Mental health is the forgotten symptom of cancer. Doctors deal with the physical through surgery, check-ups, blood tests and scans, but there is rarely someone there to help you navigate the complicated mess that you are left with after being discharged or put into remission. This is where Mind Over Cancer steps in and offers a safety net, and usually the cheeky and friendly phone call from Susie.
I was 14 when I was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer called SPEN, for some reason when you are a kid with cancer no one talks to you, it’s like you’re the one being treated and it’s always the parents they speak to. Sometimes this is for obvious reasons like safeguarding and making sure the parents understand, but you’re left with this lump that is taken out of you and poked and prodded and you almost become invisible and it’s just cancer that takes over your narrative.
Then in recovery and even in remission, it almost becomes everybody else’s story. You have everything you know taken from out beneath your feet, feeling like you are drowning in uncertainty and expected to get back to school as you have just been off with a cold. This is when the rumours and bullying start, my top 3 favourite rumours were “you were definitely pregnant”, “you have lied about the whole thing”, and “you were in Disney world Florida the whole time” (haha if you think a children’s cancer ward is Disneyworld, you’re in for a big shock). Oh, and ” that scar is special effects make up”. I was told that my cancer wasn’t serious enough to be able to receive post-cancer treatment support and a teacher told me off for missing 4 months of choir practice because I didn’t have my priorities sorted.
This made me feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious all from the get-go, with no one to talk through and truly understand what I had gone through, the pain of having cancer, losing close friends, growing up quickly and having no support really was frightening.
Now I’m 8 years on and still dealing with a lot of mental health that started from having cancer, everything from an eating disorder to struggling with depression and anxiety, even stepping back into a medical situation can trigger some nasty memories and set me back from moving forward in life. This is physically and mentally draining and that’s why it is important to reach out to people and groups like Mind over Cancer because they are a resource who are so willing to help anyone.
So don’t be afraid to reach out, it’s a big step and sometimes a little frightening, but receiving any help is just the starting point to taking ownership and responsibility of your life, and trust me, it might feel strange but even the smallest step is worth it.