Maverick Life


Cancer – moving into the silences

Cancer – moving into the silences
Illustration: Cdd20 on Pixabay

This is a Love Letter to Cancer People. How do you know this letter is meant for you? Keep reading and I’ll say.

I’m one: I’m a cancer person. 

Cancer doesn’t pop its head cutely around the door, “Is this a good time for you?” You don’t ask Cancer in. It invades – colonises. And you and your family and close-support friends are not the same again afterwards. You are all Cancer People. You’re in a murky zone. There’s no usher, programme, standard operating procedure, compère, rules of engagement, scripts, lead characters, chorus. But, not to sound corny, there’s a strong likelihood that there is to be a final curtain. We move like mutes. We’d all rather be in the audience than on stage. To be honest we don’t want to be in this show at all. 

This letter is for all the Cancer People. All of you. Those with it now, those who had it, those who try to make us better, those who love us, those who bury us.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Britain’s King Charles ‘frustrated’ by pace of cancer recovery

Through all my Chemotherapy treatments I had abandoned my normal habits of talking to those around me. I wasn’t forthcoming. I needed all my energies for myself. Maybe I looked awful and ancient and hopeless to others. I’ve no idea. I engaged only, and then only in clipped words, with the staff. I saw other people being kind and making things easier for newcomers. They were lovely. I was silent. I vowed to write something “later” – a tribute. I wanted to “give” when there was something there to give. Meanwhile I was depleted. I was blanketed by fatigue. And by a carefully walled-off mind.

I promised that I would write it when my treatment ended in November last year. But then more stuff happened and now it’s heading up for the next Christmas and I simply have to get the words down. 

Silence tackling: what to do? What’s it all about? I want to name the silences. I can’t talk for anyone except myself. But because I’ve been “there” myself I want to try to explain what it’s like all alone in your head and in treatment. And why certain words, meant in all kindness, are just too exhausting.

Friends and relatives – what to say? What to do?

What I said and did

Right at the start, I decided I must tell everyone. It was in stages and in different ways.

After the first alarming discovery by the gynaecologist and the need for a biopsy, I told my family. But I didn’t exactly tell them everything: I didn’t share the precise dimensions of the tumour detected in the scan and how different this was from “normal”. This is the parent in us: protect the children, absorb the load, put on a bright face, carry on. The first silence.

Once the diagnosis was confirmed, and I told my friends, I had two very specific motivations. 

Primarily it was a high-revs mission: get yourself off to the doctor for a check-up. I had NOT missed check-ups. I had spent 2020 feeling rather smug in fact – that I’d got my check-ups done in February pre-Lockdown. Pap smear, Mammogram, Bone Density: all ticked. 

I’m happy to say that at least seven of my friends shot off for their overdue check-ups because of my broadcasting. I’m theorising that they told others who told others, etc. Do it, ladies! The chemo treatment room only had two men in there – each only spotted once. I saw only one man in the radiation centre. That’s scores of women that I came across. Break that second silence: tell people what’s hit you – especially if that might save them. My cancer was aggressive but detected early.

Second, my decision to tell everyone was because of my frustration through the years about not knowing what was going on when we heard that someone had cancer. You hear they’ve got it, you’re hugely sad (thinking the worst) and then after that… you don’t know what’s going on. And you’re weirdly wired to think you “don’t want to be any trouble”. So, you ask nothing and your very act of being silently/politely supportive takes you out of the support circle. I’m kind of reclusive so I didn’t want a throng of people around, but I didn’t want to slide into the grey land of misty silence. The third silence: not giving some kind of progress report. 

Simple things like Facebook can help here. I used it quite a lot – NOT as a day-by-day diary, but for updates at intervals. Also shared via a few WhatsApp groups. This set up a bunch of individual follow-ups and general amazing kindnesses. Everyone completely left me alone if I didn’t reply, or used only an emoticon, or said I wasn’t up to a phone call. Or wasn’t up for a visit. I set the pace and the nature of comms via my outputs and my responses. At really critical times, friends tracked my situation through my family, by arrangement.

