It’s World Cancer Day, and today fills me with so many emotions. I feel indescribably sad, sad to the bottom of my stomach, but I also feel extremely proud of my sister and my family. I remember her so clearly wearing her World Cancer Day unity band telling me she will fight it and telling me that she can do this.

I think today is an important day to think about how cancer has affected you. Social media reminds me that connecting with others, building friendships and being able to relate to others is so important. I see many people post about cancer destroying so many things, but also highlighting that it has brought them lifelong friendship in a time they never thought possible. Having a support network to chat to, to offload, to laugh or to cry with becomes a coping mechanism that allows you to deal with the rollercoaster you’ve been dealt; in whatever way cancer has affected you.

On World Cancer Day I ask, how are you? You may have someone close to you who is going through the unimaginable and you want to be able to do something, anything, that might help make it just a tiny bit easier. You are not alone in thinking this, especially now we are unable to visit or support like we normally would. When asked this question I would always talk about Sophie, ‘Oh, she’s coping so well with her treatment side effects’ or ‘she’s keeping positive’. I never actually answered the question about myself. I have asked lots of people how they are and they have given a very similar response. Why is it so difficult to answer this question how it was intended? For me I will admit that it was guilt. I felt guilty admitting my struggle when I was fit and healthy, I did not have cancer so how could I possibly be struggling? I felt like my feelings had little importance compared to Sophie’s, and my way to cope with this was to ‘keep calm and carry on’.

I admit that my coping strategy was not ideal! I have learnt that sharing your emotions enables some pressure release. All my emotions, anger and sadness had built to a level where it felt like it was about to explode at any moment in time. It is true what they say about a problem shared is a problem halved. Find someone who you are comfortable talking to, who listens and who you trust. This can be anyone. There will be no judgement, you have emotions and cancer affects you too.

Cancer affects so many people. People who are diagnosed, their family and friends and people close to them. Cancer also affects doctors, and nurses who cry with joy when people get better or with sadness when they don’t. It affects the volunteers on wards who play with the children, it affects the lovely hospital staff who do all the important jobs we easily forget about. It affects wonderful volunteers in charities and people who enable life to go on. It creates friendships you never thought were possible over conversations on treatment wards or in waiting rooms.

I can’t even imagine the effect of cancer today, during a world pandemic when hugs are not allowed and when we cannot see our loved ones in person. I have read some scary statistics about missed appointments, missed treatments and lumps going undiagnosed. I know that the wonderful staff in the NHS are doing everything they can to deliver as much care as possible in ‘the show must go on’ style, but the battle they are facing is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. On World Cancer Day 2021, do something amazing, ask someone how they really are.