayed giving me them (they forgot) and I needed the Zoladex to start cancer treatment.

On a personal level the nurses are lovely people. However, they still like to tell me how nasty the injections are. One referred to my oncology team as “torturers”. I put up with it but started getting annoyed. I didn’t want to say anything as I was scared of sounding ungrateful. Plus who wants to upset someone with a huge needle they are planning to stab you with?!

Then I was told I needed extra blood tests for the Denosumab injection. Unless my levels were ok I wouldn’t be allowed the Denosumab. Fair enough! I was advised to get the blood test done by the nurses at the surgery. First blood test went ok. It was a week before the injection and all was happy. Then I got home to a letter a few days later saying my blood test showed some issues and I needed to book a telephone call from the GP surgery which would be in 7 – 10 days. Eek. 1 hour on the phone trying to explain the issues to a receptionist as I didn’t want to delay my injection. They finally agreed I could have a phone call from a GP the next day. I gave them my work number and explained I could only be reached on that number. I left work to 7 missed calls on my mobile 🙄. They then agreed to give me an emergency appointment the next day. In I go feeling terrified to be met by a guilty looking Dr who was staffing the emergency appointments desk. Apparently my blood test showed my neutrophils were low and resembled those of someone on cancer treatment 🙄. FFS! The surgery employee reviewing the tests hadn’t noticed my records are flagged to say I have cancer 🙄😤. The letter had been triggered as they thought I must be ill or on drugs 🤯😡. But I bit my tongue and arranged to have blood tests at the hospital in future.

Then I found out on Twitter that I could have numbing cream to make my Zoladex injections less painful. I wish my GP had told me that. Zoladex is agony in a ridiculously big needle! But I blamed myself for not asking if there was anything available.

On Thursday morning I was preparing for my 8:40 Denosumab injection when my phone rang at 7:40. The nurse wasn’t coming in so they needed to reschedule my appointment. Fair enough, I just hoped it would be a morning appointment as I had an important work meeting in the afternoon. I was given an appointment for a week later at a different surgery branch. I explained I have secondary breast cancer and couldn’t wait a week. After stating it wasn’t her fault, the receptionist eventually found me an emergency appointment that day at a different branch of the surgery. I then had to collect the injection from my normal surgery and take it with me to the new site. I was annoyed but accepting – after all things do go wrong.

Upon arrival at the new surgery I tried to explain I couldn’t wait in the normal waiting room as my immune system sucks. The receptionist just kept telling me to sit down. Eventually I got a word in and was sent to an airless side room. I was not thrilled. Then a lovely nurse came to collect me. She was in charge of urgent care for the day. Apparently she hadn’t given an injection to anyone recently, but not to worry as “it’s just like riding a bike”. She just needed to literally read the instructions. Then find the equipment for the injection. Was I sure I wanted a plaster? Well yeah, my colleagues tend to freak out if I have blood trickling down my arm! Naturally she had to explain Denosumab is a horrible injection to receive. It might be but it beats broken bones!

At that point I broke. I got into work and started crying. So I’m going to make a complaint. I’ve had enough.

It turns out that my GP surgery doesn’t like making it easy to complain. I have to collect a form from the GP surgery. I then have to fill it in by hand and post it via snail mail. They won’t accept online complaints! I last sent a letter – well actually I can’t remember when that was. So I’m also complaining about complaining!

I have secondary breast cancer. My GP surgery should not be one of the most stressful things in my life. I could leave but instead I’m going to fight to fix the system. Not just for me, but for future patients. Besides no other local surgeries are apparently accepting new patients. I don’t want the world, I just want to get life extending treatments when I need them. Preferably without begging. Surely that isn’t asking for too much. Is it?

Feminist and proud

I am a feminist and proud of it. In 2019 that still seems to be a brave thing to say. I want to know why. Sadly I know that some people reading this blog will stop following me over it. Thank you for reading this much. I won’t apologise though for being a feminist.

As a feminist I believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities in life. Nobody should have their fate determined by their sex. Yet there are websites, blogs and countless social media posts dedicated to claiming that feminism is evil, unnecessary and responsible for all sorts of horrible things. Naturally it has even been blamed for causing cancer by a certain newspaper 🙄. Trust me – my incurable but currently treatable secondary breast cancer has NOT been caused by feminism.

