Breast Cancer Blog - Episode 4: I am NOT that cancer woman

Updated: Apr 4, 2021

We all know the seven stages of grief, right? Well I now know that there are also The Five Stages of Dealing with a Cancer Diagnosis. I'm not sure why there are only 5, not 7. Getting a cancer diagnosis is pretty much full of grief, believe me, but we only get to have 5 stages. Maybe it's like Grief Lite, because nobody actually died, or maybe they're saving the other 2 for later, as an extra bonus. Right, I'm going to google it, in case I'm getting short-changed.

I have put the results in a table, because that's who I am. Deal with it.

OK so here they are:


Hmm. So I don't mean to rip someone's work to pieces, but whoever wrote the 5 stages of cancer diagnosis clearly didn't put as much effort into it as the person who wrote the 7 stages of grief. First off, shock is pretty much standard, so definitely needs to be alongside denial, on the cancer list. No one ever in the history of ever has had a cancer diagnosis and truly said "yeah, I know". Until you hear the C word (no that C word, the other one) from your doctor's mouth (if your doctor ever uses the other C word, you pretty much ought to leave) everything in your brain has been telling you it's a mistake, it's a benign lump, a cyst, a (insert other random google diagnosis) anything but cancer. No one truly believes they have cancer until someone else tells them. Hence the denial. Tick.

Pain and guilt? In the grief list (G list), but not the cancer list (C list). Guilt maybe not so much, although I bet most people with a cancer diagnosis will feel they could have done more, checked their lumpy bits more often, gone to see their doctor sooner, had a healthier lifestyle, not smoked, drunk or sunbathed. It's part of working out the 'Why me" question. But I was bought up a catholic, and me and the guilt thing sorted out out issues a long time ago. I won, guilt is stupid. Pain? Well that's almost certainly coming up on the horizon at some point, but the emotional impact of being told you have cancer is pretty similar to a juggernaut crashing into your chest at 70 miles an hour. So pain and guilt should probably both be there to, but maybe with some re-working.

Anger and bargaining. Yes, agreed. Although why they are together on one list and separate items on the other is confusing. Feels to me like the C list was padding itself out a bit, having not spent enough time on its homework. Extra marks to the G list for putting the effort in.

Some of you won't be astonished to hear that I hit the anger bit quite quickly. I don't always take direction well (Side note: a previous Headteacher once wrote this about me on a reference. I got the new job, a big pay rise and he got stuck in a mediocre school but hey, what do I know?). So when someone tells me that a lot of horrible things are going to happen to me, I'm pretty much going to retaliate. And I did. Less than 12 hours after diagnosis I was already ranting that I was NOT going to be that cancer woman.

I am NOT that cancer woman

I am very clear about who I am, it has taken me quite a long time to get to this point, and actually, I'm quite happy with it. I'm a bit loud on social media, I bang on about schools and education a lot, I'm a staunch feminist, I eat too much cake, I never iron and I have generally prefer animals to people. That is who I am.

What I am not, is the woman you see on the cancer adverts. I do not go to coffee mornings, I do not run marathons, I do not go walking around London at night wearing a pink bra, raising money. I do not wear turbans, I do not have kindly smiling eyes and look earnestly into cameras, and I do not, most definitely not, reject cake and cheese in favour of a vegan diet and spinach smoothies. Not happening. Not going to happen. Not ever.

I am unlikely to sit compliantly in a chair for hours receiving chemotherapy, learning how to crochet. I have never struck up a friendship with anyone in the next hospital bay, seat, bed whatever the fuck they're called (obligatory sweary bit) and I have no interest at all, in discussing which are the best creams for sore nipples. I'm assuming there will be a sore nipple part at some point, Or is that pregnancy? I don't freaking know. You see? I'm totally and utterly mis-cast in this role and therefore cannot be a cancer patient because I have absolutely none of the required credentials.

But no matter how hard and furious my rant (and it goes on for two solid days) the diagnosis sits there on the table and looks at me, like a contract for the worst gig ever, demanding my signature. My name is clearly written on it. The address is right, the date of birth, even my N