Still fighting the fear every f@#$ing day!

So now it is 2 years 9 months and 25 days since I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Boy what a rollercoster journey that has been. I know I bang on about it, but it is truly a life changing experience.

There is not a day that does not pass by without the thought of cancer entering my head. It can be triggered by having a shower and seeing the scars left by surgery and my inferior breasts. Wearing a top which shows the scar left by the portacath which I often catch sight of in the mirror. Taking Tamoxifen to prevent the return of the evil bastard. The blood tests, the scans. mammograms, and oncology appointments all of which send you into a rollercoaster of emotion, as you prepare yourself to be told it has returned. Stories in the news are read with interest, scanning for the symptoms they had, incase I have those. You might think that is obsessive but you stand here in my shoes and tell me what I should do.

I have had counselling to deal with the fear of the cancer returning. Which has helped, but it is very much a real fear that taps me on the shoulder at some point each day.

Then you have the other reminders a career in teaching I had to give up. There is no way in the world I could of returned to the classroom after treatment my body was broken and tired from the surgery, the chemo the radio and targeted therapies. My brain was muddled and foggy. This was a career I gave 26 years too and loved. Not to be in school helping children learn ,problem solve, develop, make the right choices and just talk to, broke me. Not to be working with, leading and supporting colleagues many of who were friends was hard.Not to be making a difference to families was a bitter pill to swallow. Missing the sound of child laughter, their jokes and stories. I struggle now to say I am a teacher because I don’t do that job anymore

Don’t misunderstand me, I love the job I do now as an SEN caseworker and I still get that injection of youth through my Brownie unit.

Then there is the toll it takes on you relationship. Your body is never the same after cancer .There is a fear of being touched, if you don’t like you then how can anyone else. This is possibly the hardest boulder to overcome. It affects the most intimate parts of your relationship. So now you are in a situation where it is affecting your husband too. This upsets me immensley and is like the part no one discusses with you or supports you with. Yes you can access counselling but to make those changes you have to accept the new you and that is something I struggle to do.

Then the surivour guilt. This is suffered by so many and often silently. It resurfaces when you have friends still going through treatment or a friend sadly dies due to this evil crippling disease returning. You can’t help but think why am I still here. You can also feel guilty for not living every moment of your life to the full. After all you were given a second chance.

Let’s not forget due to treatments and medication the other symptoms you suffer from the early menopause induced and all the joys that brings, diabetes ( side affect of Tamoxifen), lymphodema, fatigue, neuropathy and now I fear hearing loss too.

Hey it isn’t all doom and gloom. I need to remind myself that this journey taught me how strong I was and how I found the strength to battle. It showed me who really cared and loved me. It made me re-evaluate life. It made me want to get out there and experience things and do things. It brought me new friends through meeting fellow sufferers and new work colleagues. It gave me back my work life balance and the chance to explore hobbies. It has given me a big push to get fit. More importantly than all it gave me time with my family who I love dearly and that is the best gift of all.

I remember praying when diagnosed and I asked God to give me enough time to see Charlie through secondary school. He has fulfilled his part of the bargain and now I need to do mine.That for me is to promote breast cancer, offer support where I can, remind people to check their boobs and raise money for research where I can.I want no one to have to travel this journey.

2020 The Year Like No Other.

Oh my here we are the end of December 2020 and it has been like no other year . I know we had started to hear about the virus this time last year, but it was the other side of the world.It wouldn’t affect us, I wanted to believe. In my nieve way I wanted to shut it out, partly because I was trying to re build a new life after cancer and treatment. I was getting ready to take on a new job and a new way of life. There was no way I ever would of predicted our lives being turned upside down. So here is an alphabetical summary of our year in our household. I know many of your lives will have experienced similar.

Annual leave in August spent in hospital with my son having surgery for appendicitis.

Brownies forced to meet in bubbles outdoor face 2 face meetings, indoor face to face meetings and over social media and platforms.

Covid 19 hits us March 2020 and stays like an uninvited guest at a party.

Decorating, sorting, tidying has become the new entertainment for weekends.

Emotional roller coaster experienced.

Fiftieth birthday celebrated in lockdown style.

Home schooling, oh boy teacher of 26 years and who would of thought it was so stressful to teach one rather than 30 pupils. 5 months of juggling work and home learning.

Interviews a plenty, following heaps of job applications for Darren and college applications for Charlie.

Job offers. Darren started a new job in October and hated it. He left Christmas Eve.If this journey teaches you anything it is don’t be unhappy, life is too short. So new job awaiting him in March 2021. ( still being built)

Kisses and hugs so missed.Oh to kiss my mum and dad again and hug them. Human contact has never been more important.