But I didn’t tell Facebook/social media much about the bad bits. My reportage was sanitised. And that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this. If it’s all just jolly beanies and smiles then you’re letting down all those who are dragging themselves desperately through each minute, hour, day, “off” – week. The fourth silence – masking your travails via providing only chirpy soundbites. 

What friends said and did

Meals, cakes, special goodies, chocs, handmade cancer hats, flowers, books: they came in a steady and incredibly sweet stream. An important early family pledge set the tone for me: they were going to act on advice from a friend – which was that sometimes he’d been just too tired or in his own head to be able to deal with people – and would respect my wishes/need for space, etc as we went along. This scaffolding helped me to feel okay about being withdrawn or lying like a duvet-buried log. I needed every possible way of trying to keep going. People telling me to “just rest” was amazingly soothing and an instruction I, as an unrehabilitated workaholic, was all too grateful to hear.

I felt most able to express my true story to other cancer patients (prior or current). With them, I didn’t need to pretend and I could offer support too. It’s rather good for you to be enduring the same kind of things at the same time. These are the cancer buddies and good to have around. 

Cancer and semantics – when might cheerleading go wrong

The kindly script of supporters that tells you about all the others who did everything like rock stars didn’t work for me. If other people, allegedly with my exact condition, shot off on a heavenly vacation and had chemo on the run, or popped by the radiation en route to the office… well, that was them, wasn’t it? Yay for them. It wasn’t me. I couldn’t live up to that. And it also made me judge myself harshly – I mean, why wasn’t I also just gratefully losing a few kilograms and planning my lovely future? From my sunbed. On vacation. Living my “best life”.

My Standard 4 teacher wrote on my report: “Anne must conquer carelessness with concentration.” She was making me the agent of change. The issue lay with me and the solution within my grasp. I was only 11 but I was somehow riled up by this. I felt judged, not loved. And I didn’t have the means to argue back. Yet her judgy remark kept me a little angry and a little self-righteously on my toes for years after. I mean, was she right? Was I a careless person? When would I know that I had conquered? 

Sources claim that John Wayne dubbed Cancer “The Big C” to dodge the stigma (“stigma” – really?) that surrounded cancer in earlier years. And that Richard Nixon’s 1971 “Cancer Act” triggered the warlike metaphors we still use where everyone is “fighting” cancer, or “losing their battle” against cancer. People with cancer are “victims” or “warriors”, they “suffer” and are “very brave”. 

No, I can’t/couldn’t conquer cancer with concentration. I don’t, and didn’t, think I am/was being “brave”. Cancer moved into my uterus some time between a clean bill of health in February 2020 and June 2021. It set up its hostile, insidious and greedy camp and sent some agents to hunt down my lymph glands. Stage 3C, Grade 3 (aggressive). It wasn’t a chummy, banjo-playing pal called “The Big C”. And I could not, myself, do a single thing to fight it. So, it’s really hard for me when you call me “brave”.

You see, if you check out Merriam-Webster, it says “brave” is things like dauntless, lion-hearted, intrepid, manful. And when it’s a verb you are brazen, you confront, you dare, defy and outface. And, horribly, we make words have opposites. So, when you are not brave, then you’re a coward, craven, faint-hearted, fearful, gutless, lily-livered, pusillanimous, spineless. And your verbs are dodge, duck, funk, shirk and sidestep.

So, if the opposite of being brave is being a coward, etc then “brave” should just not be a label used about cancer sufferers at all. It’s not applicable. If I wasn’t being brave OR cowardly and I wasn’t conquering by concentration or doing battle, then what was I doing? 

I submitted to the medical profession. I was stoical. I kept breathing. I gave over to pills and poisons. I handed over my badly veined arms for scores of vials of blood to be drained out and tested and for litres of fluids – oh, let’s call them chemicals; or aren’t they poisons? – to be dripped into me. The fluids killed my hair, mashed my digestive system and plunged me into something that we luckily have an excellent word for – “fatigue”. 

