Pam wrote poems to help process her breast cancer treatment. She shares extracts from her collection that highlight the important things to remember after a diagnosis.
My life changed overnight
In September 2018 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer. It came as a complete shock.
I feel like I have been on one of the toughest rides at the fairground with more loops and turns, ups and downs than I have experienced before.
I found writing things down really helped. Sometimes I took my questions into my appointments at the hospital and went through them one by one.
Questions, questions, questions
So many questions running through my head.
So many anxieties as I lie here in my bed.
They crowd my thoughts, invade my dreams, every single night
Impossible to cast them away, try, try as I might.
Why didn’t I know it was growing there?
Was it because I didn’t dare?
All the while it’s attacking me
Deep in a place that I cannot see.
Had it been there for very long?
Could the medics have got it wrong?
Time to ask questions now.
What can be done? When and how?
So many questions you need to ask.
Make a list, address the task.
No query is too small.
Best to raise them after all.
Knowledge is empowering or so they say.
What’s most important is you do things your way.
I kept some of my feelings hidden
Throughout my experience, I have felt a range of emotions. Some of my feelings and thoughts I shared openly at the time but others I kept to myself, until now.
Once you receive the diagnosis, life does change. You become a ‘cancer patient’ and for the rest of your life you are someone who has had cancer. People view you differently, and you view yourself differently.
Positivity is hard to sustain
Well, today anyway it is starting to wane.
I’m sitting in the sun with not a smile but a frown
Not sure really why I am feeling quite so down.
With cancer comes emotions; emotions of extremes
Bear with me a few minutes while I explain what I mean.
Emotions can be striking, whether happy or sad,
Angry, frustrated, despondent or glad.
I’m usually well-balanced; level-headed, you know what I mean.
Confident to show my feelings, but never make a scene.
Cancer has changed me in ways I do not know
One minute I am fine, but the next I am low.
Don’t feel you have to push your emotions aside
Accept your feelings. It’s really important they are not denied.
It’s good to open up, get things off your mind,
But above all else, to yourself, be kind.
Allow yourself, if you need, to shed a tear
Accept your emotions without any fear.
Don’t worry about your family and everyone
Thinking all the time you have to stay so strong.
Ultimately your true feelings shouldn’t be fake.
Let them out and share them or you will surely break.
I’ve realised that I matter
The last year has been a little surreal. Quite frequently I felt like an observer watching things happen to somebody that wasn’t really me. It has felt like life has been on hold.
A huge amount has changed for me, and there is no question I have changed too. Surprisingly my confidence has grown. I am less worried about what others think of me and am more prepared to say no when I need to.
One of the key messages I hope has emerged throughout my poems is the importance of self. Breast cancer has helped me realise that I matter.
The end of my cancer journey
Health matters are getting sorted, the end is in sight.
Hormonal ups and downs I’m determined to fight.
I have become very aware that none of us live forever
But I am determined now to enjoy all of our time together
With family and friends who bring such pleasure
Time to enjoy life with them at our leisure.
They have been with me each step of the way.
Thank you so much is all I can say.
There’s so much to be thankful as my cancer journey comes to an end.
For the medics, my family and each and every friend.
For your kindness, your love and your listening ears
For supporting me through all of my fears.
None of us know the future from here on in,
But I’m determined to embrace it… let my new life begin!
Read Pam's poetry collection, Surviving Breast Cancer Through Rhyme.
Writing can be a therapeutic way of expressing your feelings about your breast cancer diagnosis. If you're unsure about where to start, or haven't had any writing experience, our guide may help.