Mercia Corrigan – Cancer Stories of Hope #CANSA90
What is your current cancer diagnosis?
Breast cancer hormonal triple B negative BCRA.
How long have you been living with that cancer?
For 3 years and 6 months. I have been in remission for 8 months.
How does living with cancer affect you in general in your day-to-day living?
- Fatigue & exhausting
- Sense of hopelessness
- Guilt for getting cancer and what I could of done to prevent it!
- Limited family support
- Family not understanding what a person is going through
- Restricted to outings or functions that you could go to before
- Limited time
- Financially spending more money on health products, vitamins, nutrients etc.
- Loss of taste or desire to eat delicous foods you ate before, like choclate cake
- Empathy from family members and strangers
- Excuse to get out of attending functions you really don’t want to attend
- Respect from people that you survived it
- Low tolerance for time wasters and using your time wisely
- Wisdom, knowledge, spending time researching healthy alternatives to your life, thus empowering yourself
- Appreciating life and having quality of life
- Taking walks and becoming more health conscious
- Being more sympathetic to others less fortunate with chronic illness and caring for others
- Sharing and vounteering to help others, as you have experienced chemo & radiation and the journey home.
Is there a family history of cancer?
The BRCA gene is in my family. My grandfather had throat cancer, my grandmother, a brain tumour, and my father had prostate cancer.
How have you or your loved ones been affected by you living with cancer?
- Anger, guilt, blaming one for your lifestyle
- Pity, sorrow and despair
- Lack of hope or hopelessness
- Isolation and inability to deal with my illness
- Distancing themselves and already deciding that you going to die sooner
- Some acting as though it is all in the mind and mind over matter, showing no empathy
- Unable to accept it or come to terms with the fact that I have a chronic illness – cancer
- Some family members unable to talk about it and avoid the topic
- Closer family members not supportive in transport to and from treatments, having to drive one’s self or make use of uber or taxis to and from treatments 20 km’s away from where you live
- Some family members became more aware of cancer and went for cancer screening – mammograms and prostate check-ups, etc.
How has having cancer affected you during this time of COVID-19?
- Distancing from others
- No social interaction, no connection to other people, other than those residing with you.
- Lack of support
- No get-togethers, feel good coffee and chats and catch-up sessions with friends
- No visitors
- No contact with grandchildren or daugther due to COVID, as afraid of giving COVID and due to travelling restrictions in the
- Lack of spritual church support by not attending church, even though virtual, it was missing the human factor – support.
- No human contact or connection
- Hopeless, disillusioned, afraid of the future, concern and anxiety
- Limited support or care at general government hospitals
What is your message to our government regarding the prevention, management and treatment of cancer?
- More support for government cancer departments especially chemo & raditation
- Packs to be given to cancer patients, many of whom travel in taxis over long distances (packs to include snacks, facewash,
sanitizer, mask, juice, head scarf, etc)
- Post-op patients – easier access for check-ups with drips, stitches, etc – separate them from other cancer patients
- In waiting area, sister to answer any questions pertaining to treatment
- Nice comfortable chairs in waiting areas, more hygienic, as you can sit there for hours
- Temperature settings to be adjust according to the season we win (aircon adjusment)
- Toll-free access for people to call in all languages giving advice, regarding the closest ambassador or ancer group to give support.
- Communal mini-buses transporting patients from designated areas to transport and across to the bigger hospitals.
- Warm bottles, blankets, comfortable reclining chairs for patients to sit in, whilst having chemo.
- Small snacks & coffee on tap for patients waiting for treatment.
- More seating as many patients arrive with family members escorting them, resulting in limited or no seating space for actual patients.
- Excluding correctional services from bringing the inmates for treatment at the same time and day as normal patients, as it causes anxiety and fear, as some of them are heavily guarded and seated next to you.
- More basic advice to be communicated to patients on normal home products or goods that can help them, like ginger for nausea, etc. (some people have no idea what they can take or what not to take).
- Once a month, arrange for a general speaker or pastor or motivational speaker or survivor of cancer to come to on the designated days of hemo, check-ups etc, to come and chat to patients, and give them hope.
- Government to provide all cancer units with after-care post-treatment or surgery etc, for example, arm compressors / specialised bras, etc. Patients cannot afford to buy these and no support is being provided either.
What is your message to other people living with cancer?
- Early days – join groups like “Champions of Hope”, etc, to read and see comments and advice from other patients.
- Read online, learn, share, join support groups, know that you are not alone.
- Read inspriational stories from other cancer survivors and how they survived.
- Feel no guilt, do not blame yourself or your family blood line for inheriting the genes, as in my case – BRCA gene.
- Fight it, believe that you are coming out alive and do whatever it takes to get there.
- Spend time with positive people, people who make you feel good about yourself.
- Cut out time-wasters, or people that are shallow and fake, they do nothing for you.
- Believe in yourself, believe in God or get in touch with your spirituality, as you cannot do this alone.
- Share with people that you have cancer, talk to other cancer patients when you go for treatment.
- Keep a journal, write down your emotions, your journey, your feelings, your anger, your forgiveness and more importantly, love yourself.
Is pain a daily part of your life and how do you manage it?
Deal with the symptoms as you experience it and take the appropriate medication for each symptom – this is what I use:
- Headache / joint pain – Panado (mild), ibuprofen (intermediate), or Tramadol (severe)
- Nausea – various nausea tablets, ginger biscuits, raw ginger etc.
- Cramps and stomach ache
- Constipation – homemade recipes, dried peaches
- Insomnia – lack of sleep
- Radiaton burns – Maizena / Aqueous cream / CRT by Avroy Shlain ( aloe gel extract)
- Tiredness, exhaustion – Macnabs
How has CANSA supported you in your diagnosis?
By being able to go onto the CANSA Facebook support group ‘CANSA Survivors – Champions of Hope’ and reading others stories, advice and comments.
Cancer survivors or people who were closely involved with cancer patients, for example a family member, are probably the best candidates to become volunteers, as they would know first-hand on how to deal with cancer. They totally understand it more than anyone else, even more than medical staff who work with patients, but who themselves have never experienced it. I personally feel, if you had cancer and are in remission, you are probably the most suitable candidate to volunteer.