There are certain realities you have to face when you have a cancer diagnosis. Life is never going to be quite the same again. Chemotherapy saps your strength and energy levels and the radiotherapy is sore long after you leave the unit, but worse than the treatment itself, for many women, is the hair loss.
I knew that I might not survive. The cancer was highly aggressive and the surgeries were very risky, carrying a 50% percent paralysis risk. At times I was tempted to focus on the injustice of it all. I'd done nothing to deserve this, but no cancer patient ever does. So, instead of staring hopelessly at the bleakness of my situation I determined to be positive...
Deep down, we know that we should be safe in the sun. I certainly knew it, but my husband Graham thought he was 'indestructible' and so he didn't wear sun cream. It's only now, as a widow after Graham was cruelly snatched away by skin cancer when he was just 43 years old, that I can't believe I didn't act differently and make him protect himself.
Ten years later, what are my reflections on my experience as a carer? First, I never saw myself as a carer. The word 'carer' implies forced responsibilities. I was simply and overwhelmingly John's girlfriend who only wanted the best for him. We had wonderful times together - cancer isn't all bad - and his illness only made us appreciate each other even more.
Jodie is 31 and lives in London, last October she was given the devastating news that she had breast cancer. A few weeks later she was told it had spread to her bones. She had to give up work almost immediately and suddenly found herself with barely enough money to live on. Jodie was advised by her nurse to apply for the Personal Independence Payment, the UK's main disability benefit, which would offer her some financial support. She applied in November, but seven months on and she is still waiting to find out if she is eligible. She is now at crisis point, struggling to pay for day-to-day expenses such as food and bills. This is unacceptable.
Let's face it, men are rubbish at talking seriously about their health. Other than sporadically airing my own health-related neuroses, my own previous form on serious cancer talk is questionable. Other than a mere cursory chat to a friend about his mother's breast cancer diagnosis, it's probably zero.
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.
So saying no to a drink for a month, when surrounded by shots, 21st birthday parties and bar crawls, has certainly proved a challenge. I wasn't exactly pacing the floors looking for a mini-bar a la Denzel Washington in Flight, but I did feel an apprehension that I hadn't before experienced when going out.
What really caught my eye about the article was the fact that it used the word "survive". They won't recover from cancer. They will survive it. I know that it was meant in the sense that they won't die from it, but it struck me in a completely different way. From my perspective you don't recover from cancer. You simply survive it if you are lucky.
One in four people newly diagnosed with cancer in the UK will lack support from family or friends during their treatment and recovery - that's more than an estimated 70,000 people every year not getting help at a time when they need it more than ever. Of those, around a third - an estimated 20,000 people each year - will receive no support whatsoever, facing cancer completely alone.
The moral imperative to root out ageism in the NHS now has legal backing, following the recent expansion of the age-related provisions of the 2010 Equality Act to include services. All public sector organisations must eliminate unequal treatment on the grounds of age. But where do we start in cancer care?