I’m really lucky that I haven’t lost anyone in my family to breast cancer. But over the years, I’ve watched friends, close and not so, come into contact with the disease. But, emotional connections are a huge part of why people donate so generously to cancer charities, and hopefully will continue to do so until it is eradicated.
So, I’ll tell you three stories about cancer that made it not just the thing that happens to someone else.
There are so many aspects to this one particular, awful disease, but one friend’s is a little different. She lost her mum far too soon to ovarian cancer, at the age of 14, and subsequently, all the female members of her mums family. They all carried a particular gene called BRCA. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes belong to a class of genes known as tumour suppressors and if these genes mutate, there is a very strong link to hereditary breast cancer and also ovarian cancer. If you carry the gene, the risk of dying of either of these diseases increases hugely. My friend has always taken part in ovarian cancer research, because that’s what actually killed her mother, and it was during the course of research, given her family history, she was asked if she wanted the BRCA test, basically to see if she’d live or, like her mum, die far too young. And that’s how stark it is. She has two young boys who need their mum for a lot longer, so she took the test, which showed she has the gene. Before the BRCA gene was discovered, thanks to research, it was always a mystery as to why all these women died; lots of women in her family as far as she can trace had died young and nobody really knew why.
The first thing she did was voluntarily have her ovaries removed; so the choice of having more children was immediately gone. It’s quite a big operation, so there was recovery time to go through, but at the same time a premature menopause as well, with all the associated issues. With her ovaries gone, no cancer could form in them. Not so long after, she had a double mastectomy, because the BRCA link to both is so strong, that to keep her breasts was an almost certain premature death sentence. In order to stay alive, to see her sons leave home, marry and to maybe one day be a grandmother, she had no choice but to take these impossibly difficult options. And she did it with the most extraordinary grace. In fact, it was the making of the decision to remove both breasts as a preventative measure that took more of a toll than the actual surgeries.
Another friend, not so close at all really, but another mum in the school playground, we all watched dying from breast cancer in front of our very eyes, when really she tried so hard to live. From losing her hair, losing weight, losing energy – it was just a series of losses plain for everyone to see. But hers was an aggressive cancer that took her really very quickly, leaving her two young children beyond devastated. Losing your mum is not something that you ever, ever get over. You carry that loss through your life until your own dying day.
And finally, my beautiful neighbour who is being so positive and so brave and just coming to the end of chemo and radio therapy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks after leaving her job to look after her children instead, realising she wanted to be a full time mum. Her skin hurts, her hair is gone and still she is getting up every day to take her very young boys to school, going to Tesco and just doing all the things she used to, only a little bit more slowly. The awful fact is that she doesn’t know and nor do any of us whether she will still be here to do the school run in five year’s time. I can barely imagine living with that dreadful, pervasive fear day to day.
And these three stories are all down to a shitty, awful, destructive disease that grabs women (and some men) and basically uproots their lives forever. What we need to do is ensure that cancer research, and particularly in the month of October, breast cancer research, is adequately funded to eradicate it forever. So there aren’t any more stories. There are many brands donating in October from sales of beauty products, so that’s one way to do it, and I’ll be highlighting a few through the month, or you can just donate directly to any cancer charity which is probably a better option. It’s something that is very much needed and small donations add up to saving lives. Which is really rather big.
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This is a great post (not the subject of course) Again I am fortunate enough not to have lost anyone to this and I hope that it remains that way but women need to be made aware of the signs and how to check etc. Its great that you are using your blog to raise awareness – Thanks for this. x
This is very close to my heart and Im looking forward to getting involved.
This is a well written post. Thanks D
My very good friend lost her sister to cancer last month. The cancer itself she actually beat but it was the effects of the treatment that overwhelmed her in the end. She got better and then just slipped away. My friend gave birth to her first child a few days later. It was heartbreaking. It’s one of those things which touch you for life. It’s not just the patient who is effected. It’s every family member, friend and colleague. It even touches the future. Im not sure what these charities actually do or achieve but the fact they make people discuss these things and be aware is very important imo. Well done for highlighting us about this wonderful cause.
This post is beautifully written and made me cry. I lost my mother to ovarian cancer 19 years ago – she was 55. I had my ovaries removed in January this year because I was 50 and very high risk. Well done.
Such an eloquent post, which also moved me to tears.
A really moving post hun, thanks so much for sharing. Will definitely be getting involved & will give it a mention on my blog as well, linking back to this post if that’s okay?
Love Aysh xoxo