Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Until there's a cure, most of us will always fear 'the big C'

Provocative: Katie Hopkins

A recent Tweet by renowned loudmouth Katie Hopkins got me very riled up. Criticised for her outrageous views (you know, the one who won't let her kids play with Tyler, or Chantelle), I must admit I follow her on Twitter to see what ridiculous nonsense she comes up with next.

Most of it is easy to ignore, but recently something she said hit a nerve. "In an age where we communicate constantly and talk all the time, we are still frightened of the word 'cancer'. What are we so scared of?" Tweeted Hopkins last week. This is a matter very close to my heart and if Hopkins wants to come out and ask why we are so scared of the word cancer, then she should at least listen to stories of families who have been affected.

When I was 17 and in my second year of college, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer; an aggressive form that led to the most hellish year-and-a-half of our lives.

As a teenager, who lived with her mum and only her mum, I suffered everything with her. Most people might have another parent to help them out; siblings at home to hold you when you're scared, or a large family to comfort you when you want to give up. But, for me, it was just me and my mum; the most important person in my life. I cannot put into words how difficult, terrifying and heartbreaking that was.

Think back to the workload during your A-levels, your desperate attempts to get into a decent university to try and make your parents proud.

Now imagine dealing with that while caring for a parent, trying to pass your driving test, so you can take them to the hospital, cooking for them, seriously contemplating not going to university, because they haven't finished their treatment yet, looking after them after every operation, every round of chemotherapy and every other drug under the sun has been pumped through their body. Fun, right? And you know what the worst part is? The cancer wasn't making my mum ill; the drugs to make her better were.

Two operations, 18 weeks of chemotherapy, four weeks of radiotherapy and a year of Herceptin and the emotional distress and physical scars to last a lifetime. You never fully recover from cancer. The word itself is loaded with negative connotations and it honestly makes me nervous when I hear it, or read it, because I feel like it's coming back to get us.

Even after going through it all with my mother and watching her finally get better, I am willing to stand up and admit that I am scared of the word cancer. I'm terrified, in fact, because it could always come back.

There is no cure. Until you've found a cure for every cancer – no, every disease out there – we'll all be scared to some degree.

I am in no way fishing for sympathy. We got through it and my mum is certainly a tougher person because of it. But I found the feeling of being completely powerless more painful than anything I have ever experienced.

I know that anyone who has been in this situation will feel exactly the same, but sometimes it might just be too painful for them to talk about.

So, actually, Katie Hopkins, thank you, because if you hadn't angered me so much, I wouldn't have had the guts to write this.

What I want to know is: how can you not be scared?

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