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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

The ripple effect of cancer

by Carlie Buchanan

After being diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2021, Carlie Buchanan was determined to raise funds and awareness to help find a cure for the disease. She set up a Facebook page called A Year to Remember, where she blogs about her experience of living with brain cancer. Here, Carlie shares a poignant insight into the ripple effect of her diagnosis on her family. 

I was diagnosed back in early 2019 with an aggressive form of breast cancer, following a year of chemotherapy, hormone treatment, mastectomy and radiation therapy I thought I’d smashed cancer and was on the road to recovery.

2020 was a good year health wise. Ironic as we were knee deep in the pandemic!

By June 2021 I began suffering headaches and was quickly diagnosed with a large tumour in my brain. Surgery followed and again, by late 2021, I felt I was recovering well, only to receive the devastating phone call, just two weeks before Christmas, that the tumours were back in several locations in my brain.

During all this everyone is focused on me, my feelings, my recovery, how it’s affecting me. Which is natural, the effects were and are devastating.

My life has been turned upside down, I was always a worker – doing something, I still struggle with taking things slowly.

I can’t drive now; I feel unstable often.

I forget things (I think I always did but now I have a great excuse!)

But as time and treatment goes on and the realisation that this is it for me, I’m not going to get ‘better’, I began to think about how my illness affects my family and specifically how it has gone towards shaping my children as little humans.

Carlie and her boys, Ewan and Louis

Both my boys have very different personalities, as is usual with siblings, but I wondered how my cancer, repeated hospital visits, treatments, overheard conversations might have impacted on how they see things, cope with stress and what, if anything, they remember of my illness.

Ewan was five when I was first diagnosed. Louis just two.

So, for Louis it’s all he’s known really and he very much takes change in his stride or at least appears too. Kind and caring, with an inner confidence.

Ewan knows and understands much more and is quite emotional and attached to me. He can be clingy and quite whiny, although very intelligent, curious and also kind.

Has my illness impacted on how he behaves? There’s not anything that can be done now about the past, but what can we do to recognise this behaviour and support them both through their growth in to adulthood.

And similarly has my illness affected Louis, with his resilience and his caring nature?

Certainly, my illness has affected my wider family.

John – my husband, steady rock, worrier. It affects his day-to-day existence. He has much more to do, driving, ferrying the kids and me back and forth, he’s more involved in the kids’ routines and meal planning and cooking as I have a tremor that inhibits my ability. But there’s also the worry about my health, our future, our children’s future.

Carlie with John, Ewan and Louis

This background worry never goes away and impacts our everyday decisions.

In sickness and health and all that!

My mum and sister also help out massively with lifts and the children, along with hospital appointments and general support. This must impact on them. The practicalities of their free time, but also the emotional stress that the worry will bring.

What about my brother, uncles and aunties, family in-laws and friends?

Cancer has a ripple effect. It touches everyone in so many seen and unseen ways.

The old adage ‘just be kind, you don’t know what someone’s going through’ is relevant every day, with everybody.

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