When Evelyn Kühne sits in her car after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she thinks: “What if I just turn left and drive into this pillar, it will all be over.” Later, she finds her vocation thanks to her disease.
Reported by Evelyn Kühne, written down by Lukas Hoffmann
Shortly before my cancer diagnosis, I had met someone new and moved places. New house, new friends, new place. Well, I had a boring office job at a funeral home, but I was in love and happy.
I had told my former gynecologist about an irregularity in my breast which I noticed when I was taking a shower. She blamed it on an earlier tumor disease. My new doctor saw things differently: “We should do a mammography“. When the nurse approached me with the results, she couldn’t look me in the eyes although we had a casual conversation before. She looked at the floor, so I knew: it was serious.
“There is a 99 percent chance that the tumor in your breast is malign”, the doctor said. When I left the medical building, the sun was shining. The birds were singing and children were playing on the playground. I thought: „How is this possible. I just got this cancer diagnosis.”
Hard days after the diagnosis
When saying goodbye in the morning, my boyfriend told me: “You’ll see, everything will be alright. We are both lucky persons”. I called him and said: „Torsten, luck has abandoned us.“
On my way home, I screamed and cried in the car. “Why me and why now?” I also had this thought: “If I turn right now and hit this pillar, everything will be over.” That was the only time that I had such thoughts during the whole treatment.
It was very difficult to tell my parents because my grandmother died of colorectal cancer. My parents couldn’t give me courage on the phone. Instead, I had to encourage them and said: „Mom, I will get through this.“ My daughter was incredibly brave on the phone and cheered me up: “Mommy, you will get well again!”
Torsten was the one who supported me the most, he was at my side one thousand percent. In the beginning, he told the doctor: “We will do everything you recommend, but you really have to cure this woman. She is the love of my life.” And I had goals, dreams and wishes. I wanted to travel, see the world, see my child get married, have my grandchildren sit on my lap one day.
Traveling the world in my fantasy
My tumor was very big. Before the surgery, I had a chemotherapy in order to make it smaller. I felt good after the first session and I thought: “This is easy-peasy.” It was only after the second session that the nausea began. I panicked when the next session came up. A psychologist at the hospital recommended me to use the power of my thoughts. I did that. During the sessions, I visited places of the world that I wanted to visit in the form of mental fantasy journeys.
I didn’t have much time to deal with the disease and to think about which clinic is most suitable. I read the first page of the famous Blauer Ratgeber Brustkrebs (information on breast cancer) and put it aside. I didn’t want any complicated information but some easy tips. My gynecologist recommended a clinic nearby. That’s where I went.
There was a very understanding doctor at the hospital. He took a lot of time for me. When we asked questions three times he answered them patiently. He was also the one who performed the surgery. When I woke up, he came to my bed immediately.
Exhaustion announces itself
I got over the radiotherapy pretty well. Even when the skin turned red a little bit and I was in pain. I had to go to Dresden – an hour by taxi – and an hour to drive back. I often fell asleep on the way back, but I never worried due to my fatigue.
After three weeks at rehab, I tried to go back to work again. I had worked as a sales assistant, but I soon realized that I didn’t have the energy to do this work anymore. It just didn’t work out. It always felt like I was about to catch a severe cold. I only wanted to lie down on the couch and have my peace.
Why was I so exhausted? I visited doctors and experts and sometimes got to hear very negative things. One doctor told me that I was a social welfare sponger who just wants to fiddle her pension. “Just look into the mirror. You’re looking good. You’re only imagining this. You’re just being lazy.“
What was wrong with me?
Sometimes I burst into tears. I couldn’t explain what was going on with me. When I was told that I had the chronic fatigue syndrome, it was almost a bigger shock for me than my cancer diagnosis. I would be sick for the rest of my life.
A psycho-oncologist gave me this tip: “Write down how you are feeling.” I sat at my laptop and cried because I realized how much I went through in the last months. Writing felt liberating and I continued to do it.
I published the first book on the story of my disease by myself because it was difficult to find a publishing house. I told my friends: “Here, I wrote a book, it’s cold “Viertel Kraft voraus”. Do you want to read it?” Some said: „Evi, that’s great“. Others said: „What the hell, you’re a writer now? There are thousands of authors and millions of books.“ I went to book shops and thought: „My god, there are so many books, but nobody writes like I do.“
I make more money today than I used to
After my first book, I wrote eight more books. Some have been published by Ullstein and issued in several editions. Without this disease, I would probably still work at the funeral home and sit in the office. I would still be searching. I found my vocation thanks to my cancer and I even make more money now than I used to before.
I learned to live with the fatigue and divide my everyday life into good and less good days. On good days, I get up and work actively on my new book. On less good days, I sometimes spend a day on the couch and that’s perfectly fine.
It was a long and hard road to accept the fatigue. That also means that you sometimes have to offend the people around you, for example when cancelling a meeting with friends because you realize that it wouldn’t work out. I did notice though, the more I say, okay, it’s like this now, the more I can relax and accept the situation. I can say no now, that used to be hard for me.
Thanks to the cancer, I learned: life always goes on. And maybe you get to new points in life because of a severe illness or another crisis.