Liver damage from cancer prevention drugs and lifestyle diagnosed .

Mock exams taken whilst socially distanced and wearing masks.

New car but now just only one, as we do not justify two cars. Reducing our carbon footprint.

Oncology visit for a cancer scare.My GP rang one Friday morning said my blood test results were a worry and it wasn’t looking good.I needed a scan urgently. Scan arranged by my oncologist. Gall stones and liver damage diagnosed phew what a worry.

Presence of fear every day. Fearful to leave the house and engage in normal every day tasks i.e. shopping. Fear that the post,that comes through your door harbours the germs that can kill you. Fear being ever present.

Quizzes, escape rooms, murder mystery and crazy challenges we tried it all to keep us entertained online with friends.

Redundacy for Darren in October.

Shielding going no further than my back gate for 3 months and now shielding once again. Missing the beauty of nature.

Tiers ever changing.

Undeterred for life to remain as normal as possible despite the rules, the regulations, restrictions and r factor.

VE day celebrated in the street socially distancing with neighbours.

Working from home. Which has its positives no travelling on the motorway in rush hour, no parking fees, no travelling on the bus and I think you achieve so much more in a day. But then again it can be lonely. In the office if you have a rough call someone checks you are okay. Same walls every day and evening.Sometimes not even venturing outside. I

Xmas and plans altered by Tier changes.

Your everday life changes and things become routine : face masks. sanitiser, stepping aside to alone someone to pass at a safe distance, knowing how far 2 metres is without the need to measure,online learning. online shopping, virtual meetings, virtual training. We were forced to adapt so quickly and we accepted the changes inorder to exsist.

Zoom- thank god for zoom and the chance to catch up with friends, family and my Brownies. So good to see people you love and care for.

This year so many changes have occurred. We have tried were possible to embrace them but there have been tears and disappointment too. Maybe as we welcome 2021 and a new year we can stop and reflect 2020 taught us many positives the value of family and the power of love, how important friends are too us, how wonderful nature is, how life doesn’t have to be so busy for us to enjoy it, how adaptable we are and lucky we are to have made it this far.

Lockdown Life

My life in lockdown has become very mundane and one driven by the same routine every day.I feel the enthusiasm to get up each morning draining from me bit by bit. I have to force myself to get up, to shower, to dress myself. I start work at 8.30a.m.each morning after a commute of exactly 23 steps from bedroom , down the stairs to the lounge. I don’t miss the rush hour traffic and the mind numbing slow crawl along the motorway. But I do miss the chats in the bus queue and on the bus.

My office is now my dinning room, my dinning room table has morphed into my desk.This is where I spend the next 8 hrs of my day; firefighting and trouble shooting. I miss my work colleagues a super bunch of individuals. Yes we have a team call everyday and I get to see their faces and hear their voices but its not the same as sharing news, a recipe, a moan , a joke or a story. I work in a large office and there is always something happening so you are never bored.

My morning is broken up by the 12noon home learning session. My son will come and sit with me and the battle of wills commences. His negoigating skills are second to none. He needs constantly refocusing; complaining my computer is making a sound ( I cannot hear), there is a noise outside, who is that walking pass the window etc. Once the hour is finished I am mentally exhausted. I do not need to worry about running over time as my son is a professional clock watcher.I use to teach a class of children and not always the easiest of children but teaching just my own child is the hardest job of all.

Lunch which use to be a solitary affair at work is more so now. At work I had the choice to walk to the centre, museum or sit in a whole variety of places. Oh no not now. Just my home or my garden. At work I was reading but I stopped that too.

Working from home brings a whole new range of things to feel guilty about like putting out the washing, walking to the bin, taking in a delivery.

So the afternoon work session commences until broken by the arrival of my not so quiet husband home. I continue only stopping to grab a quick cup of tea. The trouble is working from home there is nothing to stop you from continuing to work i.e. having to leave for the bus or to miss the traffic.

A couple of weeks ago I felt my home office on my dinning room table was affecting my mental well being. Partly this was due to it always being a visual reminder of work. So we took the decision to create a small office space upstairs in a spare room. Already this has made a huge difference to me. Yes its a shorted commute maybe 10 steps from my bedroom but you can close the door at the end of the day and forget it until tomorrow.

What, Where Next?

