A simple question. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Being affected by cancer this Christmas can come in many different ways. You, someone you know or are close to, may have just been diagnosed, may undergo or finish treatment.
While we do not have the disease, our own lives can become overshadowed and change. We may lose part of ourselves (hopes, aspirations, freedom, love and support) and a level of being care-free: without having to worry, without having to care for another.
If you've never been on a chemo ward, you'd be forgiven for thinking it would be full of people hooked up to machines, looking thin, grey, exhausted. And to a degree, you'd be right. We are all hooked up to machines. However, what you perhaps don't expect is the inspiration, comradeship, hope and laughter that spills from the room.
Cancer treatment varies depending on the nature and progression of the disease. It can focus on eliminating cancer tumours and cells, slowing down or stabilising the spread of the disease.
Often people feel that they have been replaced by cancer; that their lives and who they are has been reduced to cancer; that their past achievements, dreams and ambitions no longer count for anything. How to cope? And how do others around us cope?
What is perhaps less well reported is that there are also thousands of people every year who are living with cancer long term, struggling to maintain their standard of living. And, while treatment has advanced significantly since the 1960s, palliative care has not.
For people with cancer, being able to continue in or return to work can help them reclaim their life from the disease. It can provide a return to normality, restore their identity and self-esteem, and ease financial worries. But at Macmillan Cancer Support we know that people with cancer often face difficulties at work after their diagnosis. More than four in 10 people who are working when diagnosed have to make changes to their working lives, with almost half of them changing jobs or leaving work. There are more than 100,000 people of working age diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK.
Firstly, and most importantly, Elisabeth is American, and the blog is from the US. Therefore, I would hasten to ensure we all know the difference between what the US advocate when it comes to breast awareness, and what we advocate here in the UK.
Something as simple as taking a yoga class can bring a sense of calm and reassurance. The meditation element of yoga is also an essential life skill that can be used in challenging situations like sitting for hours with an intravenous drip administering cancer drugs.
On 15 May at 7pm in my office in the City of London, I took a call which shifted my universe. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and told I would have to undergo surgery which may or may not leave me infertile and possibly have chemo-radiation after that.
I am regularly the youngest patient on my ward, often by a good 30 years, frequently mistaken for a daughter, even a grand-daughter. This was commented upon by a radiotherapist during my five weeks of radiotherapy who welcomed me into the room with 'well, it does make a pleasant change to have a young, pert bottom to manoeuvre on to the bed!'
One Sunday one of our merry band was having his regular bedside Mass with his priest and his Mum, when the priest asked us all to join with them. When we all refused the way the priest replied to us has stuck with me throughout my life. "Well if you don't believe then you deserve to be sick. God is punishing you all for your lack of faith".
Sometimes we make snap decisions, the importance and significance of which only becomes clear over time. But from that spontaneous beginning, Walk the Walk and our knowledge of breast cancer has come so far. Best of all, breast cancer is now on the brink of becoming a treatable disease.
It is widely reported that after inaccuracies were found in waiting times for cancer treatment at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Essex Police are considering a criminal investigation.
Over 50,000 men between the ages of 15 and 64 die each year in the UK. They're dying too young, many from diseases we should be able to prevent. In the UK, the death rate for men between 15 and 44 years old is nearly double that of women.
Being on palliative care shouldn't mean being written off by the medical profession, destined to become another statistic. Life is precious, regardless of how long or short, and should be used not only to make the most of here and now, but also to make a difference for the future.