Synaesthesia Magazine Science & Numbers - Page 45

work in progress

has metastasized - or spread - to other parts of the body and it is untreatable. Mine was stage 3, which means it was quite a funky little number and there was a quite high chance of it relocating its party to another organ.

Then there are the grades. Grade 1 means the cells are hardly any different to normal cells and Grade 3 means they are markedly different and usually fast reproducing cells. The METABRIC study's research has paved the way for detailed analysis of tumours in the future. In fact, within a few weeks of the results being published, Public Health England announced the implementation of the world's largest ever cancer database being set up in the UK. Within five years, they will have collated the data of the 350,000 new tumours detected each year in the UK which will enable biomedical research to start developing personalised medicine. To put it simply, our understanding and treatment of cancer is about to take a massive leap into more effective territory. All the more reason for people to find it early like I did and get it treated.

Writing about cancer

So, did writing help me? A study published in August by UCLA concluded that cancer patients who blog about their experience suffer from considerably less incidence of depression than those who don't. Researchers took a group of recently diagnosed breast cancer patients and split the group in half. The first half was the control group and did nothing. The second half were taught how to set up their own website and blogged throughout their ordeal. The study found that the group who blogged 'showed reduced depressive symptoms, increased positive mood and a greater appreciation for life'1. Incidentally, it should be mentioned that after the study, the control group were given the same training, and began to show signs of their depression easing.

The other positive aspect of blogging when you are diagnosed with an illness is that you don't have to repeat the same thing to several people. Friends and family can access the information you are putting out there without having to ask you directly. One of the things you learn when you have cancer is that sometimes other people find it really hard to deal with. They can't talk to you, can't express how they're feeling and don't want to ask you directly about what is going on. But they do still want to know. I've had friends tell me that they've had sleepless nights worrying about whether I was going to die, and my blog helped them gain perspective as much as it helped me to order all the chaotic thoughts and feelings that come with a cancer diagnosis.

The question is: does writing about the experience only help those who are already predisposed to write? If you've never written anything before will you still benefit from starting to write about your illness? The study seems to suggest you will. And this is confirmed by several breast and testicular cancer patients who have blogged about their experience. One breast cancer sufferer told me that although she had never written anything before, writing her blog has really helped, she's had part of it published by Macmillan and she's now thinking of trying to get the whole blog published. Writing about cancer can be life changing in more ways than one. I'm grateful to the friend who made me check myself and I'm grateful to the friend who told me to write about my experience with cancer. I just wish neither of them had been in the position to give me first hand advice about this disease.

Maddie Wallace is the founder of Feel Yourself Campaign, a writer, part time English teacher, full time mother and running out of time for anything else.