Remember the day breast cancer came into your life? I do and it still seems like yesterday, despite being over two years ago. I can also remember the start of the indications that something was wrong but not when I started hearing the word metastatic. Looking back I can remember Julia talking about pain in her leg as far back as our holiday in 2014. However, her diagnosis was not until July 2016, so by then, things had taken a dramatic turn.
From that point in 2014, she had just put this pain down to running and exercise but it became obvious it wasn’t. For the next two years, she both ignored the pain and probably hid the pain from herself and us. Eventually, by around June 2016, my wife could barely walk and was in constant pain all over. Mainly the pain was in her knee and back but despite the physiotherapy she was having, nothing changed.
Did we really believe Breast Cancer could do this?
The reason nothing changed, was because by now cancer had spread into her hip, back and lungs having started in her breast. Seeing your wife in a wheelchair, not able to hold her own weight and having to care for her was the start of our life changing forever.
Initially having an x-ray on her knee to find out what the issue was, gave us false hope. I definitely clung to the fact that the shadows I saw were down to something like osteoporosis. Going for the results of the x-ray and seeing an extra two people in the room indicated it wasn’t knee pain. I can remember the layout of the room and can still see the specialist talking and hearing the words “sorry”.
I remember leaving that room and being asked, “Do you need to speak to someone”? There were two extra people there, whom I now know were two Macmillan nurses. They looked at us and we looked at them but we had to get out.
Understanding how to live with breast cancer
Does someone live with breast cancer or just accept they have no choice? When Julia spoke recently to the breast cancer care team, she talked openly about her pain. But when you are the family it is hard to watch that pain. In fact, knowing and hearing the words “metastatic” and not knowing how to deal with that is difficult.
With all learning, one has to create new neurological pathways. This is how I have chosen to deal with the diagnosis and Julia has too. She has dug deep and creates a smile every day for us to cling to. She gets up, straightens herself out and attacks the day like everyone else. But unlike a lot of people she doesn’t dwell on things, hold grudges or moan for no reason. For us, there is no point in wasting energy in that area. Julia educates other people through her learning and has shared her journey with others going through similar situations.
I personally wanted to understand how I could get through the day too. It is easy to forget the partners and what effect it has on them. But I found that by channeling my energy into educating myself, learning new skills and helping others it has provided some sort of release. Improving my performance and understanding my flaws has enabled me to create a person with whom I am comfortable. This journey has been difficult and at times so emotional, that it has affected both my family and I.
It was quite early on that the cover of “You make me feel brand new” by Simply Red came on the radio while I was on the M25. The words hit me hard and despite never having heard this before, the words had a major impact on me.
Sharing the breast cancer journey
One of the most important things for me during the journey of living with breast cancer and understanding metastatic cancer was being there. From the very first visit to the hospital, the one thing that I noticed was women on their own. I couldn’t understand why their partners were not there and what coping on your own would be like. For me, being given the confirmation of what we now had to go through was the start of doing it together. I feel that is why this Simply Red song hit me so hard.
Whilst from 0-7 years old my parents impacted my memories and behaviours. It wasn’t until my socialising years that I learned new skills from amongst others Julia. Knowing now how my identity was formed so early in my life is important. But now it has been influenced by Julia and adapted to create the person I am today. At times the breast cancer journey has created a level of stress, which has been hard to deal with. However, by watching how Julia deals with it, has influenced us all.
I don’t imagine anything other than my being there to support this journey. I know it is difficult and if I can help people prepare for this, then that in itself would be a gift.
Our future life with Breast Cancer
Our life is currently ok even though Julia lives with breast cancer every day. She talks openly and honestly about metastatic cancer and how you can live with this too. She finds some fulfilment by helping educate people through both Breast Cancer Care and Europa Donna. What we have both learnt from our experiences is not to be afraid to talk about how you feel. It can affect peoples mental health and men please speak up and ask for help when you need it.
No one should feel ashamed of how they feel and how others see them coping. From my experience, people around you can act differently following the diagnosis but it is vital to look after yourself.
- Speak to people and ask for help. Be honest with yourself and if you feel you need help, ensure you get it.
- Look after yourself by exercising well and looking after your diet. You are no good if you become ill through neglecting yourself.
- If people offer to help, then let them. If they don’t offer to help then ask them.
- Set yourself some goals and focus your mind. I have found this has helped me become a better person and the person I want to be.
If you want to find out more about how I found ways of living with breast cancer and metastatic cancer, then call me today 07984 493798