I have cancer.

In the next week some of you may also be diagnosed with cancer.

I want you to know that it is not all doom and gloom and you will be treated promptly with the utmost respect, care and warmth.

As one family in three is affected by cancer there will be many reading this who will identify with my thoughts on this subject.


I have always been in the best of health, but in the middle of last year, after having some minor health problems, my doctor sent me for a test at the hospital.

The result was the diagnosis of an aggressive stage four gynaelogical cancer.

It is incurable but is treatable and I will always have it. I have probably had it for years as It is a slightly rare form of the disease with few symptons until it reaches this later stage.

Within five days of my diagnosis I was in a surgery at the Tauranga Hospital being updated on what my options were and I was amazed at how quickly "the system" swung into action for me.

I had a choice of chemotherapy to be followed by a major operation in Auckland Hospital to be followed by more chemotherapy to mop up any residual cancer.

There was no pressure on me to choose what treatment to have and I willingly chose chemotherapy.

I did not even know where the Cancer Treatment Centre was but I certainly know now.

It is a cheerful bustling place behind the hospital - and there is nothing morbid about it at all.

I was assigned my own wonderful nurse who looked after me fabulously and we got to know each other well over the six months I was being treated.

Every three weeks I also had an appointment with my oncologist for an update on how treatment is going.

Everything is thoroughly explained to me and I usually arrived armed with questions.

Morning tea is brought around by volunteers, there are magazines to read and people to talk to.

Of course there are needles in abundance and as a previous needle-phobic I became used to them fairly quickly - after all those needles are saving my life.

All these people who work in this field are angels, every one of them has the gift of kindness and concern.

There is a huge support system around this disease. There is the cancer society, there are volunteers to drive us to treatment if we require it, and there are support groups for most cancers although I was hesitant to join any group as I did not want to indulge in negativity.

However, I did join and have found they are a positive group of ladies who meet for coffee, cake, and a chat every few months. I am among friends all sharing the same experiences.

I was well throughout and had minimal side-effects. There was no nausea, minimal tiredness, the few mouth ulcers I had were healed instantly with a few spoonfuls of UMF manuka honey.

When I had swollen ankles, I raised my feet on to a stool and watched an hour or two of television - no hardship in that with a cup of coffee beside me.

My red blood-cell count went quite low at the end of my treatment but it recovers quickly. I did faint while out one day so now know to be aware of that situation.

As I was about to lose my hair, I was given a voucher to buy a wig which certainly enabled me to carry on a normal life.

My hair has now grown back and to my surprise it has come back curly, the best-managed hair I have ever had.

I have always worked and for the last sixteen years, have worked several days a week in a locally-owned family business.

I loved my job so was very sorry to leave work to undergo treatment. I missed all the people around me - my lovely employers, my work-mates and my regular customers.

I was very touched when my employers offered me more work after recovery from my treatment. I am now back on the team on a part-time basis and very happy to do so.

I am on a continuing basis of blood test checks every three months and now my cancer has shown signs of returning. I have begun a more minimal treatment regime with my same precious nurse - there will be no hair loss this time, so my wig will remain unemployed on a wooden block - for now.

People spend so much time blaming the Government for all the ills of society but I have nothing but praise for our health system and I wrote to Simon Bridges to say so.

I have a lot of support - family, friends, my neighbourhood and my employers.

I have just spent a month in Australia with my son and his family.

I laugh as much as I ever did, I work, I have hobbies,

I do not know how much time I have left, but I am very well, I am totally independent, I have a huge quality of life and I don't want or need sympathy.

One phrase I avoid is "your journey" - to me that signifies a trip - and then an end! I do not think about "an end".

I hope my account of this new part of my life - living with cancer - will give some of you a new perspective of what would be for many, a very frightening diagnosis.

Of course for some, this portrayal of my situation may not be the same as their experience.

Take care all of you, laugh and love a lot - life is very precious - and enjoy every day you have - as I do!

Robin Bishop is a long-term Tauranga resident and regular letter writer.