Ten years ago aged 37, Kylie Minogue was treated for breast cancer. In a recent TV interview on Australia's Sunday night's 60 Minutes she was asked about that time in her life. She became visibly emotional and eventually described experiencing a "mixture of emotions and memories, when you are fighting something unknown".
I was touched by the rawness of her emotions and would have liked to hear more about how she coped with the emotional impact of cancer. All too often this is the untold part of the cancer journey for those diagnosed as well as friends and families.
I do not know what made Kylie emotional. And I do not know details of her diagnosis or treatment experience. But I do know, that it is not uncommon to struggle to put into words, how we may have coped with cancer. For many of us diagnosis, treatment and often life with the disease can be traumatic and horrendous.
It does not matter how we cope; and it does not matter how long ago it happened. It is not about being strong or weak, famous or not, rich or poor, well educated or not, right or wrong. Like Kylie, even after 10 or more years, we may choke and struggle to express feelings, which are too complex and painful to be articulated in a sound bite.
So what is going on?
Surely, 10 years is plenty of time to get over whatever happened. Surely, it is enough time to cry all the tears and scream all the anger and disbelief out of our system; enough time to face up to reality and move on. If you have been treated for cancer and are still alive years later to tell the tale, than what is there to be upset about?! Many are not that lucky.
I think in a way Kylie put it well, when she referred to a mix of emotions, memories and the unknown.
At the core is the sheer unexpected force (whatever the circumstances) with which our lives change forever; the memory of shock, physical and psychological agony, the sense of having no control and no say in the matter, feeling helpless and often hopeless, feeling defeated, angry and even outraged, having nowhere to go with those emotions, feeling isolated, lost, lonely, not understood, feeling sorry for oneself, trying so hard to get over it.
With time, given our circumstances, we may be able to get back on track - somehow. But we know, it will never be the same again. While others can no longer see our wounds and forget, we know our scars, even if we may work hard to ignore them.
Now, imagine this process is like rebuilding your home after the traumatic experience destroyed and took everything you had. Image you built your new home on shifting sands. Not because you are foolish, but because that is all there is.
Imagine the shifting sand is the 'unknown' Kylie mentioned. The unknown of a life-changing and life-shortening illness. The uncertainty of if, when and how it will come back. You may look great and feel great, but for all you know, the illness may be lingering in you. Nothing is guaranteed.
Yes, we all face the uncertainty and even certainty of life and death. But if you have been treated for an illness, which may take hold again, then the trauma of having been at the brink can be immense.
A question about how we may have coped first time around will be a reminder of our very own personal trauma, of what happened in the past and of what may be ahead. The fear and sense of helplessness in the face of uncertainty can be immense and choke the best of us from time to time.
Sharing this with others can be powerful in showing how normal and human feeling overwhelmed and frightened can be. I hope more room will be given in interviews to ask these questions. And I hope that others affected will have the courage and opportunity to share, even if it is some tears.