“I’m sorry, it’s not good news. Your cancer is back, stage 4 and it’s incurable” These are the words that nobody wants to hear. The moment you wish it wasn’t you. The sentence which shakes and breaks you. This picture was taken 4 weeks before I heard those shattering words. I had no idea I was ill. I’d had breast cancer 16 years prior and thought I’d had my turn. I’d had my annual check a few months earlier and all was ok.
In a heartbeat my world changed forever and, once I’d picked myself up off the floor, I knew that I had to re-enter a world that I had hoped I'd left behind. Whilst the last 15 months have been brutal (and there's no sugar coating that), they have also taught me a lot about balance and risk. I had to use my mind to push my body beyond limits I knew, to tolerate the harshest of treatments, in the knowledge that if it worked, it would give me the chance to live, love and be loved. Through this process, both physically and mentally, I have taken myself to a place I didn’t know I could because I have belief. I have belief in myself, belief in the science and data, belief in my amazing oncology team who are the best on the planet and belief that the benefits outweigh the risks, so it had to be worth a try. And also, let’s face it, because I had no choice other than to quit… and that’s not really me.
I have learned to balance and to “really live in the windows between the hard bits”. I have worked all through my treatment with a heightened focus on doing the things that will make a positive difference and saying no to the stuff that doesn't really matter, but if I’m being really honest, to keep things normal for my family who need to see me do this and not be defined by a diagnosis so definitive.
But perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned is acceptance. If I can somehow accept what is happening to me, which by the way does not mean giving in, then I can stop wasting precious time and energy trying to fight or change it… because, it just can’t be changed. So, I have learned to focus on what I can control, I've learned the true meaning of resilience, asked for the help I need, been kind to myself and slowly, I have moved forward to a place where my treatment is working, and my cancer is stable. I’m on treatment for life, there is no finish line, continually reviewing my options and learning to constantly adapt with the raw determination and hope that I’ve got this… until they find a cure.
The primary goal of world cancer day is to significantly reduce illness and death caused by cancer. I’m donating this week's takeaway coffee habit to cancer research. If this entire LinkedIn community did the same, we would get closer to finding a cure. So, if you can, then do please donate next weeks coffee budget.