What I’m really thinking: the woman with breast cancer

Illustration of woman standing in a capital C

There are days when I’m full of anger and sadness, and other moments when I appreciate the miracle of life. Every gesture, song or conversation now carries a deeper meaning. The intensity of hugging my husband and daughters is often unbearable, and I grieve every day for the life that cancer took away from me.

Stage four cancer sucks optimism, hope and eventually even breath. It’s like being in a very slow but inevitable fatal car crash that you replay in your mind over and over. At first, you try to navigate yourself through oncology terminology, treatments, diagnosis, scans, but later you realise there is no safety belt or steering wheel to hold on to. I have incredible support and love, but I often feel very alone in my thoughts and experiences. I can’t relate to others who have the privilege of good health or the power to improve their situations.

In 16 months, my formerly healthy lungs have stopped working efficiently. I am reliant on an oxygen machine and drugs. I feel the harmful effects of air pollution, and get angry watching people drag on cigarettes, as my life is ebbing away and is likely to vanish soon in a puff of smoke. My breath is constricted and even talking requires effort. I have a sinister cough that reminds people of my condition.

I grieve for the family celebrations I may miss, growing older with my husband, having grandchildren, meeting my daughters’ partners. I wait for scans to tell me how close I am to the edge, and every moment is filled with urgency to complete tasks while I am able. I’ve visited my burial site, rewritten my will, and written letters to loved ones. I am prepared for my end, but no one can take away my former happiness.


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