Being introduced to someone because we both have cancer is something I’ve studiously avoided. I would prefer we be ‘friends’ via another connection, rather than both being skewered by the Sword of Damocles, partnered like kebabs awaiting the barbecue.

Some years ago my oncologist prescribed Eribulin chemotherapy which had just been approved for metastatic breast cancer treatment, and I joined an online peer-support group started by a woman who was on her second cycle and wanted buddies. Big mistake for me. I quickly discovered practical solutions are not the reply a comment is asking for, and I’m not suited to being sympathetic. But I persevered because I had easy anecdotal access to side-effect symptoms.

The group founder and I became friends, I think. She liked a good whinge and I don’t, but we stepped along together easily enough until her cancer spread to her brain, and my liver tumours cleared. I agreed with her that it was unjust, and her direct-message rants were understandable but it wasn’t actually my fault. I took a break from the group, and chemo, and she died. When I revisited the group a few years later I was the only original member still surviving.

We cancer people lug our medical history around with us. It’s the benchmark of our success to date, and the way we remember times dates and years. When we meet, we invariably dump the load on middle ground. We give ourselves respite in empathetic company, and display our longevity as other woman would flaunt a diamond bracelet. In our case, years are a girl’s best friend. I generally find other people’s medical history more fascinating than them, but sometimes conversation connects beyond pharmaceuticals, and a little flutter of recognition ignites, beginning a kinship not be defined by disease. You swipe right and see what happens.

Starting this blog was a leap into the unknown. Kimberly likened it to opening a flasher’s raincoat and exposing everything naked inside. That raincoat had successfully hidden my nakedness from people who thought they knew me, and now I was proclaiming I have incurable cancer and saying how I feel about it. The unexpected side effect of writing is that I’ve also told myself how I feel; for the first time, I’ve found my cancer (and myself) quite interesting. If I met me at a party I think we’d eat all the cheese straws, dispense with small talk and still be sitting on the sofa, chatting meaningfully at 3 a.m.

I love words, everything about words. I found once I applied a bit of discipline to writing I couldn’t stop. I don’t want to stop. My discipline is simply writing it down instead of talking about doing it. I love playing with words, savouring the way they sound and look on paper. I argue with the grammar checker over semi-colons, and concur that ‘concur’ might be a complex word, but I’m keeping it. I play comma hokey-cokey and always manage to end up with some, to, spare. Nutall’s Concise Synonym and Antonym Book is my bedtime reading just because I love the title. Through my writing I’m able to give something back when I have nothing to give but my experiences. There’s an age-old joke about the flasher who went out in midwinter but it was too cold to flash, so he just stood under the trees and described it to passers-by. Perhaps that’s what I’m doing.

The added bonus of writing the blog is the people who read it. The deep core friends, the ones I love, have smiled and said “you did it.”  Acquaintances who I’ve kept at arm’s length have said “we never knew what you were going through,” and having aired my thoughts in a constructive way, I have no embarrassment knowing they’ve seen the wrinkled (and scarred) flesh. Special people have danced tentative intro steps with me, and applauded when we got through to the next round. These people have become very special. And new people are following all the time, people whom I don’t yet know but I might yet meet with an open heart and a more open mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the Mother Confessor, and my boundaries are quite clear on not being an Agony Aunt, but who knew blogging would be as much about the readers as the writing. Maybe I’ll write a book about it . . .

22 thoughts on “connection

  1. I think that writing a blog – creating your own narrative constructs the real you so that you’re recognisable to yourself as well as others. The beauty of words is that there are so many of them (especially English). Pure riches. I love your writing. P. S. I too read Nuttalls … support group for vocabulary addicted women required!!xx


  2. Oh Elaine what powerful wonderful words you speak – I love your image of chatting to your self on the sofa while eating cheese straws – yes please to a book. Keep offering your writings – xxxxx


  3. I’ve been struggling (grappling? engaging? debating? pondering?) about writing, mostly about why I should ( might? ought? want to? need to?) do it. I find myself thinking about something during the day and suddenly a chapter title appears in my mind. Your blog has always been enjoyable, and this post has the added benefit of being inspirational for me. I must get (obtain? procure? locate? devour?) a Nutall’s, posthaste!


