Here are what I consider to be the 10 worst words in a breast cancer patient’s dictionary:
=1. Metastasis. The last thing you want to hear out of a doctor’s mouth unless accompanied by the word “no” or “none”
=1. Spread. Same reason.
3. Reoccurrence. What we all fear most after metastasis and what we secretly all feel is inevitable (at least on our bad days). How can the doctors be sure they’ve got rid of all the cancer cells? They can’t. So the cancer will surely reoccur. Geddit?
4. Scan, test. Gosh how scans and tests fill us with dread. They inevitably conjure up a certainty of metastasis (see above). And therefore death. Waiting for the scan is bad. Waiting for the results is worse. By the time you get the results there is no possibly way (in your head) that they can be good news.
5. Cannula. Even before chemo starts, the number of tests and scans you have to have leave you feeling and looking like a pin cushion. For most ladies chemo just makes this worse as their chemo is delivered via a cannula. This ain’t easy. If you’ve had lymph nodes removed from one armpit you can’t be cannulated in that arm because of the risk of lymphodema. Chemo can make your veins collapse or harden or hurt, so often you can’t be cannulated in the same place twice. Some more ladies find that nurses take multiple attempts to cannulate them. It hurts.
6. Lump or tumour. Most ladies I know can’t use the word. They have to give it a name. Mine was Genghis. Others have been more direct – c***, Mr Lumpy, and so on.
7. Mortality rates. No need to know. Thank you very much.
8. Side effects. We know all about these. We know when they will arrive, what they will feel like, when they will die down. We can’t face describing them, as words don’t explain them properly. Take it from us – they are nasty and numerous and no one avoids them.
9. Hair. We all obsess about how much we will lose, from where and when. When will it grow back? How? Let’s just ditch the word.
10. Brave, inspirational, amazing. Thank you for calling us that, but we aren’t. We are just dealing with this whole shitty mess in the only way we can.