Monday, 30 September 2013

Cancer is Not a Badge

For the past month I’ve been busy so I’ve neglected my blog. The sight of a fresh lick of paint on the walls and fresh oak floor boards is priority along with painting canvas.
I am in a comfortable place where I can finally feel this cancer crap is under control. I can’t explain it, but it feels like a lead weight has been lifted and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes I’m still receiving treatment, but part of me feels like saying sod the treatment you got the twat just let me get on with my life. When I look at my FB page I can see how things can so easily change and for some the battle goes on. That is way there is no room for arrogance or complacency.
Once upon a time I was accused of wanting Chemotherapy for attention. The whispers of attention seeking were rife, and when I stood up for myself in a blog post it became a playground of who said what. People saying well I don’t think she had cancer in the first place, it was just DCIS really hurt. I had placed my trust in a pack of strangers and that trust had been tossed aside via gossip.  I knew at the time it was the cups of coffee syndrome where people fill in gaps with if’s and what’s. The same behaviour you face with mums competing in the school yard, but it made me evaluate who I trust. 

The fact I had discovered their well-meaning words were false. And they had taken my journey into a PVT box was distressing. I was accused of over reacting when I put a post-up trying to correct the whispers even threatened with legal proceedings. It did not matter that I had tried to correct gossip and innuendo from a group of women who thought they knew better. That my post was not meant to be construed as malicious or derogatory, but written out of concern or fear to whom else was involved. Out of this experience I learned a valuable lesson that cancer does not change the person, we still gossip and judge without thought.
Today I read an article that Jennifer Saunders was involved with. She was asked if she believed some people keep wearing cancer like a badge, she responded: “Forever — and I’ll give you why. Because it is the job you don’t have to work for. You suddenly get so much attention, and if you’re not used to that, I bet it can sway you a little bit.”
“I’m used to it. My job gives me the attention I would otherwise crave. They must be so pissed off when their hair grows back. And you think, ‘Oh, come on, cancer is so common now’.”
Now to me she was baited by the press and the press being the press knew how outspoken Jennifer is. Yes she was well aware of what she was saying, but I think she regrets her flippant reply now. 
The idiot that asked that question that triggered this very frank reply was probably the same press person who I saw at the Angelina Jolie premiere. The full conversation that took place with Jennifer will have been edited, but still reading that very thoughtless response makes me feel uncomfortable.
Personally I want to move forward and do my bit for those that helped me. I know I’ll be forever looking over my shoulder, but like the diabetes I feel I got this one licked. What I have gone through and done is in no way a badge. The side effects of treatment that still wreak havoc on my body are depressing, but still I find the time to spend a day to lay an oak floor and paint my next canvas to be signed by the next star on the red carpet. I do not use my experience or used when I go to these events. I see what I’m doing as a distraction and a positive on a very gruelling journey. Yes people know, but I do not use my cancer treatment as a badge. People are fickle when it comes to a cancer diagnosis and it does not affect them. Yes the bald head creates sympathy, but that is just one side effect the rest are hidden from view. The perspiration and discomfort stops when you start to look “NORMAL” again in every one’s eyes. But the fear is something no-one truly understands until you have walk in my and many others footsteps. 
Jennifer is lucky in the fact she found fame in her twenties. Like she said, she received the attention that she craved. Just like she is fortunate in the fact with this attention she is able to walk into a PVT clinic and have her fears quenched unlike those that have to rely on the NHS to get it right. Maybe her outspoken words are brought on with her wealth, but wealth don't cure cancer. 


  1. Oy, Sarah!! It's hard to know exactly what JS might have said, because it's very easy to get misquoted by journalists (which I have experienced personally) even slightly, so that your words read differently than your intent. But the implication that having cancer & being forthright about it is comparable to the celebrity that famous performers have is just not on.

    All of our experiences, good and not so good, mark us & make us who we are. Cancer is one I think we would all have chosen to miss out on, had we been given that choice. But we weren't. I've been trying to leave it on the shelf myself lately, and get on with the large parts of my life I've had to neglect these past 5 years because of the longterm side effects of my treatment. It's only through time & sheer cussedness that I've been able to 'ignore' my cancer experience. But it's always hovering in the background.

    The only person we can ever be at the end of the day is ourselves. Cancer is not our identity. But it's part of who we are, with a whole lot more surrounding it. You just keep being yourself. Thanks for writing this. xoxo, Kathi

  2. Many people have trouble moving forward from cancer for MANY different reasons. Considering what've I've seen people go through, I think you've been very gracious in your response to the article.