It is breast cancer awareness month. As someone with secondary breast cancer I am aware of the disease every day. Since I was diagnosed last August I’ve been in a muddle about how to square it mentally and emotionally. Although my treatment is working, nobody knows how long for.
Stage IV, secondary, advanced, metastatic, call it what you want, brings guilt and confusion about how best to be with and leave family and friends. Some may have a solution and put pressure on you to spend time at a clinic in Germany or source cannabis-related drugs or watch videos of people who have survived. I don’t understand how someone can know the cancer has pushed off for good until they die of something else.
And there is a lot aside from conventional medicines to help, including acupuncture, reflexology, cancer coaching, oxygen therapy, special diets with juices and no sugar, plus the rest. Online you can find miracle cures, along with clinics where you can spend time “cleaning up”. I’m not, however, a believer.
But existentialism resonates. It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a philosophical theory emphasising the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining his or her own development”. Fortunately the hospital offered me an existential therapist. It’s taken almost a year to understand exactly what it means, but the penny has finally dropped. I don’t have to do what anyone else wants me to do, or worry about what they think when as an individual my experience is unique. I’ve finally squared it with the help of Jean-Paul Sartre, who said: “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”
• Join the debate – email [email protected]
• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters
• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition
We have some news…
… about how we will respond to the escalating climate crisis – we will not stay quiet. This is the Guardian’s pledge: we will continue to give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. The Guardian recognises the climate emergency as the defining issue of our times.
Our independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental catastrophe.
The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope. We will also report back on our own progress as an organisation, as we take important steps to address our impact on the environment.
More people in India, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s journalism – made possible by our choice to keep it open to all. We do not have a paywall because we believe everyone deserves access to factual information, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.
We hope you will consider supporting the Guardian’s open, independent reporting today. Every contribution from our readers, however big or small, is so valuable.