Paperback Sales and Twitter Controversy
It has been a rollercoaster month - to say the least - since my mastectomy.
The real positive (other than my cancer news - see below) has been an uptick in sales of my paperback books. This has come out of nowhere, with little marketing. It has buoyed my resolve during a dark and depressing time.
On the downside, I developed a seroma which leaked through my wound. I felt a warm trickle down my trunk just a few hours after returning from my surgery follow-up appointment - where I had been given the fantastic news that I'd had a pathological complete response to chemotherapy.
The district nurses came for around 10 days to change the dressing before the leak stopped. I now have just a few steri-strips remaining and hope they will come off in the shower. I don't fancy pulling them off!
Perhaps, the lowest point over the past month was an ill-conceived tweet. It prompted a massive backlash which has cast a shadow over my enthusiasm for Twitter and life in general. All my frustration came out in one go. I have been shielding since March, and undergoing chemo during a pandemic has been a huge physical and mental strain - especially living so far away from the hospital. I cannot fully describe the lengths my family and I have gone to since the start of the pandemic to protect me from coronavirus.
Without thinking, I replied to a tweet about students protesting over the erection of barriers between accommodation blocks at a university. The sight of people congregating made me fly into a rage. I just want this pandemic to be over - or at least under control. I was angry and worried, and lashed out at young people - not stopping to pause and consider what they are going through. The mental health impact on them has been truly huge.
Because I wanted to convey the seriousness of Covid-19 for people like me, I ended the tweet by pointing out I am a cancer patient. The tweet was viewed by almost 100,000 people and attracted hundreds of replies - nearly all of them extremely unsympathetic. I received hurtful comments from a wide range of people, including a blue tick 'comedian', a broadcaster and even a midwife who assumed (wrongly) that I am early retired with 'a final salary pension' (I wish!). I have since reviewed my bio on Twitter because I had previously used the word 'retired' when referring to my career in the newspaper industry. I retired myself at 49 (with no pension). I set up a copywriting business in 2016 and this was successful, although currently on hold while I undergo treatment.
I was called 'disgusting', a 'witch', a 'Karen' and, probably, much worse (I stopped looking). What I am is a frightened, mentally exhausted person with a lowered immune system who is struggling to get through a pandemic. I saw an image of a crowd with no social distancing and reacted. Many replies rightly pointed out how young people have been shafted by the government and educational establishments. They were told it was OK to go to university but, when they got there, many were confined to halls of residence. Shared facilities made them susceptible to Covid while a lot of work was moved online - negating the need to spend thousands on accommodation, while they cannot get out of tenancy agreements.
In addition to replies to my tweet, I also received private messages - on Twitter and via this website. Two of the young people, who initially started out being abusive, were really understanding and I am grateful to them for reaching out to me. Others were just looking for an argument or sent me laughing emojis. Whatever I said (and I was overly apologetic because my tweet was out of order) just prompted a reply with more questions - mostly about why my cancer is of any relevance. I wish these people could put themselves in my shoes for just a moment - as I have done over the plight of young people.
In the end, I deleted the tweet.
My drug infusions re-start next week. I will be having Herceptin and Perjeta every three weeks for a year to stop the cancer from coming back. I also have to undergo three weeks of radiotherapy. At least, I've made it through chemo and surgery.
I hope anyone reading this is coping with lockdown restrictions. I am always here for anyone, of any age, who needs a friendly chat.