About two weeks ago, I was in a room with ten other women. We had all signed up for a Yoga for Cancer workshop at Triyoga Chelsea, and we were sitting in a circle, going around and introducing ourselves.
As each person spoke, I discovered women that had been living with different types of cancer for years. One woman had been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer seven years ago. Another had explained how she wanted control back in her life for living with cancer; she had been diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. They seemed so together. So ok.
My name is Caroline. I was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago. I had a mastectomy a month ago…
I broke down.
I couldn’t talk. I just sat there and sobbed. I cried in a room full of women that I didn’t know. Compared to the others in the room, my diagnosis was still fresh and raw. It was the first time I was talking in front of strangers. Everyone else up to this point had been either family or friends. I had made the call to do something which was specifically for cancer patients. I was making the jump. I felt it was time.
Since the diagnosis, a large number of people I had spoken to knew someone that had had some form of breast cancer. They were usually an aunt, a mother, a grandmother; but rarely a 30-something woman. In the waiting rooms, I would always feel like the youngest person in the room, because I generally was. And in this yoga class, out of the ten, there were only a few of us that were “young”.
Before the workshop started, I had sat at the back of the room anxiously, and watched as each person came in. With the exception of one or two other women, everyone else seemed so much older. I felt so out of place.
As a group, we had lunch together, and for the first time since this started, I actually felt like people understood how I felt, and what I was thinking. We exchanged stories on how we told our friends and family. How we dealt with support, body image, insecurities. I listened to others on how they coped when they first got their diagnosis; and it all felt eerily familiar.
Ella was one of the “young” ones. 31; a mother of a one year old, and was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in March. I learned she had one lung left because of it, and following her first surgery, a tumour had appeared on her spine. None of her cancer was treatable by chemo. Her cancer was terminal.
“I’m at peace with it. I just need to keep living a normal life as much as I can.”
She seemed so calm and put together. Looking at her, you wouldn’t even think there was anything wrong.
I think that’s the one thing that astounds me about everything. Seeing the variations in how people cope. How everyone handles their own situation.
I’ve met a handful of people over the last week that have gone through or are going through some form of cancer. I’ve been to Maggie’s – the cancer centre, which has been great for workshops, information, free counselling, etc.
There are Facebook support groups I’ve joined. Sometimes they fill the void for what I need. Other times I can’t cope with the emotions of others struggling. I don’t enjoy seeing photos of women during treatment, or images of mastectomy scars or post chemo/radiotherapy pictures. Other times I want to be aware of the reality, because this will and is happening to me.
It’s useful to know that as I go through the treatment, there are options of where I can go for support outside of my family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has been great. Really great. But sometimes, you get the odd person that doesn’t know what to say; or is afraid of saying the wrong thing; and I understand that.
So as I sat there in this workshop, being one of the youngest there. Feeling out of place. I made the decision that I was ready to jump into this world of support from those who are familiar; because even though I was in a room full of strangers, I felt at that moment that we were all connected at the very same time.
In the world of breast cancer, young usually means anyone under 45. In the UK, regular breast screenings are only done via the NHS when you’ve hit 50 years old. Statistically, in 2014, 5,600 women in the UK were diagnosed with breast cancer that were under 45, out of approximately 55,200 cases logged.
If anyone reading this falls under that category, there are places to get support.