Georgie found that although friends and family were supportive, they couldn’t understand the journey she was on. She talks about finding support through others also diagnosed, and discovering her own resilience.
My life changed on New Year’s Day
I woke up on 1 January 2012 and decided that this was going to be my year. I thought about the resolutions I had made and was determined, as I am sure everyone is, to keep them.
Then, I remembered that after the celebrations the night before I had taken a shower and discovered a lump in my right breast. I felt my breast and found the lump was still there.
So began a different journey to the one I had envisaged. A very lonely journey. One that would leave me exhausted, unwell and facing a future that I had not expected.
I didn’t have time to process my diagnosis
As anyone diagnosed with cancer knows, things happen very quickly and the whole process is hard to keep up with and assimilate.
Within weeks, instead of looking for a new job – which had been one of my resolutions – I was saying a tearful goodbye to colleagues to go into treatment.
I began to experience loneliness in my last week at work as I would be excused from staff meetings so that I could finish reports that only I could do. Other staff took on my work and I had to take a step back. I joined in the banter but half my mind was elsewhere. A place I couldn’t explain because I didn’t know.
Within 24 hours of leaving work I was two miles up the road from the office having my right breast removed, and within 48 hours I was home and carrying my drains in a bag.
I didn’t understand what journey I was on
My family were loving, supportive, sympathetic and anxious.
I, on the other hand, was spaced out with no spare energy to be anxious. I was only just beginning to understand the meaning of being on a journey that no one truly understood, least of all me.
Following my mastectomy and before starting chemotherapy, I joined a group on the Breast Cancer Care Forum. All the people, women and men, were due to start chemotherapy in March, hence we became the ‘Marvellous Marchies’.
In the very beginning we introduced ourselves and discussed all our anxieties and fears. A song with a music video was shared on our page called, ‘The Wildest Ride On Earth’. It was about a lady going through her cancer treatment. I remembered feeling empathy for the woman but not truly understanding her loneliness.
It’s hard for others to understand the loneliness of breast cancer
I showed my sister the video the other day and said I may write a blog about ‘My lonely journey’. She said, ‘Don’t, think about your kids.’
I could see her thinking – ‘You weren’t alone. You had a husband, children, a mother, friends, me... How could you be lonely?’
Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of support. But it was with my new, virtual friends on the Forum that I shared my fears and anxieties about my family’s anxieties. We laughed about things my family didn’t feel it was appropriate to laugh about. We talked about the possibility of not pulling through, and connected in the middle of the night when our loved ones were asleep and we lay wide awake.
My family couldn’t reach the part of me that was struggling
Gradually, as time went on I began to understand the loneliness depicted in the video. I was on a path where family and friends could walk alongside me, but not be with the 'me' inside.
The me taking the drugs I didn’t want to take, knowing that in the short term they made me feel more ill than I have ever felt. Suddenly knowing after the first dose of chemotherapy what the following doses and weeks would be like.
The me in a fight I didn’t want to be in, a battle I hadn’t chosen and, most importantly, using energy that I had never used before just to stay alive and not give up.
I thought that loneliness would dissipate once my treatment was over but it hasn’t. However, I think I have begun to understand that everyone’s life is unique and that at some point everyone will experience that loneliness.
I’ve discovered my own resilience
Experiencing loneliness can expose what makes us unique and bring it to surface. It can help us to discover what makes us happy in times of trial.
Loneliness is inevitable in most troubling situations, but it is in that loneliness that we discover who we really are.
Find support on our Forum and speak to others who understand how you feel.