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Breast cancerGoing through treatmentLoneliness

The Polar Bear

20 March 2018


I was alone at the diagnosis appointment in a very small room (think broom cupboard with a filing cabinet). The other 5-6 people were leaning on the walls. One was a breast care nurse from the card she gave me in whispered words when I left the room. It was a kindIy gesture but seemed she had stepped out of normal protocol.  More information on options would have been much more useful.

I don’t remember anyone introducing themselves or much eye contact.  Who were these people and why were they there? I could see the consultant was uncomfortable. The only question I could think of was ‘Am I going to die?’.  He said none of us know when but that he could walk under a bus tomorrow. That throwaway comment was the single most unhelpful response at that moment. If it is supposed to show how we are all in the same boat it didn’t help.


It could have been an opening to some sort of information about grades, stages, treatments etc which I would have really appreciated but I was ignorant of these and so didn’t know what to ask. He did attempt to be human and ask if I had children. Despite the weirdness of the meeting I am grateful that I was operated on 2 weeks later. Luckily I had to be referred to another hospital as this consultant was going on holiday so I had a much better experience afterwards.  I can thank him for the quick referral. I wish I had had someone with me at the meeting as I felt very alone.


The image of the polar bear came in a conversation I had with a loved one when I was trying to explain how I felt. I felt I was drifting away from someone I loved and who loved me, no longer counted among the general population on land. This illness was separating us. It was borne of a deep sadness. This was in the days after my operation and before I had the results of the analysis of the tumour they removed.


Elaine, breast cancer survivor