Lesley on accepting, not fighting, cancer

Friday 28 January 2022

Maggie's Edinburgh

I’ve been given support to come to terms with my cancer, and to not be scared of it. But it took years to get to a better place, and I’m determined to help others get there too.

Eight years ago, a CT scan showed that I not only had breast cancer, but that it had already spread to my bones, liver and lungs. It was a huge, devastating shock.

You’re 48 and you’re being told that you might only have a few years left of life; I can’t even begin to describe how that feels.

I assumed that I wouldn’t see any of those important milestones, things I’d taken for granted – seeing your children leave school, maybe go to university, get married, all their paths into the future. That feeling of grief lasted for quite a while.

Living life in small chunks of time

Most cancer patients don’t have a very long‐term outlook; you just look a couple of months ahead.

If you have curative treatment, and come through it, you can start to adjust and look further into the future.

But for the past seven years I have had scans every three months, if not more frequently than that.

I’ve been looking keenly at upcoming clinical trials. I’ve got used to living life in small chunks of time.

Maybe that helps to not consider the ambiguity of whether there will be another drug coming out or not. You just focus on the immediate.

I have been scared at the thought of the moment in the future when I come to the end of my treatment line and have to face my mortality full on.

I believe the more I know about my cancer, the more in control I feel, but at that point, I won’t be able to control anything, and will be waiting to die. I’m particularly scared about how I will cope at that point.

That’s the thing, nobody knows, I could have another couple of years, even more. It depends on the rate of new drugs that come out. That is my lifeline.

It is not a very nice or stable way of living; you have to be resilient to deal with this.

Speaking to Andy

I talked to Andy at Maggie’s about it, and he was very good.

He said he hopes at that point that I will feel relief that there will be no more treatments.

There will be no more keeping a brave face, which is what I tend to do for my family. Rather than fear, there will be a sense of calm.

For me it’s all about, how long have I got and what the next line of treatment is.

Andy has always helped me not to worry when I’ve gone down to Maggie’s. He’s so knowledgeable, he’ll know what the next line of treatment is likely to be, and he’ll tell me about it. I always come away with a sense of hope and clarity. When you’ve got advanced cancer, that’s what you want – hope.

Accepting my diagnosis

I think I’ve come to terms with what has happened to me.

The grief has gone and there’s an acceptance of my diagnosis and having to permanently live with cancer.

I’m still anxious, the worry doesn’t go away. I think I’m now able to put it in a little box in my head and not let it ruin my days.

But a diagnosis like this, you either take it to your bed, lie down and just give up or you try to find a way through the fog. With a lot of help, I have managed to make something of it.

Here with you

If you or someone you love has cancer, Maggie’s is here with you.

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at enquiries@maggies.org.

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