I wanted to share with you all about where I am with my personal cancer journey – I’ve felt it important that I share my experiences in order to help others with theirs.
My last round of chemo is planned for the 4th September – I can’t tell you the tension within me, feeling sick at the thought of how sick this will make me, but also overjoyed that I don’t have to do this anymore!
The whole being treated for cancer thing is really hard. As a woman being treated for breast cancer, the assessment, diagnosis and treatment really do ‘attack’ all that makes us feminine.
I’ve continued to share online in various social media platforms some of my daily experiences being a cancer patient. My hope is to raise awareness of the need for improved health literacy for patients, and for improved CARE from treatment providers. HOLY MOLY batman I did not expect to come up against so many barriers as a patient, and I am a well educated, health literate patient. Advocating for yourself during this journey is so hard. We as health professionals really need to step up our game when working with people facing medical diagnosis, acute treatment and chronic conditions.
I felt so strongly about this that I wrote a letter to Health professionals everywhere. You can download a copy of this letter here, and as a health professional you can then receive a 5 part email series that will help you think about how you ‘help’ your clients and patients.
I will be (sometime in the future) writing a series for patients / clients too, in an effort to help us all know how to ask for what we need.
Another significant learning for me during chemo treatment season has been a sense of overwhelming isolation. As health professionals we are all very aware of the detrimental mental health effects of isolation, I can attest to this. COVID-19 isolation restrictions have not made this any easier, and my heart now aches for the dozens of people who are choosing to take their own lives because they cannot cope.
An unexpected connector for me was to participate in The Creative Fringes ‘Think Outside of the Box’ blanket drive for 2020. This was an opportunity for me to sew up knitted squares into blankets that were then distributed to 3 different services in my local community to help people who need help with getting warm during Winter.
Being a part of this challenge enabled me to feel connected to others. Not just with the delivery of the squares and pick up of the finished blankets, but in knowing that I was participating in something bigger than me with other people. I’ve learned that return service personnel with mental health issues joined the challenge, that people living with chronic and complex mental health diagnosis participated in the challenge and that people living in nursing homes and assisted living participated in the challenge. Talk about an awesome way of connecting people.
This whole experience has got me thinking about how we as health professionals could potentially impact the sense of loneliness and isolation for people living in our communities …
By far one of the most outstanding moments of my cancer treatment experience has been the extraordinary birthday gift my son presented to me.
I turned up to watch Anthony play for the Colts on the 8th August. Like most people, I was a bit whingy about how cold and wet it was. I was worried about getting sick because getting a cold or a flu is dangerous for a #chemo patient.
Anyhoo – I had no idea that Anthony had for my birthday, organised his club to get involved and fundraise for the @McGrathFoundation.
Usually the bastion of international cricket, he decided that his club could do something positive to support women like his mum going through breast cancer treatment. And it is a complete fluke that was wearing my pink rain jacket.
Anthony expressed that he had felt powerless to do anything meaningful to help me during my treatment, so this is what he chose to do. Talk about resilience in action. I cannot be prouder.
What’s next for me?
Well I have my final round of chemo on the 4th September. I then start preparing for some pretty dramatic surgery.
In almost all of this I choose to work because it is good for my mental health. My energy levels and capacity levels fluctuate. There are days when posting one thing on social media is as much as I can do, and there are others, like today when I can write this email, which has been in the too hard basket for the past 8 weeks.
The Purple Co team have been amazing. We continue to serve clients, help them achieve goals and even land an amazing project with a NSW Government service to help them understand the psychological and psycho social demands of various high risk occupations, so we can inform prevention of vicarious trauma and also inform treatment including returning to work following a work related mental health experience. This is exciting work!
I thank all of you who continue to reach out and check in, who send me private messages, who comment on Linked In posts (talk about vulnerability hangovers) send TikTok videos of Coffee porn, who send gifts and cards and offer assistance with managing Purple Co!
Until next time – here’s to making work work well