Breast Cancer, Chemotherapy

CHEMO: What I Haven’t Been Doing

Finding ways to describe the Cancer/ Chemo journey is difficult.

Many of my gorgeous friends have been asking how I am. I want to share with you. I want to tell you what I’ve been doing but it’s hard to find the right words.

It occurred to me that perhaps it would be easier to write about WHAT I HAVE NOT BEEN DOING.


I haven’t been exercising.

Absolutely no walking or stretching unless you count walking up the stairs to the Cancer Centre. There are three flights and it hurts! I could take the lift but this is literally the only exercise I get every two weeks so I take the stairs.

I basically haven’t left the house since December unless you count Chemo trips to the hospital. Chemo days have become “Date Day” for Steve and I. We settle in with a coffee and read to each other whilst they dose me up with two of the strongest Chemo drugs at once.


I haven’t been watching anything. 

No Netflix. No movies. It hurts my brain and my eyes too much. Watching a movie or listening to anything is exhausting.


I haven’t been painting or doing anything remotely “creative.”

For the past two months I could barely sit up so painting or drawing were not even in the realm of possibility. I couldn’t sit up at a desk and write, or move my fingers around a keyboard. All the muscles in your body are affected by chemo including your eye muscles. It’s all very slow and painful.


This next one is important!!

I have not been beating myself up about my lack of productivity or creativity.

Fuck it. This is healing time. This is the time to be kinder to myself than I have ever been before. I didn’t really know what that meant until now.


I have not been responding to people who write and message me.

Not because I don’t care! The Chemo brain fog makes thinking, writing and talking very difficult.
Reading is okay because I don’t have to generate a response.
Finding words and using them (speaking + writing) has been a challenge.
I have realised that it’s perfectly alright if I can’t reply right now. It’s okay to allow that space and people do understand. 

There were times during the past couple of months where I was so sick that I could hardly walk from room to room. My body was like lead. Nausea, my heart pounding, my brain foggy, eyes sore. I would walk past the mirror and see a stranger with no hair and no breasts. I couldn’t recognise my own eyes because I was so full of drugs. I felt so lost and broken. And I just couldn’t see how I was ever going to be okay again.

At my lowest point I reached out to my doctors and they put me in touch with a Cancer Psychologist. We had an appointment over the phone which was amazingly helpful. I was so nervous about it. How will she understand? How can I tell her all the things I feel? But she did and she was wonderful. She validated all my feelings and I felt a weight lifted.

Chemo is shit you guys.

But there is another side.

Let me tell you about WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING!

Erin xx


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Erin Duncan

An Australian Artist and Illustrator currently living in Tasmania.
Everything I make is a way for me to share a little magic, wonder and possibility with the world.

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