That Sledgehammer Feeling

One of my sisters, R, lent me Rose Tremain’s “Merivel”  as recuperative reading. (I love Rose Tremain, and have read “Restoration” three or four times – one of the very best of contemporary novels). I don’t know if R had remembered that there is a breast cancer episode in the book, when Merivel (who is a surgeon) cuts out a cancer that has clearly spread to the lymph nodes and beyond. This being the C17, there is no other treatment, and, unsurprisingly, the woman dies. It set me thinking: was the psychological impact of bc actually much less in the days before the whole modern medical machine? Would it in some ways  be preferable to know far less, and to be able to do far less about it? Would your mind get less messed up that way?

For me, this is almost all about the psychology just now. You see, in one way, I’m relatively accepting. I’m not hiding my asymmetric look away. I’m determined to get back to a new normal. But I still wonder every day, “How did this happen? All this palaver and treatment for two tiny, tiny bits of rogue tissue? Is this not out of all proportion?” And I think all the time about the decisions I have made and am making; the treatment I have had; the irreversible change to my body; the fear of the effect of future treatments; how I will deal with future invitations to screening and monitoring; the possibility of recurrence; and the inconsistency of my actions ( = rage, protest, question, make a big fuss – and then ultimately agree to surgery and hormone therapy. What’s going on here??)

I still don’t see myself as up against cancer per se. Maybe I am in deep denial and unable to accept that my body actually went wrong. There are people posting on the bc discussion sites who clearly feel relieved to have had a lump cut out/breast removed, and say unequivocally that they would have the other breast removed without hesitation if another cancer was found there. They are glad to have all the aggressive treatments that are offered – anything to keep the cancer itself  at bay.  I just am not like that.  Despite the kindness and care of individuals, I still see myself as up against some cancer bandwagon – with its confusing and conflicting messages – even while I am agreeing to accept its help.

So, the current state of play? I have had breast cancer, but haven’t got it any more.  But now I’ve got cancer in the head. Big time. It has spread. It has got me. Maybe it will be with me forever.



  1. Everything we do stems from thought.Thoughts are powerful. If you can control your thoughts by training yourself to focus just on the present moment i.e. the “now”, this very instant, you WILL get the upper hand of the negative thoughts and musings and what ifs?. Thoughts create our emotional state. They affect our health and influence what we do and say to people. Thoughts turn into feelings, which turn into actions which can have very different results depending on how we deal with the original thought. If we can control the thought, we can control the action or reaction.i;e; not all thoughts have to produce actions which then inevitably lead to negative results/outcomes
    There are loads of interesting articles on the internet and books etc about living in the present moment and not being controlled by your thoughts but you taking control back and regaining the power over your life rather than allowing thoughts to potentially cripple you emotionally i.e. “do your head in”
    I wish you peaceful and positive thoughts always x

      • Hi Possibly?. It is my thoughts/conclusions re a mix of things. I have spent the last year reading “The four agreements”, “The 5th agreement”, “The mastery of love”, “The voice of knowledge” by Don Miguel Ruiz and dipped into “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle and various other books, I’ve watched “The way of the Peaceful warrior” – Dan Millman, “Pay it Forward”, “The bucket list” and various other uplifting/inspiring films etc etc and perused quotes, sayings, inspiring words etc etc as a way of coming to terms, accepting and using events, situations etc within in my own life, within the family, external things out of my control etc etc as stepping stones forward in my own development etc rather than weights and worries to drag me down x

  2. You’ve had a close encounter with a very powerful system, our current western medical system, with all its power and all its limitations, while under a possible threat of life threatening illness. You’ve had a piece of your precious body taken away. You allowed or even “chose” for this to happen. and so now you’re having to deal with the sense that you somehow did this to yourself. Those are very powerful and challenging experiences and it’s not surprising that you are in some turmoil. It’s really very early days in digesting all this. I think it’s likely that some of this will just settle, that your mind and heart are busy healing, just as your body is doing its self-healing work after the surgery. Thank you for sharing this with us all, the pain and confusion as well as the more positive stuff. I hope the blog is proving to be are part of the healing.
    I like Rose Tremain too.

    • Thanks Mary. Yes, I am hoping some of this will settle myself, if not resolve. I had a piano lesson this morning and that felt good! And the blog does seem to help.

  3. Hi E

    Not quite learned how to log in to the blog with comments – would that stop me?!  Conscious you have a lot of feelings sinking in by stages.  Not always possible to avoid feelings – there is a need to allow them and attempt to process them –  though that said a need for TLC from dear ones around you to cushion you as you deal with all the realisations that the situation you have been through and continue to face have presented -Caroline xxxxxxxxxxx


    • Thank you – you seem to be managing to comment OK! Yes, I think the feelings probably come in stages. I’m not surprised by my ups and downs, though expecting them doesn’t necessarily make them easier.

  4. You are pretty amazing Elizabeth ……. and, as ever, intelligent and reflective even whilst jostling along on the ‘cancer bandwagon’.as you describe it.

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