The Cambridge Dictionary list of “Smart words” for “fatigue” reads like a poem to my 2021:

Fatigue 2021 

So glad there’s a word for it – I’m just too tired to think one up

It’s such a very long, exhausted word – fatigue

I’m dead on my feet

I’m all in and at my worst

I’m fit – oh no, ready – to drop

I need the whole alphabet to walk you through it 

But I’m too fragile, gassed, haggard, knackered and shellshocked

Strung out, wrecked 

and zonked

Lifting the veil/breaking this silence: what’s it LIKE in there? 

The one who caused me to promise to write this didn’t see me at all. In a large waiting room at an Oncology Centre a slight, thirty-ish or forty-ish (but looking fifty-ish) woman lay on a couch, curled up in a tiny ball. I watched her switch from sitting to being a ball. It was a quick shift – no wriggling to get comfy, no looking around to see if anyone cared, no apologetic smile. She was sitting and then she was a tiny ball with her knees tucked up to her chin. No one with her. 

She lay below, and to the left of, the framed artwork that upset me so much when we first went in there that I needed to sit with my back to it. It was a stylised picture of a naked, crouched, seated woman with an awful brown, scribble-painted giant thing on her back. It didn’t need an introduction, given its location. It was a picture of cancer. Amazingly, by the time my treatment was over, many months later, I had been converted: the picture respected people with cancer – their crouched, submissive, lonely vulnerability and the ugly, uncontrolled, dominating dirty scribble bearing down on their back and shoulders. I didn’t have to shun it any more. It was me. 

From blanking out the room, and lying tight and still, the woman on the couch suddenly uncoiled and slipped out to the Treatment room without looking round her. No one came to call her. She didn’t look at her phone. She simply left her foetal position and surged off to face what is called “treatment”. All of us in the oncology waiting room are her in our minds. Curled-up balls.

There was a cycle. 

All the things I didn’t know at the start. Didn’t even know to ask about. A drip-stand – like a chemistry factory party tree – festooned with little bags of chemicals due to come snaking down tubes into me: the 45-minute one; the 90-minute one. Other people had bags called the “red devils” – always spoken in fearful capital letters and hushed or brazen tones. Horribly, one time I’d sat for a while beneath my drip-stand of sachets when a senior nurse came over and whispered to my one. Without a blink, my nurse wheeled away “my” pole and trundled over a replacement. Dear lord – imagine that? You sit there passively and killer liquids seep right into your actual blood and they aren’t the ones you are supposed to have! 

Treatment room. Image: Anne Schlebusch

Treatment room. Image: Anne Schlebusch

People came and went all the time: I was the only Thursday person who sat for six hours on my drip carousel. Others seemed to be there little more than an hour – and everything in between. It was all very baffling. I was learning so fast it was like I was newborn: there is no universal chemo administered. It’s different kinds, different ratios, different side-effects, different rates of infusion, different gaps between treatments, different periods for treatment. And every inch of the body, inside and out, can have its own special cancer. So, I am entirely not able to speak for anyone except myself. 

On my first day it was over an hour before my actual chemo started. Until then my system was being “flushed”. I waited to feel something terrible as it entered me. Nothing at all. What an odd moment. No allergy. No burning. Was this really so bad? I felt like a fraud. All this concern and sympathy and I was unaffected by the chemo.

But like I said: there was a cycle.

By Day Three after chemo, I was flat like a blanched, inert sheet pasted to my bed. I would spend a week in bed. Then up for one “good” week – although with serially depleting energy as the months went by i.e. flat, then flatter, then flatter still. Then in week three – you couldn’t ignore the claw of anxiety – you had to gird up your brain and your systems for the next chemo. I was armed with hundreds of pills for nausea – three different types, if you can believe! Again and again, I would restart a walking programme, in the week twos. As the months went by, my journeys were shorter and more of a mission, counted in steps and not kilometres any more.

