Location: Chester, UK
Diagnosis: Breast Cancer (Stage 2B)
Imagine being on a bus full of people that you love and care about. As the bus goes along people get on and off at their leisure, but you stay on the bus. In the end you’re so fed up of being on the bus that you get really angry, you cry, you want to scream. You’re still not allowed off the bus. When people get off you see them walking away, some may even stop and wave and you know that’s a lovely gesture, but sometimes you feel so angry that they are off the bus and you’re not. You imagine being off the bus, but at the end of the day your still on it and there is nothing you can do about it. This is what cancer is like.
At times, being stuck on the metaphorical bus is so suffocating you just want to curl up in a ball and not see anyone because hearing about their time off the bus is really hard. I have the best family and friends but at the end of the day they can all get off the bus and I can’t, so none of them really understand what it’s like. The one person that doesn’t get off is my mum and for that I will always be eternally grateful. I’m not easy to deal with at the best of times (…some people would say highly strung!) and I cry at almost anything nowadays, but not once has she told me to stop being silly and not once has she told me to get a grip. Sometimes, I think this is harder for my mum than it is for me and note, this is so fucking hard for me.
My friends are allowed off the bus. I get that. How can I begrudge my friends living their lives? Is it hard watching people get off the bus? Yes, as sometimes when everyone is on the bus with me I kind of forget that I can’t get off and I am my usual happy, sarcastic self. But then I remember that I can’t get away from this and the sadness descends again.
The morning after I was diagnosed I woke up and the pain I felt from remembering that my life has crumbled was staggering.
I would say that the morning of my first specialist appointment was the worst of my life. I broke down in the corridor of the hospital on the way to the breast clinic. I practically had a panic attack in the waiting room. My doctor was amazing, I liked her straight away. No messing, but sympathetic. She saw I was fighting back tears and she said “Kaeti you’re allowed to cry, this is big and a massive shock for you”. My specialist breast nurse got the brunt of mine and my mums tears that day. I remember asking my mum if I was going to lose my hair and she said “Yes sweetheart, you may do”. When your mum isn’t sugar coating things anymore, you know shit just got serious. At this point, I didn’t know much about my breast cancer as they were still waiting for test results. I was given a lot of leaflets and I think my mum and my nurse talked a few things through, but it’s all a blur. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that all I was thinking about was losing my hair.
I like my hair, it’s straight and it curls or goes wavy when I want it to, versatile… I’m attached to it (literally!). I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of my main concerns at the time. Society has made it so that losing your hair makes you look like you have cancer and it’s hard to get away from it when it’s looking back at you every time you look in a mirror. I don’t want to look sick. Watch Kaeti's hair loss video here.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully get ‘off the bus’ mentally and walk away completely. I just hope that in months to come I get more and more time off the metaphorical bus physically and my time ‘on the bus’ is a precaution not a necessity.
One piece of advice:
Take one step at a time when you are initially diagnosed. The doctors know what they are doing by drip feeding information as it would all be too much if they gave it to you all at the same time. This was tough for me as I just wanted the whole picture, but looking back I wouldn’t have coped.
If you are usually an active, busy person get ready to be bored! Cancer can be very boring and you have a lot of time with your own thoughts – find a way to manage this as it could make you crazy. I have felt like this myself a few times, but talking to people on social media in a similar situation and finding new things to distract myself like charity work has really helped.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Brave Collective. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information.