Survivor, 37, tells how online friends helped her kick cancer’s ass
It was just a few weeks before Christmas in 2016 when Andrea Robson’s life turned upside down.
After being ill for more than a year the 37-year-old was hit with the bombshell news that she had stage two bowel cancer.
It was the day her life changed, with the news coming during a two week stay at St Marks Hospital, London while she was being treated for Ulcerative Colitis.
Metro.co.uk spoke to Andrea in honour of World Cancer Day today. She said: ‘I remember the day they told me, it was awful. One of the doctors came in with one of the nurses. I wasn’t expecting it at all.
‘It was a shock, I remember tearing up instantly. When you hear cancer it’s really all you can hear in your head.
‘I instantly thought about my family – my mum and dad and my boyfriend. I was more worried about them in a strange way.’
It took a week for Andrea’s biopsies to come back and she had not idea what would happen in the future.
She said one of the scariest parts for her was not knowing what was going to happen to her or her family.
‘The unknown kicks in,’ she said. ‘It’s pretty scary’.
But just half an hour after Andrea’s diagnosis a Macmillan nurse came to visit her and explained what would happen.
Andrea, from Tooting, London, said: ‘She was brilliant. She was like an auntie.
‘She eased my mind through what would happen. She was really great for what I needed that afternoon.’
After that, she said, everything was a whirlwind. There were different doctors and different nurses and everything ‘went so quickly’.
Amazingly she was discharged at Christmas, which meant she could spend it at home with her family, having surgery to remove her colon at the beginning of January last year.
After a few months of recovery at home, Andrea started a course of chemotherapy which she finished in September.
Since then she’s had tests which came back clear, although she will need more surgery in the future.
‘It’s scary but my surgeon is brilliant and understanding,’ she said.
But it was while she was going through treatment that Andrea stumbled across an online Macmillan forum where she could talk to other people who were suffering from cancer.
This was an important outlet for her because it meant her questions could be answered and it made her feel ‘a bit more normal’.
‘Your mind whizzes and you want to ask questions,’ she said.
‘I started following Macmillian online. You come across other people who have got more time on their hands.
‘It’s just really nice, it’s so supportive. When you’ve got someone who’s been through it or going through it you understand it a bit more.’
The support, Andrea says, has been ‘brilliant and understanding,’ saying it’s like ‘meeting old friends’ and that it ‘takes the pressure off and eases the mind’.
She said: ‘There’s a little community of us on social media. We’re all quietly honest about our treatment and feelings.
‘You remember when people have their chemo or scan day. You will get a message asking how it was, how it has gone. It’s like a lovely supportive network of people.’
And added: ‘I feel like I’m not the only person going through it. You do feel alone, despite having brilliant family and friends.
‘Having other people that are going through it as well, you know you’re not the only one going through those feelings or having this treatment.’
Andrea said she ‘felt so happy’ when the tests came back clear, but at the same time the whole process was ‘overwhelming’ – and this is where the online support really helped.
‘I did get quite emotional about it all. You have your treatment, you go to the hospital every week and then it’s fine and it all stops,’ she said.
‘It’s a little bit scary because your safety bank has been taken away.
‘It’s totally wonderful and amazing but you’re still a little bit anxious. But other people see the signs every which makes you feel better because you know you’re not going loopy.
‘I talk about what im going through and you get a lot of messages from people congratulating you and things like that.
It’s really nice, it helps other people who are going through it. You can come out the other side.’
Speaking of her recovery, Andrea said she is ‘slowly getting there’.
‘Physically I’ve got a few niggles and the fatigue is unreal,’ she said. ‘I’m trying to get back to normality.
The enormity has hit me this past month, so I’ve been getting quite emotional. It’s a slow process.
‘You feel a bit anxious and a bit happy. It’s all a bit strange.’
WorldCancerDay 2018 is today, and Macmillan Cancer Support is encouraging #LittleActsofKindness to help support people living with cancer.
Visit the Macmillan website for more information.