Hair was a big topic in the Treatment Room and not at all a silence: you can’t conceal hair loss. I didn’t talk, remember, but I could hear, in between my drowsing and my trips to the toilet, pushing my festooned pole like it was a mast with my dragging feet the wandering “bark”. By my second cycle I’d already had my remnants of head fluff boldly shaved at the barbers, reckoning he was more used to bald heads than my ladies’ hair salon. I’d absolutely ruled out any kind of wig. Since I was not exactly out and about, I’d opted quite early on to be frankly bald around the house and my family were great at not blinking. 

Anne Schlebusch before chemo. Image: Anne Schlebusch

Anne Schlebusch before chemo. Image: Anne Schlebusch

Anne Schlebusch. Image: Dexter Sagar

Anne Schlebusch. Image: Dexter Sagar

On my second chemo cycle, I heard a rookie to treatment explain to another lady that she wanted a beanie with a fringe of hair sticking out so it looked like she had hair. She was shellshocked by her very recent diagnosis, aged about 40+ and with young children, terrified of needles, and mostly wanted to talk about her pending hair loss. Her neighbour, aged about 60, whose recent diagnosis had put paid to plans to retire to Europe, was some weeks ahead of her in the journey. “Don’t even think of a wig! Mine cost a fortune and I really hate it. It’s prickly and hot and looks terrible. How about those hats?” She points to a basket of hats for sale, knitted by the mother of one of the staff. I only saw one person in a wig in all my months of treatment and heard lots of regrets about those who’d thought it was a non-negotiable investment. Beanies or baldness was the style of choice.

Anne Schlebusch. Image: Karen Jeynes

Anne Schlebusch in her orange beanie. Image: Karen Jeynes

I’d arrived for my first treatment in a bright-orange jelly bag (think Noddy but knitted) and bought more in a few other bright colours, one for each cycle and then a few repeats at the end. They were charming and fun and represented a feisty spirit, but were too hot, despite it being midwinter, to keep on. I mostly didn’t want to “upset other people” by my baldness e.g. at the shops. In the end I was completely emboldened by other women just being frankly bald and looking quite regal and composed, and I gratefully joined them. If I, in turn, emboldened others – well… yay!

So, who else am I thinking of when I write this letter? Three weeks after that first session, above, I saw again the lady who had wanted a hat with a real hair fringe. I didn’t know it was her at first. There was just a sallow-skinned, ill-looking person – lying sideways across the arm of her chair, wearing a functional chemo hat. Clearly having the trimmings of health was now the last thing on her mind. So I write this letter also to her; and to the lady who had to postpone retiring to Europe; and the beautiful, very young, very frail, vivacious girl with gorgeous colourful socks; to the ancient slumbering lady with a carer who surprised, when she was leaving, by taking the long route as she was wheeled out of the room and waving like royalty; to the memory and family of the quiet, startled-looking man who passed away sadly; to the exceedingly kind patient who seemed to find time and energy to prop up newbies with cheer and advice; to all the other invisible people. And to my hospital friend, Sue, who was coming on different days and dealing with a much harder situation. 

My surgery, to remove the tumour and lymph glands, pre-chemo, was at the height of the third wave of Covid and my later hospitalisation, just before Christmas, was in the fourth. No visitors, wards closing to non-Covid patients, masks, Covid tests before the three hospital admissions. All those hours in close contact with other immunocompromised people. So, we had the extra challenge of sitting out all our treatment days in masks and the tons of trips to the shared toilet were spiced up by generous doses of sanitiser. How did we all keep going? And how on Earth did the hard-working teams of oncology staff keep going?

I found every treatment day an unmitigated ordeal. Your loved ones may not elaborate on that. 

