The MAC Scale

I was privileged to attend a dinner last week. In support of ovarian cancer. Raising awareness of the symptoms in the hope of earlier diagnosis. Bloating,  unexplained pelvic pain, feeling full, difficulty eating, changes in bowel habits or the need to urinate. So pedestrian they can be so easily overlooked. After all, could be so many other things. A hundred medical staff there. I am in awe of the power of what an empassioned group can do to raise awareness. To ensure that the GPs are on to it earlier.

And my eyes were opened. I’ve heard it described as ‘not one of the ‘sexy’ popular cancers’. Because it doesn’t get the same press, does it. I didn’t even realise ovarian cancer had a ribbon. A teal one. It can be hard to see when we are surrounded by all this pink. But it’s insidious this cancer. I attended the evening not knowing. Ovaries. They’re such small things. How bad can it be? It can just be plucked out, can’t it? Not like losing a breast. But how wrong I was. The little cells slough off and often, because the diagnosis comes so late, the cancer has the chance to go everywhere. My own breast cancer seemed to pale a little. When I realised how lucky I was. It’s strange to think there are more and less desirable forms of cancer, isn’t it.

At dinner I met two incredible women. Positive and strong. They had such beautiful spirit . Happy, well-adjusted, living a better life. Making better choices. Seeing more beauty in the life around them. It’s got to make a difference, doesn’t it. It was such a privilege to be in their presence.They would have scored so high on the MAC Scale. You know, the scale we don’t hear much about. The scale that measures our mental adjustment to cancer. Throughout the whole of my treatment, I never saw it. Discussion was never offered. It was never spoken of. And yet this scale suggests that our mental adjustment is strongly correlated with survival. Some studies suggest this adjustment to be the single most important factor in determining both death and recurrence. And yet it doesn’t often get a mention. Helpless-Hopeless post cancer, and it’s a negative effect on survival. Fighting Spirit and it bodes well for relapse-free survival. My beautiful oncologist made the point of saying he didn’t believe my tumour would ever come back. Because I had such a great mental attitude.  With his experience, he has seen the importance of it. And it gives me great comfort to know this. That my attitude helps determine my future.

There is a part of me that wished they’d started the evening with the statistics. One in two men will experience cancer at some point in their lives. And one in three women. I wonder if it would have made a difference to the doctors attention if they realised that almost half of them right there in that room will themselves experience the diagnosis of cancer at some point in their lives. The shock. The fear. Moving from doctor to patient. And I often wonder if that realisation, that they are not exempt, that they are human too, would make a difference to the way they listen to us. Would make a difference to the significance they place on the importance of emotional healing in cancer…

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