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Interview CC09

Age at interview: 49
Age at diagnosis: 43
Brief Outline: Diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1996. External Radiotherapy (22 sessions) followed by Internal Radiotherapy (30 hours).
Background: Teacher; married, 2 children.

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She describes her recovery from radiotherapy.

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I mean I wasn't really getting out and getting very much fresh air so, but once the treatment had finished and I used to set myself little targets. Particularly me and my husband would walk to the letter box and back and then, sorry not the letter box the post box and then try to walk around the block. Because we lived by the sea, my first trip down onto the beach was just fantastic. And getting better was actually quite a bit of therapy for my husband actually. As time was going on he was sort of saying things like that's fantastic, you've walked along the beach, that's brilliant. And he was saying things like "You know when you think back to 3 months ago, 6 months ago you couldn't do that." And I think that was actually quite a nice thing for him to see that I could come out of it and make progress.

 

Describes the time between her diagnosis and treatment as the most peaceful time in her life.

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But the whole family rallied round and supported. But there was this incredible of sort of like lightness. I felt an incredible lightness of myself, emotionally and mentally. I felt almost liberated. It was really, really weird. And my family were saying "I'm devastated for you [patients name] and why aren't you, so why aren't you upset?" I said "I don't know, I'm just not, I'm just sort of just going with the flow of it and that's," I knew I just had to do that.

Why do you think that was, why you felt like that?

The whole thing of having something massive like cancer I knew it meant more than just the illness. I just had this inner feeling it wasn't just an illness. It was to do with my life, with my emotions, with how I treat people. It was all tied with all of those different aspects of what living is. And so I just felt well this is like an opportunity almost. It was, first and foremost I knew it was an opportunity for me to stop, for me to just sort of slow my whole life down. I had been working full time as a teacher and running a family, running a home and it was just an incredible time to just stop a lot of decision making, a lot of responsibility. 

So there was definitely benefits to it. I mean my boss at work said "Oh you're not coming back even to do the first couple of weeks of this term starting in September?" and I said "No I'm tired, I'm just going to stop," and I think he got a shock. But I was emphatic. I just thought no, I'm going to take this time. I know that my body is telling me I need it. And that's exactly what I did. Right up until the treatment started which was three weeks later, and even when I was going through treatment I just used to lie on the settee and read and look out the window and watch things growing outside. It was just the most, one of the most peaceful times in my entire life. 
 

Describes the pain she experienced during internal radiotherapy and how she coped.

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I had taken some very positive things in to read, like I'd written specifically some things down on paper which I had planned to sort of say to myself when I felt it was difficult. And I did try actually to read them but I just couldn't concentrate on anything bar the pain. And I actually clock-watched. I had a watch in my hand for most of the time and I watched the counter, you know the seconds pointer go round. And to this day I can't wear a watch. 5' years on I won't wear a watch.

you are really very cut off. And when the nurses do, they come in and they do have to try and turn you, to rub you because otherwise you get bed sores and even trying to turn you over a little bit is absolutely excruciating. You have this, I don't know what size it was but it felt gigantic inside of me. But there was also a part of me which was saying well just go through it, just get on with it. It's not the end of the world, you're going to come out of it in X amount of time. It's painful now but just get on with it. And I think that's really why I was watching the clock so much, because every second that I watched it, was another second gone.
 

She describes how she used homeopathic remedies after her radiotherapy treatment.

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I went to see a homeopathist actually and that's right I did do quite a lot of treatments to help myself cope with that afterwards. She was putting me on monthly sort of homeopathic medication. I had been going to her in the past anyway but she just gave me masses of things to help my body fight the after effects of the radiotherapy. Because when I was having radiotherapy it was pointless taking anything, that was so powerful it was just going to negate anything else I was taking so it was afterwards, she just gave me loads of stuff to take and I actually sent off to different companies and you know I was drinking aloe vera juice and I was taking sort of kelp tablets and all sorts of things and marine stuff, strange things off the bottom of oceans across the world. And I tried to do it sort of fairly intelligently because it is quite expensive you know you end up sort of paying quite a bit for this sort of stuff so I was determined that I was going to give my body back what I thought it could benefit from. So yeah I had a few months of doing those sort of things.
 

She describes why she used visualisation techniques during her radiotherapy treatment.

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So I think looking at things positively and what's happened is so vital to fighting it. That's what everybody seemed to say to me. I think, I can't remember whether it was the young nurses at the cancer clinic, they'd sort of say "Well when you're there focus on the cancer and just see it as something that's leaving your body when you're having the treatment." And I did, I kind of, I did sort of visualise these sort of cancer cells which, while I was actually in the treatment and I kind of almost willed them away while I was having the treatment. And I did, I did feel that there were other things to sort of to work on rather than 'oh I'm just lying here as you know a human body which is having some sort of treatment you know there's going to be chemical reaction', I definitely didn't just sort of feel that there was that sort of thing going on. I felt, well I emotionally and psychologically can contribute to this.
 
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She told her children aged 9 and 11 she had cancer because she wanted them to be involved and...

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They reacted in two different ways. I've got a son who five years ago would've been nine and my daughter would've been eleven. And my daughter took over the running of the house, bless her. She cooked all the meals and so she handled it all in a very practical way, whereas my son you know wanted to give me lots of cuddles and he just wanted to be with me. And that said very much about their personalities rather than about how they suddenly started to handle things. And I think it was definitely a time where I wanted to be very honest with them. I came home that night from having been told it at the hospital and I told them straight away because I didn't feel the need to keep anything a secret. I wanted them to share in one of the things that the family was going through, I thought that was very important. And it meant that they were involved in all the times I was at the hospital and all the visits that we suddenly had from different people and I didn't have to pretend. I mean luckily I wasn't, I didn't get depressed or anything but had I done well they would've known why and I thought things like that were very important.

 

She advises accepting the support of others.

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I think let your family spoil you. You know when somebody's feeling vulnerable like that don't, I think it's important not to sort of feel guilty about the fuss that's being made. I think if you can have a loving family who want to sort of be there for you and help you to cope with it I think that's very important. I'd say don't try, try to be too brave about it, just go with the flow of what your body is going through. Enjoy being spoilt if you've got the luxury of it. And sort of possibly, it seems a stupid thing to say enjoy it but there's so many good things can come out of being ill. Explore them and just see what other things life can offer you through it.

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