Tips, experiences and inspiration for supporting those with serious illness

Megan McAuliffe

'The natural instinct is to want to visit the person who is sick and that's so lovely, but it doesn't always work for me. At my lowest point, I prefer to hunker down at home and have people visit when I'm feeling better. That's why a community of support in the digital space works so well."

'You can choose when you respond. When your emotions are raw and you're not feeling your strongest, in a digital space you have more control,' said Jackie Buxton, who was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in April 2017.

Fortunately, the treatment Jackie is on is keeping her stable.

'Thankfully, due to improved treatments and technology, more people are living for longer with secondary breast cancer. And there are always new treatments around the corner.'

When Jackie was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, there was much less information on the internet relating to the softer, more human side of cancer.

'I wanted to read stories of people my age who'd had cancer and emerged the other side, feeling well, and getting on with their lives,' she recalls. 'It was hard to find these stories and I was reluctant to look too hard as I didn't want to stumble across something I didn't want to hear,' she said.

So Jackie started her own blog, writing about her experiences during active treatment, aiming to focus on the positive side of cancer.

'I found so many surprises during treatment and learnt so much about what it's really like to have cancer. For me, it really wasn't 'all bad' and there were many silver linings: seeing more of friends and family, for example. I found that cancer was largely bearable and I wanted to let people know that it hopefully would be bearable for them, too. So I wrote about my experiences in the blog.'

Once her active treatment had finished, Jackie decided to take her blog one step further. She wrote a book, Tea & Chemo, which included the original blog posts but with extra insight and anecdotes gained from her experience.

Tea & Chemo has become a great gift for someone going through cancer and can also be found in hospital waiting rooms and treatment centres.

There's a fair bit of dark humour in the book and lots of people have told Jackie it's made them laugh and cry, but mostly that it's made them feel better about what they're going through.

'I wanted my blog posts and Tea & Chemo to be about the side of treatment you don’t read about in hospital: what it's really like to wear a wig for example. The first time I wore mine I felt like I had an enormous pompon on my head, and yet, nobody noticed. What I would never have realised back then, was that once the time came to get rid of my wig because my fast emerging new hair was pushing my wig off my head – not a good look - I'd feel very self-conscious about that, too.'   

To Jackie, the support she received through her active treatment made all the difference.

'People just want you to know they are thinking about you. They want to be able to do something. Much of the time I was thoroughly spoilt! Friends, family and even neighbours I didn't know particularly well, left meals on my doorstep in the worst chemo days. It's so life-affirming," Jackie said.  

'People and relationships can really make the difference in how well we are able to cope with cancer and its treatments. There's so much love and support out there and I think that No More Grapes will make this even more accessible.'

Thank you Jackie for sharing your story with us @nomoregrapes.

If you'd like to get a copy of Tea & Chemo, visit Jackie's blog https://jackiebuxton.blogspot.com.