“Do you think of Breast Cancer every day?” was the question posed recently on a BC friend’s blog.
It was a very thought provoking question, and timely as it came at the start of my landmark days, the prominence in my mind as I approached my Cancerversary, and of course the prominence of pinkness of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
My instant reaction was that it is not whether I think of breast cancer every day, but rather how often I think of breast cancer in a day. I have no idea, but I know it is at the forefront of my mind probably too much.
It is a bit of a puzzle to work out what is a healthy level of reflection, and what amounts to unhealthy obsessing. Of course, I believe that my own ramblings and rumination are healthy but I can also see that it is not a good thing to allow the cancer beast to dominate my mind quite so much.
I think that the reality is that it is not so much that I think specifically of Breast Cancer frequently. It is moreover that I now see everything through a kind of Breast Cancer lens. Along the lines of “same, same but different”, I am living in a different reality, (often termed the “new normal”) and everything looks different through this lens. It affects everything you plan and try to do and means that much has to be modified. As many of these changes become more a part of life, the act of modifying becomes more automatic but the changes are there and things are different.
For some things the lens is very obvious. For example, I can’t think of the coming weeks without feeling the fear of the Big Check and having the inability of making any firm plans beyond that. For other things, I do not specifically realise I am seeing things through the lens but it affects what I do, such as what I wear, making an extra effort to swim or join the Pilates class even when I am tired, choosing what I eat, adding a squeeze of lemon to almost every glass of water I drink and even arranging the pillows as I climb into bed.
In some ways, the lens is a good thing – perhaps a bit like a metaphorical medical kick in the backside! It reminds me of the importance of lifestyle choices and the impact each one has. It spurs action instead of inertia. Sometimes it is a block, and prevents me from making decisions or plans. It has an advocacy refractor and I find myself lobbying other women to make sure they screen and self examine. And sometimes the lens has a very emotional character of sadness and nostalgia, when I think back on how life has changed, how much I took for granted and how much has changed for ever.
One thing is sure about this lens. It is always there. Once placed over my vision, it will never and can never be removed, even if I do not always sense its presence. I need to try and use it to my advantage as far as possible and reduce its ability to distort my view and cause anxiety, disruption and regret.
I am sure I will continue to think regularly of Breast Cancer. It is too significant to be able to imagine a time when it fades from deliberate thought. I hope, though, that in time I will think less frequently of the immediate disease and focus more on a helpful and healthy use of the Breast Cancer lens.