Cancer Blog - Episode 24 : Talking About the C Word

How you doing? It’s been a while, sorry, I’ve been doing stuff and haven't felt the urge to write. You know how it is, Some days you do, some days you don’t. Today is cold and rainy, so a pot of tea and a quick blog is very much the thing.

Team Gynae Score

I met my gynae oncologist last week and she was everything I needed her to be; honest, direct, informed, prepared, responsive and utterly, reassuringly, professional. Finally, Team Gynae have redeemed themselves. Also, Sue the grumpy nurse wasn’t there, which made everything instantly better.

Hospital appointments are so frequent and normalised now that I no longer have to psych myself up, just to get to the hospital. But at the same time, I, and every other cancer patient I’ve met, carry a permanent sense of dread at all times, that bad news is coming, that some new, awful thing will be discovered, or something sinister is spotted on a scan result which shows a new or metastasized tumour. It’s something you slowly learn to live with, but you also have to accept that after any cancer diagnosis, your life has changed, irrevocably, and the carefree assumption that you’ll live way into retirement, and achieve all of your life plan, may have to be re-written.

The C Word

Once you accept that you have cancer, the word ‘cancer’ itself becomes less frightening. I use it a lot, say it out loud, I speak honestly about it, don’t shy away from it. I stare it in the eye. Mainly, because I like to know what I’m up against, but also because I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear from talking about cancer, or telling people I have it. I know that many people choose to keep their cancer diagnosis private, and there are many valid reasons to do so. But I made a decision very early on that I would share my story, and if I attract any negative attention, prejudice or judgements by doing so, then let’s unpack those as we go along. After all, it isn’t Voldemort, is it? He who must not be named. Yet “The C word” is still used in common parlance about cancer. We still find it awkward to even say the word. But you know what? Voldemort was just a fucked up kid who took the wrong path. Cancer is just a bunch of fucked up mutated cells. Both need to get the hell out of here, frankly.

I’m not interested in taboos or shame or guilt or keeping cancer secret. I’m all about awareness, knowledge, shared experiences and education. I blog for me, but also so that other people, who have never experienced cancer before, might learn a bit more about it. And in doing so, they might be better able to spot the signs in their own bodies, to feel braver about contacting their GP about unusual symptoms, and about going along to every screening test that’s available, just in case.

Knowing The Risks

The more we discuss cancer openly, the less power we give it. The things I know now, about the causes, the risk factors and the preventative measures that might have spared me this disease, were things I had no idea about when I unconsciously made the life choices which may have led to it, decades ago. Of course most of the time cancer is just bad luck, but there are risk factors, and I honestly didn't know about any of them until after I was diagnosed.

www.BreastCancer.Org lists the following established and emerging risk factors:


Established Risks:

  • Being A Woman

  • Age (55+)

  • Family History

  • Genetics

  • Having had Breast Cancer Before

  • Having Radiation to Chest or Face Before Age 30

  • If you've been diagnosed with certain benign (not cancer) breast conditions

  • Being white (general increased risk)

  • Being black (higher risk of a more aggressive cancer at a young age)