But it’s an ordeal. Just getting the drip in place was a giant battle each time. No one tells you your veins are going to “harden” as you go on. With my bad veins I had gross purple arms in no time. Your oncology sister isn’t going to admit defeat. She’s definitely at war. After several failed stabbings the needle finally gets into a vein, the sister has won. Your mottled arms attest to your ordeals. You alternate arms for treatments and blood tests – trying to give them a break. 

Life in the treatment room – a major silence. Because why burden your loved ones with stories of the string of challenges you face? Because you just “must”. Your electronic drip tower that keeps malfunctioning, with alarming buzzer, the unplugging so you can wind your way to the loo, swivelling your tower like a bad shopping trolley that veers off to the left or right regardless of your steering, reversing into the loo. And so on and some more. A butt jab, even. Dozing and feeling like a zombie. Enduring. Tick tock. Watching the clock. How much longer?

More about hair, about side-effects in general and quite a lot about water

Hair: aren’t we naïve if we think it’s just the hair on your head that goes? It’s nasal hair too, so your nose drips. It’s eyelashes, so your eyes water. As you grind along through your treatment you can Google “‘Anything’ plus chemo” and, lo, there it is! You know how even the most modest over-the-counter medication has that ominous set of possible side-effects? Well, multiply that by a gazillion and there’s chemo for you: Side-Effects HQ. 

My fifth and sixth chemo cycles were at first looking like a picnic: only one chemical and a shorter infusion session. But I was doggedly taking things one step at a time, so only found out, when the date for the new chemical drew near, to my alarm, that there was a high risk of deafness as a consequence of having it. Hectic debates ensued: lesser treatment or risk of deafness? Turned out that the chemicals I had already been dosed with contained, in any case, a risk of deafness. The point was moot! I pushed on, suspiciously, glad in the end that I am not noticeably deafer (yet) than before.

But, oh dear, water and kidneys now stalked onto the stage. For this final chemical I needed to demonstrably produce 500ml of urine before they would administer it! Thus started the exhausting drink-and-pee slog in the treatment. Pee-talk is definitely a Silence. Now you must still do all the drip tower driving stuff but also pee into a jug (while not compromising the massive drip, stuck belligerently into whichever vein would accommodate it), and then persuade the busy sister to abandon her other duties to hive off and measure your latest pee output. Again and again, you edge past the other patients to the loo, sorry, excuse me, sorry. Of course, you accidentally drink too much, so, by the time you’ve met your pee quota, you still have gallons of water chugging through your system and you need to constantly trundle loo-wards – even after the infusion is happening.

I’ll speed up now for the 28 consecutive days of radiation to round off this treatment programme. Water was again my foe. Now I needed to fill my bladder and keep it loaded for the pelvic radiation. Woe betide if my bladder was too empty: then I would be “taken off the table” to go drink some more. A full bladder would ensure that it was lifted out of “the way”. On the worst days, I needed to do the 500ml peeing first, then three hours of chemo and then off to the radiation centre to drink some more. Many a time I lay counting the twists of the rotating radiation equipment as it passed over my prone body, in some wriggling agony, preparing to grab a garment to shield my butt as I sprinted down a public passage to the loo the moment my radiation session was over. I say “wriggling” metaphorically, of course, since you have to lie dead still…

The radiation surprised me. No one could quite tell me how it was all going to go. Would it be a breeze? My energy levels be better? Back on my feet? Basically, I was a mess. For most of my treatment programme i.e. chemo followed by just under six weeks of daily radiation (weekends off to “rest”) I thought I was being fairly functional. But if I look back on it now, I must accept that life was pretty much a blur. Sleeping for hours, days on end. Endless, crippling diarrhea in the last weeks. Urinary tract infections. Drowning, perversely internally, in water and waiting. Tummy skin crisping under the beam of the radiation. 

But couldn’t I manage anything except sleeping?

In a couple of the “good” weeks, prior to the radiation, I wrote an article on post-Covid planning for schools within their communities, which Daily Maverick published. To be honest I’d thought the article up for about six weeks before I could actually haul it out of myself, but I wrote it, and felt great about this little mission. 

