I was diagnosed with Secondary Breast Cancer in May 2019. I didn’t have a primary diagnosis, I went from thinking I was fit and healthy to finding out I had tumours in both breasts which had spread to my bones and that it was incurable. It’s been a steep learning curve on how to adjust and live well with this diagnosis. You’ll see there’s the odd cancer cliché coming up but a lot of them really do help me.
Initially I was devastated but just so happy to be alive, I walked out of the hospital on a gorgeous sunny day and thought I’m going to be ok. Odd, seeing as things were obviously not ok but I thought I’ve got to try and keep this feeling going. But how the hell am I going to keep smiling?
Relaxation therapies. Mentally this is such a lot to carry. I’m quite a lively person and I definitely need calming down, my head likes to go into overdrive. I still work and really enjoy keeping busy. I’ve been having Indian head massages and reflexology sessions which have really helped to calm my busy mind. I try to practice mindfulness and relaxation. It’s not going to happen every day but I do feel more able to cope when I’ve looked after my mind and given it a bit of a breather.
Finding things I love. I’ve realised just how much I love being outdoors. I love to ride my bike or go for a paddle on my kayak. Anything that makes me feel good I try and do as much as possible. And it’s also great for getting me exercising. And the sea, oh I love the sea, I try to get to a beach walk every so often. I love being with my friends and family. I used to think that having a lovely holiday every year would be filled with perfect moments and now I’ve realised those perfect moments are just being together with my loves. Yes I still moan about the washing up and who the hell keeps leaving an empty loo roll on the holder but those perfect moments are so clearly there if I just look.
Embracing social support. I set up a private Facebook group to update friends on how I’m doing and the response to that has been amazing. When you have cancer people come out of the woodwork to help you. It’s a wonderful thing, we all have things about each other that bug us but essentially people are love and I can really feel the support. Emotionally that keeps me smiling. Plus I think I’m hilarious so people respond to my funny jokes. It’s mainly sympathy ‘likes’ but who cares, makes me feel like a winner.
Connecting with other cancer patients and charities. Finding other patients in the same situation has been invaluable for me. When someone else knows exactly how you are feeling it’s really comforting. And charities, Instagram has connected me with some fantastic charities such as Make2ndsCount who can give you advice, direct you to help and have online events where you can meet other patients. I found my cancer tribe on Instagram. I have a wide range of ladies, all different age groups and backgrounds; we follow each other and give each other support. Find your tribe, they will cheer you on every step of the way.
Something to look forward to. Sometimes it’s hard to think about the future so I break it down to things a few months ahead that I can look forward to. Weekends away, get togethers (come on Covid, its time you got the hint) and I’ve even signed up for a charity skydive next year. I don’t like heights, we once stayed in a lovely holiday apartment 16 floors up and I closed the curtains and barricaded the patio doors with the sofa so nobody could go on the balcony. What am I thinking, a skydive!!! But just think of the adrenaline rush. I do like excitement.
I’m trying new things that I never would have done before. I’ve written an article for a magazine and I will be taking part in a fashion show for cancer patients. I’m just a Mum from the Fens but I’ve been opened up to a whole new world.
Faith in myself. This is all well and good but obviously there are some really dark moments when it feels so sad and unfair and I just need to cry and let it all out. Sometimes I know I’m on the edge so I don’t watch or read anything that might start me off. I once watched a Disney film about a dog and sobbed, the dog hadn’t even died I just thought it might! Damn you Disney. When I’m low I just try to have faith in myself, I know I will feel happy again, I just have to let this sadness wash over me and I will recover to carry on again. For me it’s all about putting one foot in front of the other and grinning as much as possible along the way. It’s not always going to be plain sailing but there is still a wonderful life to be lived. I’m going to drag it out for as long as possible.