Why communication with your people is key after a life-threatening diagnosis
June 27, 2017
I have cancer. I'm not OK, but it will be OK.
Getting diagnosed with breast cancer was not something I ever thought would happen to me. Especially at age 27. Like any inconvenience in life the timing wasn’t great. I was on my OE in London, four months into a two-year visa.
At diagnosis, I knew I would need support and would have to harness it in a way that was going to be life-giving. This would involve sharing my experience and being honest about everything that was happening. Communication was going to be key and I would have to be organised and advocate for myself when necessary.
My mind-set was important and there was no way I was going to sink – swimming was the only option. Communicating with my medical team, asking questions and reflecting on the answers helped me to digest information and process the situation I was in. If I wasn't sure about something I would ask my nurse. I connected into online support networks with women who were going through what I was. There are plenty of us out there and we get it.
From daily reflections, I created a blog which was an email that went out to friends and family once a month. No questions were asked because each email I sent explained everything. The responses that came back from the important people in my life were a big contributor to keeping me afloat. So many expressed how much they appreciated being kept in the loop, which meant a lot.
Sharing my experience helped me to grow patience, be kinder to myself and live day-to-day. This situation was not something I was going to be able to control and I got into a “take things as they come” mentality – I still live in this way, four years on.
Having someone impartial who can offer coping strategies to deal with your situation is invaluable. Asking for a psychologist was the best thing I did for myself. While treatment affects your physical health, your mental and emotional health will be just as impacted. Know that it’s ok to not be ok - it’s cancer.
Human connection is something we are all wired for. When things get tough it's often the breakdown in communication that makes life difficult. It hurts to see someone we care about, hurting. People want to learn about cancer because as a society it is something that we fear. If you can share your experience – it will help.
For the loved ones - It’s ok to be confused, upset and scared. We need you, more than ever. We are still the person you loved before this started and will continue to be that person. It will be OK, this is a bump in the road we call life. At the moment the road is dark and if you are willing, we need you to hold the torch for a while.
Jess Weller (@wellerjess)
Cancer Survivor, Ted Talker and Founder of The WELLer Network – A health awareness and disease prevention movement. Supporting the healthy conversations that could save your life.