The Things I Wish I Had Known

The Good Things

  • If people ask what they can do to help, let them. For me, pre-prepared meals were an absolute godsend. Also, don’t underestimate how happy a cake from the Cheesecake Shop with ‘Fuck Cancer’ emblazoned across it can make you 😊
  • The most profound support I received came from strangers. These were women with cancer who held me when I couldn’t stand. They were nurses, who for some reason I crossed paths with and shared their own fertility struggles and made me feel less alone. Connect with those who are or have walked in your shoes.
  • While cancer absolutely sucks and will likely take things from you that you can never get back. It is possible to come out of it, a more amazing bad bitch than you ever thought possible. 

The Harder Things

  • Advocate, advocate, advocate for yourself. Trust your instincts! You know your body best. Get second opinions and more if need be. I went 9 months undiagnosed, due to a false-negative pap smear. I knew something was wrong and didn’t push for more investigation, trusting that my GP would be doing everything possible. This wasn’t the case and I know I’m not alone in this experience.  
  • Receiving radiation to treat my cervical cancer means that for the rest of my life, I need to ensure that the vaginal tissue is kept healthy for an enjoyable sex life. It’s important to find a way to make this a fun and positive experience. Your body will fight it otherwise.
  • While I know that I can no longer get pregnant or carry a child naturally, I can’t visibly see that’s the case, and it’s weird!
  • People are going to say really dumb things to you that will come across as extremely insensitive and stupid. The vast majority of people mean well, they just don’t know what to say. Their word vomit can be incredibly offensive. One of my favourite gems was ‘Don’t worry about not being able to have children, they’re overrated’. In moments like this, I just tried to remind myself that most people are trying to be supportive. And when that didn’t work, a rant to a good friend got the job done.   
  • Faking it till you make it does work. Fortunately, I was able to work throughout my treatment. The sense of normality helped. When people asked me how I was, I would tell most people I was doing great, regardless of whether that was the case or not. After saying it enough, I usually did feel good most days. Once I got home and the world stopped, that was a different case. But this approach got me through 75% of the day in a positive headspace. 
  • Do and respond in ways that work for you. No two cancer journeys are the same. I didn’t relate to the concept of ‘me fighting cancer’. Honestly, I felt like a helpless passenger just hoping for the best. A dark sense of humour worked for me. I thoroughly enjoy some good banter with my manager, often stating (tongue-in-cheek) that I couldn’t do a certain task ‘because I had cancer’.

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