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Today is World Cancer Day. This year, we’ve decided to talk about the importance of friendships, talking and support.
How you go through a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be a very personal experience, it can also be isolating at times. It can be hard to find others who can relate to what you’re going through and how you’re feeling.
To mark this World Cancer Day, we want to say you’re not alone and are sharing stories from our volunteers. We hear from Mandy, diagnosed with stage 1b1 in 2015 , Laura, diagnosed with stage 3 in 2017 and Hayley, diagnosed in 2017.
“At the time when I was being diagnosed and treated, there wasn’t really a chance for any of it to sink in as it all happened so fast.
Back then, I didn’t think, or want, to talk to anyone with cervical cancer about what I’d been through. In all honesty, I didn’t think I needed to. I wanted to close the door on this chapter of my life and move on. But then the reality of what happened sunk in. Despite how great they were, my friends just didn’t quite understand and assumed that everything was fine now because I’d been given the all-clear. I knew I needed to find and speak to other women who’d had cervical cancer.
About ten months after my treatment, I went to my first Let’s Meet event and it was honestly life-changing. It was amazing to meet all these women who weren’t phased when I talked about life after cancer, changes to my sex life or the menopause and who didn’t judge me when I made jokes about it all. Even though we might have had different treatments, we were all now dealing with the side effects of cancer and that has bound us together.
I never realised how much I needed ‘cancer friends’. Friends that can comfort and reassure you when you worry about every ache and pain and who tell you that they’re struggling too. It just means so much to know you’re not alone.”
“I was only a few weeks into treatment when I connected with Francesca on the Jo’s Forum. She was about six months ahead of me post-treatment. She didn’t have anyone to talk to and she was struggling with the aftermath of treatment. She had seen one of my comments on the forum and decided to reach out to me on Facebook messenger. We discovered that we were at the same hospital, having the same treatment and under the same doctor.
We started chatting online and one day we bumped into each other as I was coming out of the radiotherapy department. She shouted “oh my god!” and gave me a big hug. After that we started meeting up more. We went to Let’s Meet and even took part in the Jo’s photoshoot together.
She helped me know what to expect. Although we had different reactions to treatment, it was nice to have someone to call during those times when I was struggling and getting used to the impact treatment had had on me.
My family were supportive but at times I felt like I was bombarding or hassling them. I never feel like that when I talk to Francesca. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, we’re never bothered when the other needs some support because we understand just how hard it can be. We’ve supported each other through a lot over the last few years and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her. We’re warrior women navigating life after cancer together!”
“When I was going through treatment, I had met other women at the hospital who were having cancer treatment, just not for cervical cancer. Many of them were older women with very different priorities and experiences to me. I was a young woman, at the height of her career, about to get married and thinking about a family.
I’d used the Forum on Jo’s website to connect with other women when I was deciding on what treatment to have. I found that reading their experiences really helped me. So, I started actively searching for people who had been through what I had been through. Someone who understood what it was like to go through changes to your fertility, sex life and relationships at an age when I never imagined I’d have to think about these things. In fact, I wish I’d done so sooner because the people I’ve met have really helped me.
I connected with some women on Instagram by using the #SmearForSmear hashtag and finding women who were talking about the same issues. It was almost like online dating!
I was really excited to go to Let’s Meet and so grateful to have the opportunity, but I was a bit worried about going. I started speaking to one lady who said she was going to Let’s Meet. Learning that she was going gave me the confidence to go on my own. I met so many other women who understood exactly what I had gone through, and was going through. At lunch, I began chatting to another woman who I clicked with instantly. Since that day, we’ve become really good friends and we’ve gone on dog walks together! She’s really helped me adjust to life after cancer.”
Hayley: “I guess the best advice I could give is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and open up to the possibility of finding some really amazing friendships.”
Mandy: “You don’t ever have to be over it. It doesn’t matter if it was last week or ten years ago: talking and sharing with those who have been through the same as you is so incredibly important and can take a huge weight off your shoulders. Don’t bury how you feel.”
Laura: “It’s really important to have support because cancer can really change you. Pick up the phone. Use the forum. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because there are so many people out there who are feeling exactly the same as you. You don’t have to go through any of it on your own.”