I also added a chapter to a novel I had been enthusiastically writing. My novel, pithily called Bloomer, was all about some pretty sprightly old people. I was going to be a confident poster gran for oldies: in great health, etc. In a dire twist of fate, I’d mailed the manuscript draft to my daughter, to be the first reader, on the actual day I went to the gynae and she discovered my tumour. Kaboom! Bloomer was blown out of the water and put on snooze for about three months till I sat up and pounded out a new chapter to fill a gap. No energy for more, I started to mail out my manuscript to publishers and hope for some kind of blooming publishing miracle.

I’m extremely glad I forced myself off on daily walks. I think if I’d yielded totally to my mental and physical exhaustion, it would have been so much harder to get strong after the treatment. Of course, every time I set off, a kind neighbour would pull in for a chat about how great I looked. I had to develop an uncharacteristic habit of cutting off the chat so I could struggle on: I had about 10 minutes of energy per burst, and that was that! 

Wrapping up – some ‘take-outs’ 

Try to sort out and articulate your feelings, as a team

I’ve called out a bunch of silences and tried to lift the veil on some of the ordeals cancer patients might have been keeping to themselves. Of course, maybe no one will read this. While you’re being treated you are too exhausted and when you’re out of treatment you just don’t want to think about cancer at all. No one wants to think about it. But have you noticed, just by the way, now that we don’t imagine everyone who has passed away had Covid, that after all “everyone” has cancer. So, this piece is probably useful as a “precautionary” reading, because, truly, you never know when it’s going to hit you. 

I’d feel this love letter to cancer people has done some good if it’s built up your understanding of long days of travails with the simple things of the gut and the bladder and the overwhelming blanket of fatigue. Maybe you can say things like “you must be going through hard times”; “I admire how you’re handling everything – you might think it’s nothing but I’m impressed”. 

“I imagine the days on treatment must be quite an endurance test” could maybe open the door so the patient can feel “seen” and can set the script and the tone. I’ve said my own bit about battle-language (and seen hundreds of similar, or even more strongly held, opinions on Twitter threads and in journal opinion pieces) but there are surely many who find strength and direction in defining everything in terms of their being warriors. I don’t want to take away anyone’s sources of mental power, but rather to try to help build them out. 

Can others help?

I have not, yet, needed end-stage conversations myself, so I can’t theorise on that. The book Being Mortal by Atul Gawande is helpful. The question is when to read it. I’d say read it now and not when you’re in extremis. It’s made me feel very comfortable with the idea of hospice care. I imagine it’s helpful for the family of the patient to have their own support groups. My own family were great: kind and patient, silent and respectful when I needed it and fully there for me when I needed that. I found a Facebook group called “Cancer Survivors and Supporters” with 46,000 members to be a very kind and supportive, non-spammy group. I never spoke on it, true to my exhausted state described above, but when I had the appetite to look at it, I could see how mild my situation was compared with so many others (partly why I couldn’t think of myself as “brave”). And, also, I could see all the deeply loving questions, endlessly asked, about what loved ones could do. 

Things to do

Top tips for families: Sort out lifts to and from the treatment and the endless blood tests; apply the basics of care and listening with your ears and eyes and being helped by your cancer buddies. Tiny gifts like a flower or soap or a little chocolate are lovely surprises. A text message, an emoji: all good.

It’s funny to advise “listening” as a top tip. Since I didn’t have much talking oomph myself. I think I mean listening also with your eyes so you pick up on the exhaustion or all the endless hours of drinking, or having a runny tummy. On those big drinking days of chemo plus radiation I could put on as much as 4kg in a day and then it would be gone in a day or so. Trekking to and from the loo, utter nausea, bed-flattening exhaustion, fog-brain, tick-tock counting the days, what to do when low white bloods means you can’t have your infusion that day… Try to tune in to these pressing issues supportively. Let them be topics.

