Jennie - Interview 36

Age at interview: 71
Age at diagnosis: 49
Brief Outline: Jennie was diagnosed with breast cancer in (1979) and bowel cancer in 1989. She received surgery for both, and had a breast reconstruction ten years ago. It took her almost 10 years to recover from the colon resection.
Background: Jennie is a retired assistant house mistress. She has a partner and two daughters. Ethnic Background: White British.

More about me...

Jennie was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 30 years ago. At the time, she had a radical mastectomy and didn’t have a reconstruction operation until about 10 years ago. She opted for reconstruction as she found wearing a breast prosthesis uncomfortable, heavy and hot and opted for the reconstruction. 
Jennie also had colon cancer, with a number of complications from the colon resection, mainly a large and painful abscess. She has a prolapsed bladder with a suprapubic catheter, and had about 10 years of being constantly in and out of hospital. 
Being ill and fatigued for so long meant that she lost touch with some friends, which was lonely at times. Her partner found it difficult to cope with her being ill, and went out a lot when she was unable to leave the house. She thinks that it was also very difficult and frightening for her daughters to see her going through cancer. 
Jennie still sometimes gets worried when she has her five yearly checkups. Sometimes she still thinks about cancer, and when she is awake in the night, she worries that it might be coming back. However, she feels very lucky to not have experienced recurrence of either cancer. 
After the mastectomy she joined a local support group for people affected by cancer, and found it to be quite helpful. She left when she felt better, and didn’t want to spend time with people who were ill. At the time she was diagnosed, Jennie tried to be very brave, then about 18 months after the breast cancer diagnosis broke down in tears. Her advice to people going through cancer is to try not to be too brave, to just look after yourself, and to cry if you want to. 



Jennie had colorectal cancer 22 years ago and believes that there are worse conditions to have...

Jennie had colorectal cancer 22 years ago and believes that there are worse conditions to have...

Some people use the term cancer survivors to talk about people who are living past a cancer diagnosis. How do you feel about that and do you think that that’s accurate to describe you as a cancer survivor? Do you like the term? Do you?
I’ve never ever, I don’t, there’s something about it I don’t like, because everybody survives something. And I think that there are worse things to have than cancer. I really do. At least with, certainly with the cancers I’ve had, you have a fighting chance of survival, and some things you don’t have any chance or you just deteriorate. I mean seeing my sister with MS just going steadily downhill, that’s much worse, and having a stroke, and I think people often don’t realise that if you don’t get treatment very quickly with stroke then you can get these awful paralysed limbs where they distort and they are painful for people. And they have such a job to do anything for themselves and that is worse, that is much worse. So I never think about myself as a cancer survivor. It sounds a bit, I think it’s a bit pretentious. I don’t, I’m not quite sure if I mean, yeah, I don’t mean pretentious but I don’t like the term. I don’t like labelling myself that. No, I’m just Jen who had cancer. That’s more it. 


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