A journalist who was diagnosed with cancer at the start of the coronavirus pandemic is urging people with health concerns to visit their doctor.
Nicola Anderson shared her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2019 in the Irish Independent yesterday.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh today, Nicola said she has received an "incredible reaction" to her piece.
"I wrote this with a specific person in mind, the 3am Googler, someone who was coming up with a deluge of negative stuff," she explained.
"I thought if I can get this out there maybe this will appear too and things won't seem so bad, possibly."
Nicola described it as "a very traumatic time" and that when it came to getting her diagnosis, she was already "100% sure" she had cancer.
"It was almost kind of a relief and to be in the system, the period leading up to the diagnosis was far worse in my head," she added.
When she was getting treatment before COVID-19, Nicola was able to have her sisters with her during chemotherapy and could chat with other people.
"When you meet another patient it really does mean a lot because you can share experiences and everyone has a different experience," she said.
"That's the thing I learned, there's no one breast cancer experience but it does help to share stories.
The situation "was very deeply weird" once the pandemic hit, she added, with the "in-depth, heart to heart" conversations not possible anymore.
"You get very deep very quickly on an oncology ward but you couldn't really do that anymore," Nicola added.
"And then there was the sense of fear, the hospital was emptying out and it was just so echoey and strange and no one knew what to expect."
'Things never as bad as you think'
Nicola described the experience of telling her kids about her diagnosis as "awful" and still upsetting to even think about today.
She said: "But they took it so well, I couldn't believe how well they each took it in turn, I told them individually and obviously telling the teenage boy was the hardest because he understood the most.
"However, on the positive side, we actually had a really nice year, we just had more time to spend together.
"That was one thing I did appreciate that life suddenly wasn't so busy and I think our relationship has improved.
"When you get a diagnosis it's like you're standing on the edge of a plug hole and you're trying not to get sucked down or lose yourself or lose normality.
"But things are never as bad as you think they're going to be."
Overwhelmed by the kindness being shown to me about this piece, thank you!
I wanted to write this because so many people have helped me along the way and if it comforts one person googling bad stuff in the middle of the night then I will be very happy. https://t.co/ELBurfgYlf
— nicola anderson (@tokonic) February 6, 2021
Nicola decided to write yesterday's piece to give an insight into what it's like getting medical treatment for a non-COVID illness during the pandemic.
She recalled being in hospital and remarking to a nurse that it was very quiet, with the nurse replying that it was "too quiet" and people are out there with cancer who haven't got it checked out.
"That really struck me, thinking of people at home who may be afraid and might have found something but say, 'oh it's not COVID so I won't get treatment'."
Nicola added that hospitals are very safe for cancer patients and that she never felt at risk when getting treatment, and urged people not to be afraid and to seek medical advice if they are concerned.