The Blog

Prog-no-thanks

It used to surprise me, but not anymore. It's become the norm. There are plenty of other questions that could be asked - "how are you feeling?", "can I do anything to help?", even - "do you need a hug?" Anything but, "so, how long until the doctors think you're going to die?"!!

The first thing people ask when you tell them you have incurable cancer is, "what's your prognosis?"

It used to surprise me, but not anymore. It's become the norm. There are plenty of other questions that could be asked - "how are you feeling?", "can I do anything to help?", even - "do you need a hug?" Anything but, "so, how long until the doctors think you're going to die?"!!

I have secondary breast cancer. I know that I'm going to die sooner than I should. What I don't want to know is a rough estimation of when.

From 2nd May 2014, the day I was diagnosed, I told my oncologist that I didn't want to know my prognosis. Just as I didn't want to know the ins and outs of my particular cancer. I knew that the grade 1 tumour in my breast broke away and set up camp in my bones - making me incurable. That was enough.

I didn't care to know about the nitty gritty. I wanted to live obliviously.

And I did, pretty much. Until 2016, when booking a holiday abroad meant that I needed travel insurance. This is a lengthy process for anyone living with cancer, and you have to answer a lot of questions. One of the things they wanted to know was how many of my bones are affected. I didn't know, so was told I needed to find out from my oncologist (plucking the number three from nowhere didn't work!)

I wish I'd never had to ask that question. I will never un hear the answer. Every single bone in my body is affected by the cancer. I have extensive bone metastasis.

And this is the exact reason I don't want to know my prognosis.

You will never un hear those words.

How do you deal with knowing that limited time frame, as well as everything else you have going on in your head that comes with a cancer diagnosis? Surely you'd count down the days, months, and years, and cram a million and one things into that time period. What happens though, when you get to 0 and you're still alive and kicking? What if you don't make it - would you feel cheated? I find it hard to fathom if I'm honest.

A prognosis is based on statistics taken from a group of people in a similar situation to yours. But, everyone is different. Everyone reacts to medicine differently. What works for one might not work for another. We are all individual.

I understand that my approach is not for everyone, but it's how I manage living with my illness. It allows me compartmentalise, to carry on regardless, and to keep things as 'normal' as possible for my children.

Breast cancer is still the most common cancer in the UK. This year alone, more than 50,000 women will be told they have breast cancer, and around 11,500 women will die from the disease.

Breast Cancer Now is the UK's largest breast cancer research charity. Find out how their scientists are working to stop secondary breast cancer.

To help support their world-class research targeting incurable secondary breast cancer, visit breastcancernow.org/getinvolved