BRU’d on Beach in Nahoon was packed on Monday September 21 as the Union of Jewish Women (UJW) celebrated the launch of East London-born Alison Tucker’s new book, My Best Worst Year: A Breast Cancer Story.
The book chronicles Tucker’s struggles with breast cancer after she was diagnosed in 2016.
“It’s the 24th of December and my phone rings. I hold the phone to my ear and it’s the oncologist.
“He says ‘Alison, I’m sorry but all three of your samples were positive. You’ve got cancer’,” said Tucker, recounting the moment when she first learned of her diagnosis.
“So what do you do? Anyone who’s read the book knows the answer: you go to the hairdresser!
“The reason why is because I suddenly looked at my watch and realised I have a hair appointment in ten minutes and I just go into autopilot mode.
“I got dressed, drove myself to the hairdress and as I sat in the chair, I finally realised: I have cancer.”
However, Tucker said while first learning about her status was hard, she still tried to be optimistic.
“Diagnosis is not the end of the world, in fact it can be the start of an amazing adventure,” she said.
Speaking to the audience, many of whom were breast cancer survivors themselves, Tucker shared some of her personal ‘Sanity Saviours’ which she said helped her cope throughout her treatment.
The first, she said, was trying to maintain a sense of normalcy.
“I’d never been sick, I never even really got flu, and I didn’t want to feel like a sick person,” said Tucker.
“I wanted to continue working to the extent that I could, I wanted to continue exercising. I wanted the little things in my life to still be there even if in different or lesser ways.”
Next, Tucker said it was important to find pleasure in the everyday.
“When you’re having treatment, things that you normally take for granted that might not have seemed important start having more of an impact on you,” she said.
“I’d be going for a run and see a butterfly or a beetle which I would normally never have noticed before.”
Staying informed about her condition also helped Tucker to feel in control of her situation. She said she spent a lot of time researching into her particular kind of breast cancer – invasive ductal carcinoma – and made sure to ask her doctor whenever she didn’t fully understand something.
Tucker said she also made sure to celebrate important milestones in her treatment, such as her final day of chemotherapy treatment.
However, she also said that patience was just as important when dealing with breast cancer.
“Just when you think you have everything sorted, you get a little curveball or a sudden surprise, and it never ends,” Tucker said.
Because of this, having a sense of humour is just as important.
Tucker read a passage from her book where she recalled an incident at a car rental where as she was returning her car, her wig got caught on the boot lid and pulled over her face.
“I think my hair’s coming off,” she said to the nonplussed attendant, who simply responded: “Sorry about that, ma’am. Now is everything alright with the car?”
“I was laughing about that for a while,” Tucker said.
Finally, she said that you should be grateful for all the good things in your life.
“I’ve always been a ‘glass half full’ kind of person but when you get diagnosed [with cancer], it does hit pretty deeply,” she said.
To help her remember the good things in her life, Tucker said she started a ‘gratitude diary’ where she would write down one thing she was grateful for every day.
This diary, Tucker said, would go on to inspire her to write her book.
My Best Worst Day is available from all leading bookstores.