So what about the claims that women are equal now? The arguments that feminism won equality and is now arguing for superiority over men? My only response is that women are not equal. Women are still oppressed on the basis of biology and lazy stereotypes. My cancer diagnosis at 33 has flagged up countless examples:

  • “I said you shouldn’t wait to have a child.”
  • “Oh you must be so happy you get to keep your breasts, although they aren’t that big, so I guess you wouldn’t miss them.” (My breasts are literally killing me plus that’s just mean 😡)
  • “Your husband must be struggling now you can’t do the housework.”
  • “Do you feel less womanly now you haven’t got any estrogen?” (I’m still a woman and always will be).
  • “If you’d had a child you might have avoided cancer – I saw it in the newspaper”.
  • Constant assumptions that my oncologist is a man. She isn’t. The main nurse on her team is male though!

These are just a few of the sexist comments I’ve had from women and men. Women are not equal. If you want more evidence check out the Everyday Sexism Project. Or read works by Jess Phillips, Caitlin Moran, Caroline Criado Perez and Laura Bates. Female MPs get death and rape threats online. Women are sacked for being pregnant. Girls are called lesbians for liking sport. The US President boasted about sexually assaulting women. He still won the election. Babies are aborted for being female. 2 British women a week are murdered. All of these stories have been in the news in the last two years. Imagine what we could do if the skills and potential of half the population were properly used. We might even have cured cancer or stopped climate change. If only. That’s why I’m a feminist.

Females and males benefit from equality. For example boys should be allowed to cry without being accused of being girly. Doesn’t that show the problem though? Girl is used as an insult e.g. “You throw like a girl”. Being a girl should be wonderful. Not an insult. What does that “insult” tell children about the value of the females of the species?

Before anyone accuses me of hating men, I really don’t. There are millions of great male feminists. One of them is my husband. His father called him a “girly boy” for discussing feminism 😡. He is still a feminist and proud of it. My male line manager who has been incredible post my diagnosis is a feminist and incredibly supportive of my career progression. He helped me get promoted after my diagnosis and has helped me stay working full time.

Feminism doesn’t cause problems in society. Feminism exposes problems in society. It exists to improve the world for everyone, not just women. In my opinion attacking feminism is just wrong.

In the 17th century people would claim witches (nearly always women) had destroyed families, damaged society, made women unhappy with life and killed babies. They called the women witches and murdered them for defying the rules of society.

In 2019 feminism is accused of causing depression, falling birth rates, rising divorce rates and making women unhappy with life. Science has made it harder to accuse women of witchcraft. Feminism is the new weapon. For those that attack feminists I have only one response. It is a powerful quote I was reminded of tonight reading the incredible book The Burning by Laura Bates:

“We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn”

In other words feminism is here to stay.

Admitting the awkward truth

Last weekend I was asked the question I’ve come to dread – “what’s actually wrong with you?”.

Now that question could be answered many ways – there is a lot about me that tends to annoy people 😂. The answer they were looking for though was the one they least expected. I’m 34 and I look healthy. The only clue to my ill health was the pain pills I was consuming that prompted the question. My answer was that I have incurable stage 4 breast cancer.

This time the reaction was “really?”. To be fair I’ve definitely had worse! At least this person didn’t start crying, hug me, ask what I did wrong or moan about the cruelty of life. They also didn’t accuse me of ruining their day or depressing them. They didn’t tell me to be more positive and believe in miracles. Unfortunately I’ve had all of those reactions in the past and more.

The thing is though that I don’t blame a single one of them for their reactions. I react badly to surprises myself. If I looked ill it would probably be less of a surprise. There is one thing it does show though – everyone always seems to think they have a right to ask young and disabled or ill people what is wrong with them. I’ve been known to use mobility aids (I hate bone mets) and every time I do an older person I’ve never met will literally demand to know why. They get really indignant if I won’t answer. They get especially annoyed if I ask about their health. Apparently that’s rude 😂.

We need to change the image of a stereotypical cancer patient to emphasise that anyone can get cancer. That’s why campaigns like #BusyLivingWithMets and the new #LooksCanBeDeceiving campaign from Make 2nds Count are so important. They include people like me who look young and healthy but really aren’t ☹.

I’m not angry at the people who react badly to news of my cancer. I dislike it when they make it all about them. I cry sometimes when they are hurtful and rude, but I’m not angry at them.

What I’m angry about is the fact that I feel guilty about telling people. I’m angry that I feel bad about upsetting them. I’m angry that I feel guilty for making them feel awkward. The only exception is when strangers have been rude about asking “what’s actually wrong with you?”. Those people I tell with a smile on my face and I have to admit that I love seeing how uncomfortable I can make them! I definitely have an evil side!

I need to learn how to tell people my diagnosis openly and without shame or fear. If they want to judge me then they are bad people. I have done nothing wrong and do not deserve what is happening to me. Good people might react badly at first. The important thing is what they do next and whether they support me in the long term.