Breast Cancer · Mental Health

Who do you think you are?


I’m having counselling at the moment. It was organised via the Women’s Health Team as part of my ongoing treatment for breast cancer last year.

I’ve never had counselling before, and I’m not really sure what I was expecting. I knew we’d be talking about my issues with health anxiety and my feelings around my booby bubbles (the rather more friendly name we gave the ‘Big C’ for the sake of the kids). But other than that I thought we’d maybe just have a cosy chat over a cuppa, talking about our ‘feelings’, having a little cry to ‘get it all out’ and fluffy shit like that.

I thought we’d maybe even have a bit of a cuddle whilst my counsellor patted me on the back, telling me everything was going to be okay (this part hasn’t happened…yet!) I thought we might even become friends!

What I wasn’t expecting was to be put through the wringer quite as much as I have.

Counselling has forced my eyes wide open, pushing me to question Every. Single. Aspect. Of. My. Life. It’s been challenging, emotionally draining and arduous, and what I’ve realised is that I really haven’t got much of a grip on it all, at all.

Profound questions, such as: ‘Who is Jo’? Have left me flummoxed and confused, because I’m not sure I really know any more.

In fact, I’m not sure I ever really knew.

Over the weeks I’ve discovered that I am a horrendous people pleaser…

A bit of a sycophant

A bit of a doormat; doing and saying whatever I think will make other people happy, usually to the detriment of myself.

A bit of a wet lettuce, avoiding confrontation at all costs.

I say ‘yes’ to far too much because I’m afraid of letting people down.

I’ve also learned I need to be kinder to myself!

But what I haven’t yet learned is who Jo really is – I’m expecting a lightbulb moment any minute now.

A very good friend of mine who also had the booby bubbles a couple of years ago, recently said to me that the most difficult part of the entire nasty business was losing sight of the real her. She lost the essence of her being and has been struggling ever since to re-discover it.

I remember feeling confused when she told me about her attempts to locate her missing bits – not the physical bits you lose during cancer, like fingernails or hair, that would just be weird – but important emotional bits of her that seem to have fluttered away.  I remember wondering how an illness could possibly have done this, and how she knew what was missing? I thought I was being insensitive for not understanding.

I now realise the reason for my confusion is that I’ve never been familiar or secure enough with ‘me’ to identify with the feelings she described. I don’t feel any different ‘post-bubbles’ because I never really had a strong sense of self anyway. I’m the girl who’ll never make a decision, just follow what everyone else wants to do like a sheep, and I hate that about me.

We like to generalise, to compartmentalise things; put everything into nice neat boxes. We do this from the very minute we meet someone for the first time.

‘Hello, my name’s Jo and I’m a mum/wife/writer/manager/multi-tasker’ (delete as applicable). It feels good to be able to tuck yourself neatly into society and claim your place in any group.

We do this with children from a very early age…

‘So young Jo, what do you want to BE when you’re older’?

In all honesty, other than being happy, I think I’m still figuring this one out – is that acceptable at 40?

But we are all so much MORE than the headlines we give ourselves, and for too long I have been reliant on letting my various titles define me, for my history to tell my story.

Counselling is slowly stripping all this away, and it’s uncomfortable. It’s leaving me raw and exposed like a plucked chicken.

The reality is that I’m getting to know myself for the first time.

So here goes…

‘Hello Jo, nice to meet you. Tell me about yourself’

The new story starts here…


2 thoughts on “Who do you think you are?

  1. I want to refer you to the wonderful thoughts you wrote for Noah in your last blog, which were not at all wet lettuce. Those additional learnings come from Jo; as part of who you are includes your history the labels are not completely invalid. I agree labels are not the whole picture, but all the feelings or tendancies you know about and are exploring, I would suggest to help you be kind to yourself remember they tie into other characteristics. Those parts you are currently uncomfortable with may be facets of characteristics that are rare and worthnderful, and whatever conclusion you come to about where youu are developing Jo 🙂 I hope you can value all your characteristics unconditionally as altogether they have been part of all your experiences.

    P.s. ramblers unite.


    1. Hi Holly

      Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful comments. I’m finding the whole process of ‘self discovery’ a bit uncomfortable but I’m hoping I’ll learn to love the aspects of myself I’m uncovering 🙂



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