By Lucy Booth. Lucy was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011 at the age of 32. In May 2014, she found out it had spread to her bones, liver and lung. This blog post is based on a speech Lucy made at the launch of a Macmillan information centre at Whittington Hospital in north London. She writes her own blog at http://www.lucifersboob.blogspot.co.uk/

The media often like to speak of cancer as a battle. As a fight that we must win.

All too often, we hear of someone losing that battle – almost as if it was their battle and theirs alone. As if they have failed in that mission. As if somehow they personally just haven’t given a good enough show of beating it. It is a solitary, isolating description. And ultimately, I feel, a negative one. To me, the battle analogy conjures up an image of hatred and of war, and frankly, cancer brings enough of its own negativity without us adding to it.

It is also rather a tired cliché – thanks to years of research and the work of the oncologists in our lives, it no longer has to be the battle it once was. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of people living with cancer for longer. It is no longer necessarily you or it. Sometimes, the two of you must just learn to live together.

Finally, the battle analogy is shamelessly anthropomorphic. Cancer doesn’t have a brain, a mind, a well-planned strategy. Let’s not honour it with that status. 

Personally, I see having cancer as a job. It’s a rubbish job – one of the worst you’ll ever have, and the pay is terrible, but it’s a job nevertheless. You won’t want to get up and go to work every day, but you do and you must. There are days when you can’t be bothered – the days when you’re throwing up and your whole body aches. And there are the days when it is a little bit easier – when you feel like your normal self (if a little light on hair) and your cancer is nothing but an occasional thought through the day.

But, as we all know, the thing that helps you through the working day, when your project is particularly tricky, or your boss is giving you a hard time, is the group of people you work with. And the same goes for cancer. The people around you, the support network you have at hand, they are the things that help you through the day. And, at times, the night. 

I’m lucky. I have an amazing group of family and friends who are there for me and with me every step of the way. Who let me cry when I need to, and help me forget it all when I don’t.

And to that group I can now add the nurses in the chemo suite the staff at Macmillan, and the volunteers who come in while we’re having treatment to bring tea and biscuits and a bit of a gossip. They’re constantly run off their feet, and yet they have all the time in the world to get to know us, make us feel welcome and make what could be a horrible process altogether more bearable. And they’re not just there for us, the patients, but they have time for our relatives, and our friends. Because it’s not just me who’s affected by cancer, it’s everyone around me. 

But, as I say, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a strong support network. But some people sadly don’t, and that’s where these nurses and Macmillan staff really come into their own. Because as well as the financial and practical support they offer, they are a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear.

Cancer treatment isn’t just the drugs that pump through your veins, it’s finding the means and the strength to get up and get the job done. And without this lot, that job would be nigh on impossible. 

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