Sara found writing helped her move on after treatment. Now she wants her writing to help others through their own diagnosis.
I’ve been able to make sense of what I went through
Since my breast cancer diagnosis in October 2016 and following treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, Herceptin and now tamoxifen), I have written about cancer a lot. Over the past three years I’ve waffled on and on about having breast cancer and it’s really helped me. It’s helped to get all the stress and anxiety about having cancer out of my head. It’s helped me to make sense of what I went through. And, I’m hopeful that my writing has helped other people who are going through breast cancer.
Through my website I’ve shared practical checklists for people going through breast cancer treatment, including the things I would have wanted to know when I was in their position. I’ve written for charities like Breast Cancer Care about the loneliness of cancer, the struggles I faced at the end of treatment, the importance of exercise, how I distracted myself during treatment and how it felt to go back to work after cancer.
I want my writing to start an honest conversation about cancer
I’ve written a book about the treatment I went through and how a breast cancer diagnosis affected my life – a busy life juggling work and kids. I’ve been working on this book, Ticking Off Breast Cancer, for the past two years and it’s finally coming out this month. I’m hoping it’ll provide an honest, no-holds-barred heads-up of what to expect during primary breast cancer treatment, together with lots of practical checklists for anyone about to embark on treatment or already going through it.
I want it to help anyone who’s recently finished treatment and is trying to make sense of what they’ve just been through. And there are also insights and tips for friends or family members on how to help and what to say.
The book is genuinely for everyone. It’s even for people who don’t have cancer in their lives. People outside cancer-land don’t really talk about cancer, probably because it’s so scary. But one in two of the population are expected to get cancer so we shouldn’t hide away from it. Fear is often fear of the unknown. By keeping the cancer conversation going, surely we’ll help to remove some of that fear.
I’ll never be quite the same as I was before cancer
After all this writing, I feel like I’m ready to leave my experience behind. It’s taken a while. Some of the side effects lingered around for longer than I would have liked, and I still don’t feel exactly the way I did before cancer. In fact, I don’t think I’m going to get back there. But, despite the menopausal symptoms, tamoxifen aches and pains, slightly more anxiety and the occasional worries about it coming back, I generally feel good and that I’ve moved on from having cancer.
So, it’s time to slow down with writing about my experience.
Instead, it’s time to focus on other people who are going through breast cancer. Being diagnosed with breast cancer, going through treatment and then trying to move on has been incredibly difficult. I need to use what I went through and I want to pay forward the help and support that I received during my treatment. This is why I’ve published the book and set up the website.
We need to let women know that they’re not alone
Every day hundreds of women around the world are diagnosed with breast cancer. These women will be scared about their diagnosis and many will be fearful about going online to find help. They are worried about reading out-of-date or incorrect information, finding something that makes them question what they’ve been told by their medical team, reading about things that they may not yet be ready to read about and generally being overwhelmed by all the information out there. I hope that my website and writing can help people navigate their new world a bit better, and let people know they’re not alone through sharing others’ stories too.
Sharing your story can be so powerful
It’s these personal stories that are particularly important to me. I feel incredibly privileged to provide a platform where people can share their stories. Not only do they help the people who are reading them by providing companionship, support and encouragement, but they’re also a form of therapy for those who write them.
Whether they’re about exercise, breast reconstruction, living flat or unreconstructed, working (or not working) during treatment, anxiety, pregnancy, anger or mental health issues and lots more, they are all honest, written from the heart, representative of real life and full of hope.
So, moving forward, I’ll still be sharing my passion for writing by sharing these personal stories. And maybe I’ll just have to find something else to write about…
Ticking Off Breast Cancer by Sara Liyanage is out on 26 September 2019 through Hashtag Press.
Read more from Sara on her website, Ticking Off Breast Cancer.