For the patients: take it a day at a time; record your consultations with doctors; love yourself; be in awe of your fellow sufferers; feel completely okay to sleep and sleep. Don’t, for a moment, be ashamed of fog brain or anxiety. By the way, you don’t owe anyone a deep look into your psyche. Sometimes I would ramble on with a long story about health details in response to a question till I realised that I had misread that person’s interest: keep your energy for those who matter.

Start your “getting strong” walks again and again and again from about 50 to 500 steps (depending on toilet trips!) on chemo day, down to 12 by day three and up to a few thousand before the next chemo. This will help see you through the further months and months of recovery after treatment. 

Of course, you will read up on Mortality Rates and be determined to beat the odds, whatever they are. Of course, being spirited and optimistically realistic is the way to go. 

A final image

The radiotherapy was conducted with me lying on a bed that was raised to allow for a giant rotating set of radiation beams to hit my pelvis, marked up with inking pens. Suspended above my head was a fixed picture of a bright blue sky and a bank of clouds that looked (my imagination) like me lying prone and with unsightly bulges (clouds/cancer). On the bottom left of this cloud formation there was what looked like a teeny cloud peninsula and what I imagined was a minute cloud-person with a giant, pointed cloud-lance tucked under its armpit, running full tilt off the big cloud. 

I was both of those: I was the misshapen body, with dark-grey sections, forever lying under what I fiercely called the “Healing Circle” (to reduce my horror of the radiation unit and try to love it instead). I was also the wild little lance-bearing chappie charging off the mushed-up wonky cloud to look for better days. 

And that’s what I still am. Some part of me is still lying on that radiation table, but I’m also that wild, determined, escaping chappie, hurtling off the cancer cloud at pace!

My novel is going to be published early next year and I hope to greet it in full cancer-free bloom, adorned by my very entertaining post-chemo, super-curly hair. 

Yep. That’s the last chapter in the one topic that people don’t shun: hair. 

Went in with Lockdown Locks, 

Balded (last day of treatment – check the joy), 

and now Chemo-Curls. 

The outer trappings of a reconstructed person. DM/ML

Anne Schlebusch's curls. Image: Anne Schlebusch

Anne Schlebusch’s curls. Image: Anne Schlebusch


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • pchutch1 says:

    A must read for everyone. full of honest to goodness and strength of character. Thank you Anne.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    Thank you so much for this article and your courage writing it.

  • Mark Auer says:


  • Ryan Bruton says:

    A long tough 3 years for my sister and I supporting Mom through this. I see her in so many things you write about here.
    We didn’t understand always, I understand now – thank you.

  • Jonathan Taylor says:

    A very touching and honest account that will help many who have it themselves or know others going through the ordeal. Thank you for sharing Anne. Very well written – reflecting awesome energy and concentration! Your teacher would be proud of you.

  • Linda Holding Holding says:

    Wonderful article! Thanks for taking the time to share your story.

  • Brenda Solarsh says:

    A hard hitting totally honest sharing that should be treasured. I have lived through three bouts of cancer – not chemotherapy , but other arduous complications . I also reject the ‘ brave ‘ description. Perhaps it reflects fear from others of how they may cope in our situation. You reflect the hell it can be , I hope you swore and cried at times, or did whatever relieved your distress.
    You knew about the need to use your energies for yourself , and that it is a journey travelled alone but supported by many.I do think courage is needed to play this part in the drama of cancer. You have it.
    Thank you for sharing

  • Liane Durra says:

    Thank you Anne for your honesty and openness. Thank you for ‘outing’ the silences (yours and ours); for deleting brave and highlighting powerlessness, for all the messy, exhausting details and for reminding us to listen deeply -both to support others and to support ourselves.

  • David Gundry says:

    Thank you for sharing Anne… I am on this journey too, what you have written in this article sums it up perfectly! Keep strong and don’t give up the fight! xxx

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.