Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: Motherhood and cancer

Author: Christina B

A breast cancer diagnosis is a shock to the system. Fact. Throw in to that system the fact that you are a single mum, you have no family network for 200 miles and the fact your child's paternal father will only accommodate your son for 1 overnight stay a week.

Tricky... But doable.

Doable.... Every time I logged into the YBCN network (Facebook life saving page for younger women from the UK aged under 45 with breast cancer) I kept hearing everyone say this word. Doable for me equates to when my son hands me his dirty PE kit before bedtime and asks me to have it sorted before the morning for his PE lesson. That's doable.

Doable is on a Sunday night when all the shops are closed and he tells me he's got cooking the following day for school and I have to source 7 ingredients I don't have in my cupboard at Tesco at 7am Monday morning. That's doable.

Breast cancer with my circumstances, I'm yet to be convinced that can be added to the doable list.

Anyway a quick rewind back to the day I was diagnosed and my first thoughts on hearing I had cancer. Firstly I thought that the consultant must have made a mistake as my own doctor had sent me for a mammogram as she was beyond sure that it was "only a cyst". Secondly while my head was trying to process the myriad of information, my son consumed my thoughts, I could see him in my mind so clearly.

He was holding a roll of black bin liners, trying to work out firstly where the perforations were, - not before rolling out about at least 4 conjoined together. In my mind after he had found the perforations and tore one off he was trying and failing to open it up, licking his fingers repeatedly but getting frustrated at the fact that the bag stayed firmly closed.... This daydream was a reality. It happened 2 days before diagnosis after asking my son to change the bin bag and we both laughed at the fact that he was 12 and made such a pigs ear of it.

Fast forward to the consultants room and my mind kept playing this scene on a loop. I was going to die and leave my son without this basic life skill. Never mind all the other life skills that I hadn't got round to teaching him. My mind was an array of confusion and panic, just as the whirl wind of cancer starts to spin, the foundation of motherhood is the first to get shaken. What would happen to my son and who would look after him? I'm supposed to be his care giver. Who would feed him and go to parents evenings? Who would wash his PE kit? Who would make his sandwiches with no butter on? Who would help him with his schoolwork?

My head was spinning. I had to make a choice to either go under with this news or to embrace it and make a damn good plan of a way to get through this curveball because motherhood and cancer do not mix. My 12 year old son grew up overnight when I told him I had breast cancer. You cannot underestimate the strength and resilience of a child until you subject them to a situation that requires both of these characteristics.

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Write for the blog! This blog is one of a series being shared on the Young Women's Breast Cancer Blog UK during October, breast cancer awareness month, but the blog is here year round. If you are a young woman in the UK who has/had a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to be a part of this blog, please have a read of the additional information here.
Check your breasts
Breast cancer can happen to any of us - regardless of age. Information about how to check your breasts can be found on the Coppafeel and Breast Cancer Now websites.
Further information and support:
Younger Breast Cancer Network UK - an online chat and support group for women under the age of 45 in the UK who have had a breast cancer diagnosis.
Baldly Beautiful - a YouTube channel with make up demonstrations, created by Mac makeup artist Andrea Pellegrini who went through chemo herself in 2014.
Take A Moment - This is a group for women (all ages) who have/had breast cancer who want to explore, reflect on and express their feelings and experiences through photography. This is a link to the public page - to join the group, send them a message.
The Osborne Trust - Providing children of parents with cancer the opportunity to access time out recreational activities whilst their parents undergo operations and treatments
Jen's Friends - Free heart-shaped pillows for women (and men) with Breast Cancer. Designed to provide comfort and protection after a Mastectomy operation.

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