Cancer threw me a curve ball. A very much unwanted event in my life that came in like a bulldozer and slammed me against the wall with such almighty force I felt I couldn’t breathe. A traumatic time for me and those closest to me. My experience has had waves of different emotions, but one thing always remained. I kept as focused, determined and positive as I could. For me, personally, the best way to deal with this life-changing disease was to tackle it head on. I told myself, as much as I could muster up, that I would not allow it to change me. But, alas it has. And I’m ok with that. I am not the same person. I am not defined by cancer. But it has been a massive part of shaping who I am today. It has given me an attitude that I am what I am. It has made me strong.
Some crucial things I’ve learnt and now promote whenever I can:
1. You are never too young to get cancer. Be body savvy. Know your body. Look for any changes. Early detection saves lives. Young people get breast cancer. Don’t ever be fobbed off by anyone saying that you’re too young if you have any worries or concerns. You know your body!
2. If you are ever concerned go to the GP. If you don’t feel you are being taken seriously go back again. Keep pursuing something if things are not right.
3. If you can, take someone with you to your appointments. Take a note pad if you need to write things down. Always asked for things to be repeated if you don’t understand.
4. Utilise all the support groups and charities out there. They are your friend and can provide an abundance of resources and support when you need it the most.
5. Google is awesome but it is not your friend with diagnosing a problem. Always best to resist the temptation of looking up a symptom and speak directly to the experts.
6. Don’t ever feel guilty for going to get help. Whether it’s the GP, hospital, support groups, charities. They are all there for a reason and that is to help people.
7. Men get breast cancer too. I’ll hold my hands up and say I was not aware of this until my diagnosis. Men please check your chest area too and always go to the GP if you spot anything abnormal for you.
8. If you want a second opinion go get it. Reassurance is sometimes required. There is nothing wrong with you seeking someone else’s advice.
9. As the saying goes it really is ok to not be ok. None of us are robots. We all have days where we feel yuck. We have moments in life where we feel despair and hopelessness. It’s all ok. I learnt to be kind to myself and not put this enormous burden of pressure to think and feel something against how I actually was. It’s what you do next that’s crucial here. Talking really is the best thing ever!
10. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ cancer. There are cancers where treatment and survival is different, but cancer is cancer. And it’s horrific. Likewise there is no such thing as a good disease or illness. It’s all relevant to each individual and should be treated as such.
11. Guilt strips away your energy. It is the evil of our emotions. Guilt serves no purpose. A natural emotion to many, but cruel in the way it works. I taught myself I was never to feel guilty again, especially when it came to my diagnosis.
12. Look at everything you can control in life and focus on that. I did just that. I’ve had such a brilliant time because I took charge and lived my life the best I could. At one point I was fully absorbed in things I couldn’t control and that was crippling me. So I decided I didn’t want to be like that. It took a long time, and I still have feelings of doubt. But mainly life is about the now, what can be done, what can be achieved.
13. I’ve also learnt not to try to be everything to everyone. It’s impossible. I’ve learnt to just be me. I’ve learnt to rest if I need to. I listen to my body. Despite all the images of activity there has been a lot of downtime where I focus on me, my house, my dogs, my garden. Time with my family as much as I can. If I want weeks of doing very little then so be it. If I want to eat that cake and drink that bottle of prosecco I will. Life is for living not for over analysing every single thing.