Soon after Judy was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer she reached out to people who were in very much the same awful situation.
She sought out Internet-based communities like private Facebook groups and blogs so she could learn, and also be amongst like minded people, if only virtually as these people are spread right across the planet.
She joined groups, and she left some of them. The ones she stayed with were those with people who shared the most in common. The people with metastasised, or spread cancer.
There is no ignorance in this community of metastatic shared experience. There is empathy, a willingness to listen and learn, there is camaraderie, and often there is also a sprinkling of humour. Many people are acquaintances, but some have become Judy's friends.
There is sharing of practical matters and treatment experiences, like news of new drugs recently trialled or personally tried. There is much real world comparison to be drawn from the experiences of others, as even though no two breast cancer situations ever seem to be identical there can be similarities especially with the impact that various treatments can have, both positive and their side effect.
But there are no suggestions of alternative and fanciful tonics like bicarb soda with maple syrup, alkaline diets or masses of vitamin C, or positive thought as a cure for cancer and juicing one's way to remission. Or "colour therapy", for God's sake. You'd be simply amazed at the weird and sometimes downright dangerous crap heard by people who have cancer. Many are so ludicrous that they make you cringe, but smile at the ignorance at the same time.
What really boils Judy's piss is when someone is clearly making money off of false hope and snake oil doled out to people whose situation might be considered beyond all help. Further, what boils it dry are any suggestions that modern oncology is not the answer.
"It must be something you did..."
"Then why do babies get cancer?"
And almost universally with these stage four breast cancer communities there is no conjecture about what caused this cancer, because all in the community know that there was no specific one thing that did cause it. It usually just happens. Importantly, to this community the things that might have caused it are not relevant anyway. That is, unless it is genetics or immune system that might provide a pathway to new and better oncology treatment options.
Beyond this global network of like minded people in very similar situations, Judy shares other experiences with folks far closer to home. Often these personal connections were made through work, and made long before Facebook was even a thing. Circumstance, the Web and instant messaging brings them immediately closer.
One such friend living in a nearby city is struggling with a dire health situation involving a different type of cancer that has extensively spread. She's been battling on for some time. When Judy first met her many, many years ago they weren't that close, but now they are thick as thieves. I'm sure she benefits very much from having Judy as a close friend. I know Judy benefits from her friendship.
Admitted to hospital a few weeks back, this friend underwent surgery to remove many extensive cancerous growths in various parts of her abdomen.
This friend's words following that surgery in a message to those close to her are so raw and deeply moving. Reading it you know that there is no advice that could conceivably be useful, no use for conjecture about the cause, and certainly no use for magic tonics nor diets.
She just needs to know that the people around her care deeply.
Hopefully she can draw even a little strength from that.
Sorry to do this, I just thought it might be a good way to update how I'm doing. It will get more positive as the days go on and I can't wait for that to happen!
Every day is a struggle to get to the toilet and keep my pain to a level that doesn't bring on cardio tac.....?.! Or a panic attack from such high pain levels.
Every day is a struggle to get enough drugs into my body to allow short shallow panic breathing.
Every day is a struggle not to pick up an infection from all the other patients and visitors.
Every day is a struggle to try to swallow through tubes rammed into my nose and throat, enough ice chips and clear fluid to make my bowel remember there is still parts of it left in my body, while the pain of swallowing is just revolting.
Every day is a struggle to get through the myriad of tests each surgeon and specialist wants to check, so colonoscopy under full anaesthetic and ct scans are a daily occurrence, and flying through a freezing hospital on my back from X-ray to radiology to isolation ward is another struggle!
Every movement is a struggle as my body gets used to having been stripped internally of my peritoneum. Every sharp jab is a reminder my gall bladder was cut out, or my pancreas, or a third of my stomach, or parts of my bowel.
Every seven hours is a shift change of staff that haven't met me or used this kind of feeding machine or drip or cannula.
Every visiting hour is a struggle to load myself up with enough pain killers so I can talk to my poor visitors who are trussed up in masks and gloves and robes that may be contaminated. To try and struggle to make conversation through pain and guilt because they've come all this way 😨.
Every long night is a struggle to battle pain and try watch tv to distract me.
No hallucinations in isolation 😂 they even isolate them 😂.
"I want to just hold her hand and not speak.
"Just sit for a while."
Vale Chrissie McConchie.
You were a soul sister, and woven deeply into Judy's heart. You will be missed and yearned for forever, but your spirit will be cherished and carried forever.