Thursday 9th July 2020

My experience with nurses and staff

 

Throughout my treatments, which started last September, the nurses and staff I have encountered have all been incredible. I’ve been to many different wards, clinics and help centres, and in every single one the staff to be incredibly open and accepting. They are always very friendly and make conversation with me about my life, often asking me what I do, where I study and who I’m isolating with at the moment.

At this point I always tend to hesitate a little, as I’m living with my girlfriend so by answering I would be coming out, and I still have slight reservations wondering how people will react. However, every single nurse I’ve told has not batted an eyelid and didn’t hesitate to carry on the conversation as normal, asking me how long I’ve been with her and where we met etc.

It’s very comforting to see that LGBT relationships are becoming so much more normalised, to the point where it’s not seen as a thing at all, and I can talk about my partner just as any straight person would.

It makes going to the hospital so much less daunting, knowing that I can always speak openly to staff who have a genuine interest in my life and well-being, and that I can have conversations with nurses about anything to distract me from the treatments I might be undergoing which always calms me down a lot and keeps my positivity alive! 

I’ve also seen many members of staff wearing rainbow lanyards in support of the LGBT community which is also brilliant to see. It’s always reassuring to see that staff and companies are progressive and support our community, because you never have to worry that you will be discriminated against or receive lesser care because of your identity. 

Changes in my identity during treatment

 

I’ve been out to my family since age 16, and out to the rest of my friends at 18. I’ve never had a negative reaction when coming out, all of my friends and family have always been very accepting. Even in public, I had never been subject to homophobic comments before my diagnosis.

However, after my diagnosis I felt that my identity had been completely changed, and consequently the way people perceived me was different. Before, I had always been somewhat feminine. I wore make-up, had very long hair, liked to get dressed up for special occasions and didn’t come across as a ‘stereotypical lesbian’ to people who didn’t know me. I still had masculine elements of my identity, but I had a lot of femininity to balance it out as well.

But after I lost my hair, I feel like I lost a lot of my femininity. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing girly clothes anymore, and I stopped wearing makeup because I felt like without my hair it didn’t look right. I wasn’t upset by this, I just decided that for the time being I felt more comfortable being masculine. So, I would wear more men’s clothes – picking smart trousers and shirts over dresses – and often wore caps to cover my bald head, over the more traditional head scarves that a lot of female cancer patients wear.

As a result of what felt like quite a drastic change to my identity, I quickly found that people in public were not as accepting as they were before. I would often get stared at public and looked up and down, especially in public bathrooms where I was made to feel completely out of place.

On one occasion, a mum came into the toilets with her two young girls as I was washing my hands at the sink. They both looked terrified of me and ran to their mum holding back tears, presumably as they thought I was a boy or transgender in the girls’ toilets. The mum had to physically force them to wash their hands at the sink next to me, and as they did, they leant as far away from me as possible not taking their eyes off of me.

I felt so upset and uncomfortable, as I waited for the mum to tell them to stop staring or at least apologise to me. I could understand kids being kids, but the mum made no effort to correct their behaviour and did nothing as she saw me getting tearful at their response.

This wasn’t the only time an incident like this happened, most times I used the toilet in public people looked me up and down or did second takes making it obvious that they didn’t think I belonged there.

It was a bit of a reality shock to me as I had never faced any kind of discrimination first-hand as a member of the LGBTQ community, and I was able to see how degrading and demoralising transgender people are made to feel when all they want to do is use a toilet that matches their gender identity.

Fertility options for LGBTQ people

 

LGBTQ relationships are not widely discussed or explored at school, and most emphasis is placed on heterosexual relationships as the norm, therefore I didn’t know much about the fertility options available to myself as a lesbian. 

Until I was diagnosed with cancer, I had never given much second thought to fertility options as I always assumed I would have many choices. However, with each treatment I became aware that I would be less and less likely to conceive and had to consider the real possibility I would not be able to have my own children. Dealing with this at a young age can be very overwhelming as before you are even ready to think about having kids, the decision is basically made for you.

I did have the opportunity to freeze my eggs before I began my very first round of treatment, however I decided not to go through with it and proceed with treatment immediately instead. The reason I chose not to freeze my eggs was because it would delay the start of my treatment by up to a month, and at the time my cancer was high-grade stage 4, and had already began to metastasize to other areas of my body.

Due to the abnormal fashion in which my cancer was spreading, my doctor also told me there was a 15% chance it could spread to my brain, so I would need to receive intrathecal chemotherapy (which is injected into the spine) to prevent this from happening. Due to all these factors, I decided it was not worth the risk in delaying my treatment any longer.

To help me consider other options I had for having children, I watched films like ‘Instant Family’ which is about a couple who foster three children. It helped me come to terms with the idea of adopting children, which is something I had never considered before, and completely changed my outlook on it.