A Sheffield woman who has breast cancer is writing a blog to describe how she is coping with chemotherapy. She spoke to Peter Kay
SUE Knights calls it Gold Seams, which she describes as a step up from Silver Linings.
It’s a blog that she writes to reflect her day-to-day experiences of going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, highlighting the little things that bring her joy and satisfaction, but sufficiently candid in acknowledging the downsides.
One day she finds she has greater reserves of energy and can go for a walk, another she finds herself in a “swirl of chemo fog”.
It is Sue’s way of trying to stay positive, and, moreover, it’s an attempt to raise awareness of breast cancer and to help other women who find themselves in a similar position.
“The chemo regimen I am on isn’t the most common one, so I found it difficult to get information,” said Sue, aged 53, who lives in Dore.
Ironically, her job involves her checking the quality of cancer care across the country, so the blog is “a busman’s holiday”, she jokes.
“There is a blog in the States that really encouraged me. For anybody having chemotherapy, they can see what other people have gone through.
“The woman with the blog in the States had every side effect, but she managed to stay positive and I thought if she could do it, I can. And if I can, I can help somebody else.
“I’m a positive person, but chemotherapy is tough, and this helps me to stay positive. I find it cathartic.”
Sue was diagnosed with lobular cancer - only 5% to 10% of breast cancers start in the lobe - after checking herself in the mirror and going to the GP at the end of July. She had a mastectomy at the Royal Hallamshire and is now halfway through six bouts of chemotherapy at Weston Park.
“Please note that lobular cancer is very shy,” she writes. “It hides away from the mammogram in its subtle glory and doesn’t present with a lump. Ladies, please, please, please check your breasts!”
Her chemotherapy is very aggressive, causing fatigue, hair loss, the risk of infection, mouth ulcers, nausea and sore hands and feet.
“However, chemotherapy is my friend,” she tells herself. “It is doing the job it was intended to. Please remind me of this when I am screaming stop, stop, stop into this blog! There are so many pluses along the way. I get to choose a new persona in the style of a wig, hat, scarf, bandana ...”
It also means that she spends a whole day at chemotherapy with her ‘chemo angel’, daughter Hannah, aged 23, who is an artist. Son Matthew, aged 22, who is at Birmingham University, is another ‘angel’, when he is in Sheffield.
Her family - Sue is married to Richard - are “amazing”, she says. “But there are hard and weary times, and it makes me sob sometimes to see how tiring it is for everybody else in the family.”
The last chemotherapy is at the end of January, and there will be surgery to remove lymph nodes under the armpits five to six weeks later, with radiotherapy in reserve.
Then Sue aims to get her life back on track.
Her followers will be able to follow her progress on the blog.
“People are afraid of cancer, and chemotherapy is tough,” said Sue. “There’s no two ways about it.
“Nobody should under-estimate how isolating chemotherapy and cancer are. It is good to be in touch with other people who are going through it.
“The family are fantastic, but to be in touch with other people is really important.”
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