Little can prepare anybody for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Harleston resident Jane Bishop found solace in keeping a diary of her experiences online.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2014, Mrs Bishop, aged 51, who lives in Station Road, has written a book derived from her blog, called Chemo Summer, under the pen-name Jane Hoggar.
She plans to donate any proceeds to cancer-related charities.
The message of the book, she says, is that there are, in fact, ways to prepare for dealing with cancer, if people become more informed, learn to identify the disease early, and most importantly, do not be scared of talking about it.
“This book is the book I needed when I was diagnosed,” she told the Diss Express.
“Even now, I read my book sometimes because I can’t believe what happened. It was such a shock, certainly at the age of 48.”
Following the diagnosis and the beginning of her treatment, Mrs Bishop, a dance and drama teacher, was encouraged to start a blog, after she had found it difficult to keep all her family and friends up-to-date on how she was doing.
She described the process of writing as therapeutic, and she was motiviated by the “such lovely comments” she received from those who read the blog.
“The comments were so encouraging and warming. I quite enjoyed making it entertaining for people,” Mrs Bishop said.
“Lots of people said ‘Jane, you must write a book’.
“It was a special moment when I saw it on the shelf.”
But while she aimed to write in a light-hearted manner, discussing everything from surgery and chemotherapy to her diet and hair loss, in certain sections, she also wrote of the fear she sometimes felt.
Recalling a friend who had died of a brain tumour after undergoing treatment at around the same time, Mrs Bishop said one of the main points she wanted to get across in her book was that people “have to be grateful” for the time they are given.
“Your life just flashes before your eyes when they say they have found a tumour,” she said.
“Now I feel so blessed to have been given longer. Now I feel every day is a gift to me.”
Mrs Bishop , who is married to lecturer Steve and has two children, Holly, 25 – who made the illustrations for the book – and William, 23, added she felt it was important for people to check with their doctor if they noticed even a small, seemingly insignicant anomaly.
She said her consultant told her getting checked earlier made a huge difference – and she recounted passing this advice on to someone else she knew, whose own cancer was found after she overcame trepidations about going for a scan.
“That’s a perfect example of how we just need to be vigilant, and if you look out for it, the help is out there,” she said.
“Some people leave it months. That’s precious time.
“My message is to talk about it and not be scared.
“I found chemo was not half as awful as I thought it would be.
“I think, as a nation, we need to be better informed about things. It’s really helpful if people can understand what you are going through.
“I found people started telling me about all the people they knew with cancer, but that’s not necessarily what you want.
“I think what people will take away (from the book) is a better understanding of what people with cancer are going through.”
* Chemo Summer — An Uplifting Breast Cancer Journey, is available for £7.99 from Austin Macauley Publishers, Amazon and Waterstones.
Jane’s blog can be found at www.janeschemosummer.blogspot.co.uk