Furniture and interiors designer and business owner Tamzyn Adding is better known to many Kiwis as Miss Lolo.
Eighteen months ago, at 37, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. However this kick-ass Aucklander wasn’t about to lay down and be defeated.
Here we have republished some excerpts from her blog and social media posts, and although we’re not mushy types who throw words like “inspirational” around often, she actually is.
“Earlier this week I had a friend get diagnosed with Breast Cancer who was a massive support for me when I was battling. It’s rocked me to the core.
I thought it was a good moment to remind people to not only be vigilant in their self-checking but to also give some advice on how to treat others who have been recently diagnosed. Here’s an older blog of mine relating to this topic ….
So its Breast Cancer month and to date this year I’ve stayed pretty quiet … am sure most of you know I was diagnosed myself 18 months ago at the ripe old age of 37yrs (to say it was a shock is an understatement). However the blog this week isn’t around education or early detection as I feel like I’ve done enough of that over the past year. Instead, I wanted to focus on ‘What to do if someone you know gets diagnosed.’
Getting diagnosed with the Big C hits you like a friggen steam train. You don’t see it coming and it takes the air from the lungs (or in my case my legs out from underneath me as I collapsed on the lounge floor). But what I’ve learnt through this entire pretty hideous cancer journey is that at the end of the day you want to be treated like anyone else who may be currently sick; whether they’ve got a runny nose or a broken leg.
I say this because when I was diagnosed (and admittedly I was little more public than most) I noticed that people who would usually come up to me, say hi and shoot the breeze all of a sudden put their head down or avoided eye contact. It was if nobody wanted me there. I was a daily reminder that anyone can get cancer and nobody wanted that. But when you’re the person who’s been diagnosed and people around you all of a sudden stop communicating it makes a shit situation that much shittier. If I had crutches people would come up and ask “What did you do?” “How did your appointment go?” but with cancer, it’s like it’s a big secret. Hell, I would’ve loved it had someone said: “How did the oncologist go?” “When you getting the cancer boob off?”. There was one occasion at school that I friggen loved. I had a mum yell at me across the carpark “You got cancer in your lymph nodes? Or they all clear?”. I replied “Clear!” her response was “Sweet! Cracking open a bottle when I get home!”. While those who heard were shocked I smiled for the first time in about a week as all of a sudden the situation was normalised. However, these encounters were few and far between … by the time I went in for the mastectomy I wanted to show up everywhere in a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “I HAVE CANCER. IM NOT FUCKING DYING!”.
This is what people forget, being diagnosed with the Big C doesn’t mean you’re going to die and those who have been diagnosed definitely don’t need to be treated like someone who is terminal. Loads of us get Cancer and loads of us get to carry on and live awesome long lives. But please don’t be scared to ask us how life is without a nipple or what it’s like waiting for your yearly check-up with an oncologist who I’m confident has some form of Aspergers (bedside manner is seriously lacking). By normalising the entire situation makes the whole shitty situation that much less scary.
We’re scared enough when diagnosed we need those around us to not act”
Having fielded quite a lot of questions about her illness, Tamzyn put together a list of dos and don’ts for friends and relatives.
- “Please don’t send us flowers. While we totally realise you don’t know what to say and are trying to be nice, looking at a house filled of flowers simply reminded me that I was really effing sick. Then they died and make you feel even crappier.
- Do not, I repeat DO NOT ask the following questions; What are your chances of survival? How long do you have left? If I need to explain why then you’re an idiot and I can’t help you.
- Do not say “Oh no you’re going to lose your hair!” in a tone that resembles shock, horror or despair. It’s by far and away the least of our worries. Did I mention we’ve just been diagnosed with Cancer!? Stuff the bloody hair!
- Do not (and this is a biggie!) tag us in Cancer posts on Facebook or send us links to read on miracle cures. If I had one more person try and sell me freaking some purple rice crap I was about to shove it up their ….
- Do not tell us cancer was caused due to our lifestyle, religious beliefs or stress levels. We are stressed enough when diagnosed and may just punch you.
- Do not refer to chemo at any point as ‘poison’ that does not make us excited for the next treatment when we really should be as it’s shrinking the bastard. Asking about our next treatment or referring to it as medicine makes it much more palatable.
- Do send us flowers when we finish chemo or get our first 1-year clearance from the oncologist. That’s worth celebrating.
- Do send us a txt message to acknowledge your thinking of us BUT then continue the conversation about regular stuff (Family gossip, latest news at work, the Block contestants). ANYTHING so that we’re not stuck being reminded that we have cancer.
- Do be excited about wig shopping. Even better come with us, make it something to look forward to and have some fun trying on crazy hairstyles. Or buy us a rad headscarf for us to rock.
- Do offer to do the school pick-ups and drop-offs. One we generally look like assholes and would rather avoid the looks of pity, and two it’s a really massive help!
- Do turn up with a bottle of wine and tissues. Yes, we can (more times than not) still enjoy a glass or two of wine and god knows we could do with the stress release.
- Do turn up on the weekend and take our kids to Jump (or somewhere equally as entertaining). This is a godsend as one we feel crap for not being able to do stuff with our kids and two we really need to sleep.
- PLEASE turn up with good home-made dinners. Having a freezer of dinners that I could simply pop in the oven for the kids was a life-saver!
Finally, just be there. Don’t be scared to show up even if you may cry (we’re used to it).”