I have two friends battling heroically with breast cancer this year. Both having similar treatments but in various orders. I caught up with one of the friends the other day. She’d finished her course of chemo, road tested two different drug combinations both of which causing awful side effects. She is getting ready to have her mastectomy operation next week.
I ended up asking the most obvious of questions…’How do you feel about it?’ Unoriginal I know! She responded with ‘I haven’t slept for two weeks as I’m scared about the prognosis’. She then went on to disclose that she had found/given [unsure which?] an online questionnaire that is used by the NHS oncology staff, whereby you plug in your statistics such as type of cancer and how many lymph nodes are positive and the type of treatment they have had to predict the prognosis. She was given an 80% chance of surviving 5 years! I was taken aback as one; that she had access to this tool and two; why would you put yourself through this process of a ticking time bomb? Especially when she didn’t have all the facts yet.
In no certain terms can I sit here and say that I know what she and other cancer warriors are going through. I just simply don’t. I had a moment. A moment that lasted for two days, when I was 29, I had a mole removed, it was soon after my first child was born, and I found that my mind ran away and catastrophised the situation far more than I would have done before having children. I was lucky as it came to nothing. I remember the relief that I felt and the exhaustion of what my thoughts had put me through for the last 48 hours. I currently have a very close family member who is undergoing treatment for bowel cancer. But it’s one thing to sit on the side lines trying to be helpful than it is to be dealing with the physical and emotional rollercoaster 100% of your day.
I’m unable to say how I would feel or behave if I was dealt the same hand. I’d like to think that I would maintain a positive outlook with a few wobbles and occasional feel sorry for myself duvet days, but I am hoping like the majority of people reading this that would never materialise.
I listened to her. I know my friend well enough to understand the devasting blow she was experiencing at this prognosis. I touched her shoulder which stopped her for a moment and said, ‘you need to put these statistics to one side as these could have a far more detrimental effect on your mental health than you need right now’.
We spoke about holistic routes, placebo effects and positive mindset. She stopped. Looked at me and said, ‘Caroline none of these won’t work’, I went to interject but she quickly finished by saying ’because I don’t believe in it’.
And there it is. Plain and simple. The power of our mind can heal and hinder.
How do you change the opinion of someone who is 100% a none believer?