I’m currently in Liverpool at the NCRI (National Cancer Research Institute) Conference as a lay person and representing the various committees, boards and support groups that I am part of. As with all cancer related conferences I hope to glean positive information that can be shared in the many places and in a relevant way.
My main interests, as always, relate to Phyllodes and sarcoma research and also to survivorship and late-effects of treatment in survivors. The agenda of the event over the three days interested me greatly in that there are a number of plenaries and workshops on the topics of interest. I registered several months ago and managed to get a sponsored place at the event with accommodation and costs covered by the NCRI.
However if I’m honest in the past few weeks I’ve been struggling enormously with a whole host of things in my own life that has left me exhausted, anxious and tearful. Some of it I could explain and some of it, or the triggers, I don’t know where to begin or how to address… so added to the above, coming to the conference has also been an anxiety for me in the past few days. Ridiculous really, as it was me who sought out the opportunity and applied for a place!
The end of day one has just passed and I’m writing this note. My tears are close and I DO know why. This afternoon’s plenaries have been very exciting. Looking at new advancements in clinical research, DNA and molecular cell structure and mutation of genetics in oncology patients. However following this was a 10 minute talk by an artist Harriet Barber talking about her artwork, following her own breast cancer diagnosis, of breast cancer patients called “Breast Cancer LIFE”. Why so difficult, you may ask when I’m such a huge advocate for The Scar Project? I know and understand a great many of the pictures. I see the beauty in the individuals posing on canvas and photograph. I believe their stories and feel their pain. Jolene and Erin were photographed for the Scar Project… I know them and know their journeys. All of this you know from my blog and all of this I know because i have found myself revisiting those thoughts with every glance at the pictures. The truth is though, there was something more in those 10 minutes of hearing Harriet speak that struck a chord. Nobody has seen me naked since my operations. Nobody has seen my imbalanced boobs or my scars (well except medics and they don’t count in this!). For 2 years (as my second operation was 2 years ago yesterday), I’ve hidden away. Shied away from any potential opportunity for a relationship or even a fumble (sorry if that offends!). For all my blarney about being OK, being able to cope, being able to move on and ‘survive’… I’m not, if I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I don’t even think I’ve done that… I mean really look, not just walk past a mirror. How can I possibly think about moving on, meeting anyone and being intimate in any way when I can’t even look at myself?
“No statements about the cancer. Only about Now and about Life.” – Harriet Barber