Wisdom From Shared Experience

When I was first diagnosed, I received letters from a wide range of friends and colleagues – sharing their own experience.

One said “do everything the doctor tells you”; others said, “be your own advocate”. One note from a friend, a fellow breast cancer traveller conveyed a great gift: “my offering is to stay in close touch with Brettel, as often as she wishes, regarding treatment, side-effects, strategies of coping, the roller-coaster of spirits and basically, just how to keep putting one food in front of the other until the worst part is over.”

Several friends have had the gift of saying the right thing at the right time, often in email responses to The Letters. When I noted that I’d finally decided to take radiation after quite a struggle, a fellow traveller wrote to me to say that she too had struggled and finally agreed to take radiation. And that she’d done well through the treatments. This reassured me – both that I wasn’t mad to have resisted and that it would be okay.

I created an informal ‘sharing cancer circle’ on an email group list – of friends who had had breast cancer. I could write to them all or individually (or have coffee if they were local) to talk about treatments, effects, questions. To share fears of impending doom. To have someone who knows how chemo feels or who has faced similar dilemmas and choices. These fellow travellers – near and far - have been a spirit-lifting lifeline on my darker days. My diagnosis inducted me into a wonderful, resourceful, kind, wise and caring community of other women who've experienced breast cancer. Not alone.

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