ALISON DE MARS
Alison was the first women I reached out too when I was diagnosed. I trawled Instagram to try and find other women who were going through what I was going through. I was desperate to connect and not feel alone.
Alison responded immediately to my messages. Straight away, we clicked and have stayed in close contact for the last 3-4 months. We even started our chemo at the same time!
Alison is a bit older than I am, and has a beautiful family of her own so we don’t share exactly the same experience but we are, at the end of the day, both women, who have been dealt a shit hand and are doing our best to get through it with our heads held high and our hearts full.
Alison inspired me to start this website.
For you Alison, Fuck Cancer.
Here in Sweden, once you turn forty you get scheduled mammograms every other year. Two years ago, in 2016, they found something in my right breast but according to the biopsies it was benign. This year, they checked it again. And it was malignant.
When I learned I had breast cancer – in the beginning of July 2018 – I was in a daze. I didn’t know whether I’d live until next year, what to say to my kids, how to deal with it. Suddenly everything in my life became so precious. And I knew I’d do anything to survive.
Luckily the tumour turned out to be stage 2. Also, although it was diagnosed as triple negative – which usually means aggressive growth and a significantly lower survival rate – it behaved atypically, with only 10% aggressive cells. This was good news, but as the doctors hadn’t come across my kind of tumour before, they were perplexed as to how it should be treated.
Eventually they decided to start off with extra aggressive chemotherapy: eight high-dose treatments, administered every other week. Right now I’ve done six, and have only two more to go. So far, the tumour has responded well, shrinking considerably. In less than two months I’ll be undergoing surgery (a lumpectomy), followed by five weeks of radiation therapy.
I wouldn’t want anyone to get cancer – including myself – and I hate the expression ”everything happens for a reason”. That said, I do believe that difficult experiences can make you grow. I have learned a lot about myself and the strength inside me. People say I am brave – I say I just do what I have to do. Because you don’t get a choice. However, you DO get to choose how to deal with it. I don’t see myself as a victim; I am a fighter, making my own informed choices, and I refuse to let cancer rule my life or define me as a person. Sure, I get angry or sad or scared at times, and I have cried many, many tears. But after I’ve let the bad stuff out, I make sure to find my way back to my warrior pose.
As a mother of two boys, aged 10 and almost 13, I have also learned to set an example: being completely open and honest about what I’m going through, but also showing them that while I am positive and strong it’s also okay to be scared and sad sometimes. My children have showered me with love and support, and I am glad that we can joke and laugh about my bald head, and that they have understood that cancer is not synonymous with death.
Resources that helped Alison:
Bonding with other people in the same situation has been so important to me. Not everyone is comfortable sharing their personal experiences on social media, but for me it has been an invaluable source of comfort, inspiration and encouragement – not to mention the new friendships I have made. There are so many amazing women out there who bravely share their best and worst moments, and I can truly recommend connecting with them, or at least following them for inspiration.
I also recommend getting out of the house. For exercise, to meet friends, to check in at work just to say hi. Don’t lose touch! For me, nature is pure therapy, and when I feel bad it helps a lot to take a walk in the woods. As a photographer, using my camera has also been a way of processing my experience, whether through self-portraits or just nature shots.
Speaking of exercise, my hospital offers special exercise classes for breast cancer patients. On the days I can make it, they are one of the highlights of my week. Imagine ten more or less bald women, working out together, having fun, doing something good for themselves and feeling strong. We’re all in the same boat, and we’re all determined to get through it. I love these classes and I always leave with a new bounce in my step, no matter how I felt when I woke up that morning.
There is a lot of excellent information on the internet, but one of my favourite resources is community.breastcancer.org, a discussion forum that covers basically any topic related to breast cancer. Here in Stockholm there’s also a breast cancer organisation called Amazona which provides support and information, as well as lectures and activities.