The C Word and why it’s important:

This is the first time I’ve ever put my thoughts and encounters with cancer down into words and, honestly, the first time I’ve been brave enough to write about anything at all. If you had told me a year ago that cancer would be affecting my life this much, I would not have believed you. It’s not something you expect to encounter at 25; most of us presume that cancer is for the elderly but in reality, it affects most people.

On one hand, I have been fortunate enough that the few family members of mine who have experienced a cancer diagnosis have come out the other side, but on the other much worse hand, one of my school friends lost their battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2017 at the devastating age of 21. It really is a disease that does not discriminate and so I feel that it should be talked about earlier on in life.

Back in school, I knew what cancer was if someone were to ask me, but I don’t think I ever gave it a second thought until I was in my twenties. It’s not something that is taught and really, not something my parents talked to me about until it directly affected the family.

Knowing what I know now, I feel it is critical to teach and encourage women to regularly check their breasts for abnormalities and attend their smear tests! Nearly 70% of all breast cancers are found through self-exams and, with early detection the five year survival rate is 98%. Men shouldn’t feel left out either; they should be checking their testicles for any lumps, change in shape, texture or any pains. Basically, anything that seems out of the ordinary, get it checked out, as testicular cancer is the most common cancer of men between the ages of 15 and 49, but if found early the survival rate is around 95%.

I can understand why most people would not want to talk about cancer if they have just been diagnosed. It’s an emotional time and you would feel anything from denial and shock to upset and anger, and no-one could blame you. However, it’s important to remember that a problem shared is a problem halved and any half decent friend or family member would be happy to lend an ear. As a relative of someone diagnosed with cancer, it’s difficult to know when to raise the subject and when to not. Of course, a diagnosis does not define someone and take over their personality but, equally, it will be a massive part of their life, at least for a while, and it’s essential to be able to discuss all elements of the disease.

I guess the take home message of this is to make sure you check your body regularly and go to your GP if something doesn’t feel right as you know yourself best. Additionally, if you’re struggling, talk to someone; even if it’s not a friend or family member. I’m always happy to discuss cancer with anyone and I don’t think the C word should be kept a behind closed doors conversation.

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