January got off to a challenging start here in Scotland with a hurricane force wind. In true black humour Scottish stye , a suitable name was being created by the twitterati hereabouts. Hurricane Big Gail was my favourite...suitably threatening and I thought the kind of person I would have been frightened by at school! And a big gale it was ,blowing trees, chimney pots, walls and parts of buildings across the central belt. So no snow to speak of but roll on summer none the less.
In spite of all I feel brighter than I did before I had the break. A reminder that I need to ensure I have regular good breaks this year so I can fully recover from last year and also recover properly from my surgery yet to come. Last time I had breast cancer I do remember longing for a break about four months after my treatment had finished. We went to Paris and as I dragged my weary self around the wonders of that beautiful city I felt a real failure. Even my favourite Musee Rodin didn't work its magic. I got back to,work and crashed......I just couldn't contemplate how I could carry on. I was done and fortunately my doctor saw that and signed me off. I took only a few weeks off but it allowed me to lift my head up and see a way through again. I can still remember how it felt facing each week wondering if I could keep going till the end of the week. It was my turning point and after that i steadily improved. Sadly the trip to Paris could not be retrieved but the mojo was.
But that experience and my recent decline as I needed a break made me have concern about the proposed welfare reforms. Treatment for cancer is often hugely debilitating and exhausting as well as a traumatic psychological blow to recover from. Benefit systems and employers need to be responsive and sensitive to that. Most people want to work and indeed that return to work will often be a symbolic positive step but not everyone will be well enough and their strength and situation will vary. Our welfare system needs to reflect individual difference and need.
This week I spoke to an old friend after some time. She had seen an article about me and it led us to talk about her own mother. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when my friend had just had her first child. After several years treatment she died. Her treatment was full on, including a radical mastectomy, several rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She was also disabled by lymphoedema that stopped her doing even ordinary every day tasks. A really sad memory for her daughter. She told me her Mum has once said that she wished she had never found the lump and therefore had been spared treatment as it hadn't led to a longer life. How hard that must have been to hear? And so it had made her daughter question whether she should go for breast screening. She bravely and wisely decided to go ahead. Happily all was well.
The reason Breakthrough focuses on early diagnosis is that that is still the best predictor of a good outcome. We therefore developed our award winning TLC campaign and our iBreast check to help women be breast aware and know what to look for. You can find details on our web site www.breakthrough.org.uk and download the ibreastcheck free from itunes. This year we are hoping the detect cancer early campaign in Scotland will ensure that more people are diagnosed earlier and therefore have better outcomes as a result. We will of course work where we can to support it's success.
So reasons to be cheerful are that i am back to work and have really interesting projects to get involved with . We survived Big Gail and are off to see family next weekend. We are planning a holiday later in the year and a little bird told me Vincent and Flavia have a Midnight Tango tour coming to Edinburgh. Lots to look forward to. But first I need to see the surgeon to make my plans. Gulp!