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!