Ruth Johnson was diagnosed with cancer for a second time in lockdown – and told there is no cure.
As a member of Dundee’s new Cancer Research UK Business Beats Cancer fundraising board, she is marking the anniversary of her diagnosis on June 7 by urging people to play a part in the fight against the disease.
It’s the most awful news to get, to be told you have cancer again and this time it can’t be cured.
As my world fell apart, pandemic restrictions meant I didn’t have my husband by my side. No one could hold my hand or give me a hug.
It was a devastating blow I had to withstand alone. Suddenly I was living my worst nightmare.
That was a year ago on June 7 and since then every hope has been pinned to a treatment working, some medical miracle that might mean I can get on and live life to the full.
Twice in the last year I’ve been told the treatment I’ve been given hasn’t worked. That’s like hitting rock bottom. I had a great response to chemo previously so to hear this news and know my options were reduced was devastating.
Now I’m hoping to hit third time lucky with immunotherapy treatment. I go to Ninewells monthly and I’ll keep getting it as long as it keeps working, or the side effects become too much.
Time is precious
I can’t help but feel it’s unfair that, because of Covid, I won’t do most things on my bucket list.
I’ve been well enough to travel but restrictions have stopped me doing anything much beyond seeing a friend across a chilly garden.
Despite the hardships there’s been light though. My husband Les, my family and friends have been amazing.
Les and I have never been closer. People don’t realise how hard cancer is, not only for me but also for Les and for my family.
My advice to anyone going through cancer is you need support. And it will come from places you’re not expecting it.
If people want to do things for you, let them. And listen to your doctor, do what they tell you.
I’ve seen first-hand how generous people can be. Since Les and I moved to Maryfield almost two years ago, we’ve made some good friends.
My next door neighbour built a step and a platform next to our garden wall during lockdown so we can still enjoy a coffee together.
Sometimes we sit out there with a hot water bottle and it’s so great to have that friendship.
Another thing that’s kept me going is being part of the Cancer Research UK Business Beats Cancer fundraising board in Dundee.
This past year has proved the value of research… Science has given us our route out of the pandemic and it is our route to beating cancer
We are raising the money to fund scientists to find better and kinder treatments for this horrible disease, working so people with cancer can enjoy more time with their loved ones. People like me.
One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime and all of us can support the research that will beat it.
This past year has proved the value of research and what can be achieved together. Science has given us our route out of the pandemic and it is our route to beating cancer.
Every donation or sale at Dundee’s new Cancer Research UK shop on the Gallagher Retail Park makes a difference. Every time someone takes on a sponsored cycle or 5k run, edges on that progress.
The cancer I have this time is stage four. This means it’s spread. I’ve also been told my cancer is “life shortening”. Not a day goes by without these words ringing in my head.
Cancer makes you face your own mortality. It’s normal to feel like you’re invincible. So when someone says to you that you’re ill and it’s life shortening, it’s a big thing to deal with.
If the treatment I’m now on doesn’t work then I’ll have to hold out hope there will be a clinical trial for me – something that needs tested that might give me extra time.
Treatment is tough
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, the treatment made my hair fall out. For every strand of hair I lost, I cried. I didn’t look in a mirror once.
Being diagnosed was hard for me to come to terms with. I saw having cancer as having failed in some way. I couldn’t see myself as a cancer patient. If I’m perfectly honest, I still don’t.
Talking about my experience has helped, but it’s taken a long time for me to do that. I’m a private person.
When I went to my first Business Beats Cancer board meeting I didn’t mention I had cancer. At one point I had to excuse myself to go and cry in the toilet because it was so overwhelming.
All I want to do is get away, to go on holiday. When you’re away you can forget about everything for a while.
A nice hotel with a lovely swimming pool and spa products is what I dream of. Being at home all the time with a pile of pills to take every morning makes it difficult to forget you’ve got cancer.
For now I love to go out to a restaurant with my mum and share a fish platter while my dad orders his own thing.
I think we’re all the same aren’t we, we all need a chance to connect with one another, enjoy some friendship and laughter, get a reality check from people you trust and to escape from your own problems for a while.
You can play a part in supporting life-saving research at cruk.org.