FOCUS ON THE GOOD: Mark and Sharon Sojourner say it's vital to see the positives in this tumultuous experience.
FOCUS ON THE GOOD: Mark and Sharon Sojourner say it's vital to see the positives in this tumultuous experience.

The Sojourners: Taking control of their breast cancer battle

SHARON Sojourner's attitude to her battle with breast cancer is unique and heart-warming.

"In a strange way it's been a blessing," she said.

"You have to focus on the good stuff.

"I could have gone my whole life and not realised I was surrounded by so much goodness and warm-heartedness."

Her ready laugh belies the fact that the diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer has been far from easy on her and husband Mark.

She had almost finished her nursing degree when she was diagnosed early this year, and had to complete the last four weeks of prac while on chemo.

She also had a job lined up to start in early March.

That's now on hold. Their budget had quite literally been banking on it.

"I think the hardest thing is how it affects everything else going on in your life," Sharon said.

"Future plans go out the window and everything is pretty much taken over by doctors and medical appointments. It's pretty confronting."

To a large extent, Sharon said fighting cancer was a mind battle, which she admitted was "way more challenging that I thought it would be".

"I'm optimistic by nature, but it's very hard when you have to willingly poison yourself.

"You feel so bad it's almost impossible to explain and then you get better and you have to go back and do it to yourself again."

Her advice to others is to be informed of your own care.

Research it. Own it. Know the treatment and side effects.

Look for and allow the blessings of other people and see the positives in life.

Drawing on the strength of others, reaching out to them and telling them how you feel, and realising you can't do it alone is also important for both the patient and their loved ones.

Mark agrees. He said nothing prepared you for the emotional turmoil of diagnosis in a partner and how it changed your lives.

He wishes there was more information and support available for partners.

"As a partner, it's very much like a nightmare from which you know you won't wake up.

"You can't just make it go away. This is real," he said.

But neither one of them has any intention of letting the nightmare take over.

"When the diagnosis came through, we thought, we can't control this disease but we can control the way we respond to it, and that gave us hope - we still have some control over our lives," Mark said.

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