Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Sunday 22nd February

They say ‘many a true word is spoken in jest’. When you are the recipient of the ‘jest’ and can recognise the truth behind what is said in a half-joking way, it can affect you even more than you may realise at the time.

I met a woman at the dam today who had breast cancer a number of years ago. It emerged that her cancer was more advanced than mine and her treatment much harsher: she also had a mastectomy, but had to have radiation therapy and nine cycles of the chemo drugs. When I told her about my story, she laughed and said (half-jokingly) that I wasn’t a real patient – just half a patient.

I’m pretty positive that she meant this as a joke, but it hit me and has had me thinking the whole day. Partly, this has been because I have felt from the outset even a little bit guilty, I suppose, about the fact that my tumour was so early and well-contained. Also that it was relatively easily treated and the chemo was for a short time.

I have been thinking about that, though, and about what the woman said. It is true that every cancer patient has a different scenario. There are different treatments and different scenarios. My cancer was caught early (thank God) and was treated in a far more straightforward manner than some other people experience. It was a harsh treatment, there is no doubt, as the disease/condition demands. It also affected me and was completely real for me.

No matter what the scenario is, though, cancer is cancer. It doesn’t matter what stage it is, or how harsh (or not) the treatment is, it is still the dreaded ‘c’ word and brings with it a whole range of experiences, emotions and fallout.

Cancer is not a competition. It is not a matter of standing there comparing notes, with some survivors saying the equivalent of, “My cancer’s worse than yours”, in a kind of sing-song voice like kids on a playground.

In many ways, we all stand united in this. I don’t necessarily think about myself as a ‘cancer survivor’, but as a person who had cancer and has seen it through (well, mostly – the process still continues, but the cancer itself has been sent packing!). I also know without any doubt that I am, like so many others, the absolute beneficiary of years of research into cancer and so many initiatives that promote awareness and allow for the research.

It’s not only about cancer survivors, though. There are many, many people in the world with whom I share another kind of bond – that of those aware of cancer and interested in supporting initiatives that promote awareness and facilitate research. It is the Shavathon this weekend. We have always supported it and, of course, will again this year. Four years ago, I had my head shaved because of Dale. Last year I had it shaved again because of Bill. This year I have practically no hair to shave 😉

The family will be there, though, having something done to their hair, just because we know the value of the initiative and we always believe in it.

I’m wrong, actually: cancer is a competition – not between patients and survivors, though, but between all of us and cancer itself.

And, as with me, again and again it is we who are the champions – people like me who are the winners.


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