Sunday, 24 October 2010

Mental health wobble: Notes and swear words from hibernation

I'm fed up of accentuating the positive and I have spent the last week mostly in bed, feeling duly miserable. My doctor diagnosed me with nervous exhaustion last week. In retrospect I should have known the warning signs. I went to the Mermaid to the breast cancer support group and had an anxiety attack. We were cutting up photographs and making a display of all the good stuff women have been doing together through Made for Life. The effect of seeing all the photos, and thinking about all the women in the room and their breast cancer, made me feel depressed, sad and lonely, all at once. Minutes before, I'd felt happy to be part of the group. Now I felt cut up. And then I noticed that someone had printed out a photo of me at one of the Made for Life events, but the photo had misprinted with another one over the top of it. It illustrated exactly how I felt: Mixed up and confused.
Then I had a day when things came to a standstill and I couldn't do my job. I couldn't communicate properly at all. It was a bit of a shock. I have been believing that I haven't really "suffered" anything; my cancer was caught early, it was in situ and therefore trapped in the milk ducts, there was no invasion. So I've got on with my life. I've got a full-time job, I've been looking after my children, and I've been writing my happy happy joy joy blog; I've been helping the Mermaid centre raise breast cancer awareness, recruited people for a cancer research trial, and done orange surgery workshops with NHS staff as well as patients. Now I'm bloody knackered. And I think, most upsettingly for me, I haven't come to terms with losing my breast at all. Nope! Shit. I realise it is a continual battle. Just like it was when my daughter died: you may never come to terms with this stuff. Now I remember, you don't have to come to terms with it. But you do have to learn to live with it, at least, to be able to continue to function. I thought I had learned; but I'm still only part-way there. Damn and double damn.

And now I suppose I had better get up.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Made for Life: Having a ball

This is us at the Made for Life ball last Friday night. I was scurrying around town at the last minute at 3 o'clock on Friday afternoon, having just read the dress code on the tickets: Gah! It was a black tie affair! Dan wouldn't get away with a "nutty professor" bow tie, which had been the original plan, seeing as he is a nutty professor. But the Girl Guide Association came to the rescue. It turned out that Daisy's Brownie leader works at Moss Bros, and so Brown Owl went and found me a suit and all the trimmings. The trimmings were a minor problem prior to leaving for the ball, as Dan couldn't figure out how to do up the cummerbund or the bow tie. We ended up fixing the cummerbund, but doing some jiggery pokery with the bow tie and almost strangling the old man in the process.

It was worth it. Look! Chandeliers and everything!

Amanda Barlow's Made for Life foundation was the reason for the flurry. For the last few years, Amanda (of Budock Vean and Spezia Organics) has been running 'Made for Life' events, at which local women who've been diagnosed with breast cancer can be pampered and have a bit of respite from the world. She announced at the ball that after many, many months (and lots of paperwork), Made for Life is now a registered charity. They are looking to build a dedicated centre in Cornwall — similar to the concept behind Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres, which offer an array of services and stress-relieving therapies under one (in Maggie's case, spectacular) roof. The Made for Life centre will give people with cancer a nurturing environment and an array of activities and resources: What a brilliant idea. Even better: involving their family and friends in the experience as well. And I hope, now that it's an official charity, the Made for Life peeps will consider an annual Made for Life ball to celebrate. It was lovely.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

I like it on the stairs ...

I got a message from a friend on Facebook a few days ago asking me to post something saucy in my status bar in aid of Breast Cancer awareness month:
Remember the game last year about what color bra you were wearing at the moment? The purpose was to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was a tremendous success and we had men wondering for days what was with the colors and it made it to the news. This year's game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home for example "I like it on the couch", "I like it on the kitchen counter", "I like it on the dresser" well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your status with nothing more than that and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let's see how powerful we women really are!!!
It was reported in the Telegraph today, and I must agree with some commentators that it made more sense for breast cancer awareness when it was a statement about a bra, rather than your handbag. Someone moaned a bit about the fact that there was no concrete connection to advice or help, that it was beautifully attention-grabbing but a bit of a waste.

Got to agree there too, but the seed has been sown and perhaps someone like Cancer Research UK can play with something like it next year (or why wait until October? Look at what Breakthrough Breast Cancer are doing: they've just launched an iPhone app, iBreastCheck, to get women regularly checking their breasts!) Just using social networks in an engaging way has such enormous power to both spread the word and put information at people's fingertips - and not just any old information, the best and most reliable information. Hurrah for hyperlinks, I say!

I was a little peturbed, however, by the effect of the campaign on someone in my family. One of my cousins made the comment: "I like it anywhere". Whether he meant his bra or his handbag, I really cannot say.