  4. Lately I see an interior design fad where book spines are arranged by color. All the orange spines together and all the blues on another shelf. Literally judging a book by its cover. How would we find authors or titles? I wonder if it’s possible to have a support group for those who are “other” and just randomly sharp-edged, but in an interesting way? The turquoise book spine who can’t go with the blue or green books. Are those the blind-dates that work out?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “… danced tentative intro steps…” yes. And yes please continue to consider a book.

    Might you also consider a freelance gig as a book title maker?


  6. “I generally find other people’s medical history more fascinating than them, but sometimes conversation connects beyond pharmaceuticals, and a little flutter of recognition ignites, beginning a kinship not be defined by disease. You swipe right and see what happens.”

    “If I met me at a party I think we’d eat all the cheese straws, dispense with small talk and still be sitting on the sofa, chatting meaningfully at 3 a.m.”



  7. Those of us who haven’t ‘been there’ can still only guess at what it feels like…… However, I personally feel very privileged to be in your life laughing and with an occasional watery eye although always with the ghost of a smile on my lips. There is such depth to your observations which are as much about personality traits and when I read I chuckle when I ‘see’ myself sometimes or I think “I wish I could be like that’. And YES, a book. I would like to order my copy now. No pressure lol!


  8. Writing a Blog has been therapeutic for me and I find that my Readers might even know me better than people I’ve known in Real Life for Years. Writing about our Trials and our Passions openly can really connect one another, the transparency here can be more measured than in person. In person I don’t tend to talk much about challenges and I certainly don’t want to attract people who only want to commiserate in person as that wouldn’t be helpful or healthy in my opinion for any of us. Laying ourselves bare in The Land Of Blog isn’t anonymous but it is received differently, people don’t have to avoid what makes them uncomfortable, like in Real Life. The involvement can be as much or as little as anyone can handle or desire, so it’s not so awkward. Nothing sorts people out quite like trouble and in Real Life, when you’re going thru heavy shit, when people are conspicuous by their absence and Fair Weather behavior it can be difficult not to personalize. I tend to want to have a good time even if everything around me has gone to Hell, I like to laugh and I know I have a Gallows Sense of Humor that not everyone appreciates if they aren’t equally prone to laughing at the dark issues of life. I was so happy when I discovered your Blog because I love how you write it, if you ever do write that Book, it would be interesting reading!


  9. I’m so pleased I’m not the only one who regularly ‘has a strop with Grammarly’, he’s currently deleted from my lap-top (he must be a man with his orders and interference) … I WILL NOT be told how many commas I can have and that I can only have one bloody exclamation mark at the end of a sentence!!

    I love your openness and honesty on this blog and yes don’t we as bloggers bare our souls in our words, spilling forth to our readers all that we would never tell our nearest and dearest unless overflowing with cheese straws and far too much alcohol. They know the very bones of our thoughts if they take the time to pick carefully through our words. You can so tell the ‘light reader, the skim through the text and look at the pretty pictures reader’ who reads through a long meaningful post of verbal excesses and then tells you ‘Oh, I love your new chicken, and where DID you get that jug from!!

    Keep blogging … and think about turning these very posts into the bones of your book. Oh … and I LOVE the colour of Bruce’s head collar 😉


    1. Sue,how I want to hug you bigtime (from a social distance of course!)
      I agree with every word you say here, and yes, Grammarly is definitely MISTER Grammarly, and not in that sweet Goodbye Mr Chips way.
      It never occurred to me that through my blog, and your comments, I might get to know you a little more clearly. I recongnised a kindred spirit all those years back but I didn’t realise exactly how kindred.
      p.s Bruce’s headcollar colour choice was Hobsons Choice- it came, of course, from the bootsale 😉


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