Kate G
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Diary of a "Fake" Cancer Patient - Keeping my head together

Kate G
Posted by
11 May 2014

I always know when the 6 weeks are drawing to a close which has absolutely nothing to do with looking at a calendar & everything to do with my mood. I become more withdrawn, find it much harder to keep my inner voice in check, spend wakeful nights dwelling upon what the future may hold & my red wine consumption increases dramatically!

Those that know me well are accustomed to my regular visits to a psychologist at the Cancer Psychology Unit at my local hospital which has become a fundamental part of my coping strategy during watch & wait. These sessions allow me to release a torrent of emotion & what some may describe as irrational fears & to regain my sense of perspective & inner balance. You see, it wasn’t always like this ....

About a month after diagnosis, I went to pieces & sat in front of my Consultant panicking, crying & generally not coping & my cancer specialist nurse suggested that I may benefit from seeing someone at the new cancer psychology unit, at which point I was referred. 3 years later, I see my psychologist every 6 weeks & as a consequence I feel far more grounded about my cancer.

By friends & colleagues I have been described as a “swan” – by that I don’t mean elegant & graceful but rather that it is all going on under the surface i.e. I don’t give too much away. It’s not that I don’t think that I can talk about how I feel because I know that I can & am incredibly lucky to have such fantastic support, it’s just sometimes I need to talk to someone who is completely objective, who doesn’t know me outside that room & who isn’t going to start worrying if I am not 100% positive all the time.

All of this set me thinking even more & it has occurred to me that if more people are surviving cancer, then more people should have the opportunity for psychological support such as that which is provided by my health board. I should imagine that my situation is not dissimilar to someone who is in remission i.e. they are waiting for something to happen yet I am fully aware that psychological help is not routinely offered across all health boards. This was evidenced recently at my support group where there were those of us under one health board that had access to this level of support whereas the others did not. Our guest speaker was a Welsh Assembly member who I promptly took to task about this!

With the improvements in treatment & cancer survival, this is a situation that is quite simply going to snowball so WHERE IS THE HELP????? After all, as I have said in previous blogs, what is the point if you cannot live your life & take pleasure in every aspect? For me, the thought of just existence is not a place I want to be in ...



Kate, I really look forward to reading your posts as you always have interesting things to say and I think this is the most interesting yet.

I think you raise a really, really important area that is often neglected in the treatment of blood cancer. In many ways the emotional and phsycological aspects of dealing with blood cancer are harder than the physical side (both before and after treatment) and they need treating too.

It's great that you're benefiting from your visits to your Cancer Psychology Unit and I know this is something that I would really have benefited from had it been available, especially in the early months of recovery when the safety net of being in the hospital was taken away.

I also think that having a forum to talk with others in a similar position is extraordinarily useful too and this is something that the charity are trying to address with the setting up of Patient Support and Patient Experiences which we hope will grow to become a platform where blood cancer patients and their families can discuss the issues that really matter with each other and find the information and support they need to help them on their blood cancer journeys.


Hi Kate, 


Thank you so much for your blogs - I really enjoy reading them and always look out for your posting another. I think they're great! 

At LLR we are undertaking a new project called Prioritisation of Patient Need - through this we are trying to understanding patient need throughout the patient journey by holding Focus Groups with patients and families, and 1:1 interviews with patients and experts in the field of blood cancer. It would be great to hold an interview with you either in person or over the phone. Is this something you would be interested?

It would be great to hear from you - you can either contact me on here, via email (ldias@beatingbloodcancers.org.uk) or phone 02075042282




Hi Kate,

My mum is currently in hospital, in remission from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) after a diagnosis in July last year. She has endured two rounds of chemo, suffered a subdural haematoma as a side effect from the AML, received a successful donor stem cell transplant (although not without its ups and downs), and now her current stay in hospital started from a bad bout of lymphedema. 7 weeks on from her latest admission, she is still in hospital, dealing with weakness in her legs post-lymphedema and now a diagnosis of depression.

For me, this has been one of the hardest aspects of my mum's illness to see her go through, despite the fact her physical illness is so much better. From seeing a lady always so determined and brave in going through her treatment, she is now very withdrawn, detached and generally just sad about her life at the moment. Quite frankly I can't blame her after all she's been through, but it doesn't make it any easier, especially for her.

The Maggies Cancer Centre in Kirkcaldy is now providing psychological support to her, and to my dad, which I am incredibly grateful for. Although the support of the nurses throughout her various and lengthy stays in hospital has been of immense comfort to my mum and the rest of my family, I don't think any of us can underestimate the psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis, and the changed life that follows post-diagnosis, even, as you rightly point out, if that person is then in remission. The Maggies Centres are wonderful charities that provide such support for patients, but as a blood cancer patient, with a weakened immune system and the fear of contracting an infection, it has only been recently that my mum has been able to attend this centre. To me, it seems a bit of an oversight in the NHS that this psychological support cannot be given automatically to blood cancer patients, during and post treatment, especially when they are so often confined to a hospital bed for such long periods of time.

Thank you for raising this issue, and I hope you continue to benefit from the psychological counselling you are receiving.




Thank you so much for your comment.

I'm really sorry to hear that your mum has become so withdrawn, though as you say given everything that she has gone through and is continuing to go through this is not surprising.

It's good to hear that Maggies Centre are providing her with some support and I really hope that this makes a difference. I guess the fact that she is still dealing with some undesired side-effects isn't helping the situation and this may be having an impact upon her mood.

I know when I finished my treatment for blood cancer I found the period immediately after leaving hospital difficult and I certainly had ups and downs in terms of mood and energy levels but over time the ups became more frequent to the downs until I reached a point where I felt 'normal' again.

One thing I really benefitted from was being able to see a counsellor however this was something that I did after I left the hospital almost 18 months after being released and wasn't something that I was offered at the time. In hindsight, I wasn't prepared for the ups and downs or feelings that I subsequently felt and it did set me back a lot so I completely agree that it is an oversight on the NHS not to do more in this respect.

Your feedback is extremely useful to the charity as we are currently looking to identify areas of need for patients through our Prioritising Patient Need programme.


Thanks Andy,

That is really useful to know that my feedback is to be taken into consideration, and it is also great to hear that you are now doing well, physically and mentally, after your treatment. I would like to emphasise that I have found the NHS service to be excellent in taking care of my mum, and the treatment and care that my mum has received (both at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy and the Beatson Cancer Centre in Glasgow) has been top-notch in all other respects. I certainly wouldn't want my feedback to be construed as a criticism! However, as you point out, if the NHS could do more in the area of psychological support, that would certainly be welcomed.



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