Who am I?

This is not the blog I thought I was going to write today. I know it's been a while since I last posted, and quite a lot has happened. I went to the UK Blog Awards in April where my blog was highly commended in the Health and Social Care Category, which is a huge achievement. However it made me take a closer look at the blogging industry, because it is an industry. Many people write blogs with the hope that they can turn them into a business, and eventually make a living from them. That's not why I started writing. Initially it was because I was in denial about my cancer diagnosis, and writing about my treatments helped it seem real.

Then I realised I could use my blog to help people - patients and doctors. All I've ever wanted to do is to help people. It's why I became a doctor. Being diagnosed with breast cancer and having 20 months off from work was like losing my identity. Blogging was a way to give myself a purpose during chemotherapy, and a way to carry on helping others, even if it was remotely.


However, at the moment I am wearing so many hats, I don't know which one to wear from one moment to the next. It's exhausting trying to be everything:

1) A patient advocate (and there are so many who are much better than I am, such as Jo Taylor).
2) A medical educator to show health care professionals what it's like being on the other side of the table
3) An author
4) A promotor of exercise for cancer patients
5) Informing doctors and patients about apps and websites that can help them cope with cancer
6) A consultant breast surgeon
7) A breast cancer patient trying to get back to a normal life
8) A wife, daughter and friend.

To be honest, I'm exhausted, and feel I'm juggling a million balls in the air and don't know which ones to drop.

My breast cancer story is over, for the moment. I'm NED (no evidence of disease), and it's coming up to 2 years since I was diagnosed. I've just gone back to work as a consultant breast surgeon, and I need to learn how to do my job again. I need to learn how I can help patients without them knowing I've been a patient, and without talking about my own experiences. I remember that the last thing I wanted to hear when I had been diagnosed was people telling me about their friends and family member who had had breast cancer and had coped by doing x,y or z, or who had died. You need to find your own path. It's ethically really important that I don't influence my patients, and stop them comparing themselves to me.

I won't be doing much blogging about my return to work, even though it's the one thing that everyone is curious about. Although I've been very public about my life as a breast cancer patient, I work under a different name as a surgeon, and have to maintain the confidentiality of every patient that I see.

So, after all this pondering, who am I? I'm no longer the 'Breast Surgeon with Breast Cancer,' because technically I don't have breast cancer anymore. I can't be a patient advocate whilst I'm trying to be a doctor again. And I need to make sure I protect myself whilst I'm treating patients. Breaking bad news and telling women that they have cancer or need chemo is going to be emotionally incredibly difficult for a while. It's very easy to feel trapped in the blogging world, and think that you have to keep writing because your audience needs you. Several times I've felt I'm like a hamster in a wheel and I can't get off.


Maybe its time to take break, and concentrate on helping myself. If cancer taught me anything, it's that spending time with the people you love should be the most important thing in my life. It's time for a re-balance.

Having said all of this, I'll probably end up churning out a load of blogs now I've got this off my chest…You have been warned!

The language of cancer

Firstly, I realise that I've left those of you who don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook anxiously waiting to hear the results of my tests, and I'm truly sorry. I'm delighted to be able to tell you that everything was clear, and my lymph nodes were just reactive - enlarged because of a bad cold I had.

I now feel really guilty about sharing the anxiety and dread that I was feeling. It's bad enough that my family and close friends had to suffer with me, and I didn't need to bring everyone else along for the ride. At the time, I wanted people to know just how strong the scanxiety can be, and how we have to carry on as if everything is normal whilst waiting for the results. If there is a next time, I promise not to do it in real time! Read More…

Tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer?

The Independent and the Daily Telegraph published articles yesterday saying that less than half of all GPs knew that Tamoxifen can reduce the risk of breast cancer, and that they are denying women this cheap drug that could slash their
risk of breast cancer by 40%.

I thought I'd try and explain this a little, as it's not as simple as - take Tamoxifen and you won't get breast cancer. It may be that GPs need to be educated about the benefits of Tamoxifen, but we also need to educate the patients so they can make their own, well-informed choice.
Read More…

....and relax

If you remember, I was waiting to see my surgeon to have my neck nodes looked at. It was meant to be Friday but my surgeon was poorly, and so my appointment was moved to Tuesday. However, last Thursday night I was having a rummage around. I'd seen my GP who couldn't feel any other nodes, but I thought I'd double check. And I found a couple of large lymph nodes in my right armpit (the other side to my original breast cancer). And this worried me a lot more than the neck nodes.

Read More…

World Cancer Day

As a breast surgeon, I was always vaguely aware of World Cancer Day, but the significance of it passed me by. And then I got diagnosed with breast cancer myself, and I went from being a doctor to a patient, having the very illness that I was an expert in. I never thought breast cancer could happen to me, and I didn't check my breasts regularly – which goes against everything I tell my patients. But I did get cancer, and I got the full works when it came to treatment, as you all know. Five months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and implant reconstruction, followed by further lymph node removal and then radiotherapy. The finishing touch was an instant chemical menopause, which was not what I had planned at the age of 40. Read More…
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