Sorry again thought I had posted. So here I am 15 months post diagnosis, post surgery, post chemotherapy,post radiotherapy with 2 more target therapies, a heart scan, an oncology consultation and a breast clinic appointment to go.Then I will be discharged. This feeling is so frightening.It is like being abandoned in a huge dark forest with no idea what to do next or where to go. Suddenly all your support is gone and you are just on your own. You want to scream but who will hear you? You want to run but who to?

The person in the forest looking for answers is me but a new me. Sometimes when I look in the mirror I catch a glimpse of the old me but this is me now; new hair, new complexion (normally rosy from hot flushes), a little slimmer, with battle scars surrounding my breasts, radiotherapy tattoos and portacath scars. The hardest scars to deal with are the emotional ones left behind.

To help me deal with this I am now 26 months post diagnosis and I have some counselling. The focus of my counselling is to relive the journey but focus on how I felt. In the sessions I have found I am able to remember the tiny details which might seem insignificant to anyone esle but not to me. I found these sessions so helpful and they allow me to reflect in a safe way. Don’t misunderstand it is not all flowers and smiles there has been tears and times of silence when I can’t sprak for fear of choking on my tears. But I am calmer and less emotional.

I would urge you if you have a family member or friend going through this please ask the uncomfortable questions . How is this making you feel? Are you angry? Fearful? What are you hoping for? Are you scared? No one asked me those questions and I am only exploring them now.

Thoughts on Lockdown

So sorry wrote this and never posted it.

So here we are in the 11th week of shielding in lockdown. It has been hard not being allowed to go further than my garden.I assume it is like being under house arrest, however the only crime I ever committed was to develop breast cancer which placed me on the vulnerable list. Whilst being unable to go anywhere but your own home, you re-engage in simple pleasures such as your garden and taking pleasure from planting and watching plants grow and burst into colour, being able to hang the washing on the line and feel the sunshine on your back, the sense of accomplishment in completing a jigsaw puzzle, having the time to try a new craft or pick up an abandoned one, writing letters and knowing it will bring a smile to someone’s face and baking tasty treats to enjoy.

More important than all of that; a time to re-engage with family and spend time together. Charlie really struggled when I was going through treatment for my breast cancer especially when I lost my hair due to the chemotherapy. He hated my bald head and would ask me to wear a hat. I remember the day I asked him why he wanted me to wear a hat and he replied because you don’t look like my mum. That almost caused my heart to break. To cope with me and the cancer and the gastly treatments, he spent many hours out of the house at a friend’s spending time with his family, so wanting normality I believe. So Covid 19 has forced him to be in the house and home learning has meant we have to spend many hours together.I selfishly have enjoyed every minute of it. I have learnt that my son is funny with the driest sense of humour, we have laughed so much together, he has shared opinions and debated with me, we have cooked together and we have talked . I have watched my boy grow into a young man who works hard, is caring and knows right from wrong.

Let’s not forget Darren in all of this who remains our family rock. He has continued to work showering before coming home, washing his hands constantly.

Last Tuesday my oncologist told me I could go for a walk now as I have been clear of my herceptain for three months. Oh the sheer joy and all the thinks you notice. The colours see so vivid and the world so green. The pure joy of being free to walk in the open, even just simple walks to the post box make me feel happy.

However during this time anxiety has arisen and comes out of no where when you least expect it.Covid has heightened anxiety for me. During this time I have convinced myself I have throat, skin, liver and stomach cancer. Fear of the return is heightened.I have done more e- consults in this time than ever and spoken to my GP often. It comes from I believe not attending the oncology clinic and not seeing your consultant and not getting checked.

Cancer is a curel journey that takes you to places you don’t want to go.

Fear becomes something you have to live with.

The emotions you feel when told you have cancer are the absolute worst. Your life does actually stop whilst the world around you carries on. Then every time you reach a new phase in your journey you deal with a whole new set of emotions. It is like riding the biggest emotional roller coaster ever. Don’t misunderstand me there are highs; surving surgery, end of chemotherapy, end of radiotherapy, ending targeted therapies and your hair growing back etc.

The head of radiology once asked me what my opinion was on the survival bell and whether her department should have one. My reply was a definite “NO.”. She asked, “Why?” . I explained that I felt it gave false hope that you were cancer free and it was like the end of a fairy tale and she/he lived happily ever after cancer free. Plus how would it feel to hear that if you knew your time was limited and your treatment was only to prolong life a little longer. To me that would be cruel and a damaging reminder that you were never going to achieve that goal.

No-one ever said to me you are cancer free. I did ask and they would only ever say we presume so and you have had all the treatment to deal with it.Maybe that is where my fear of the cancer returning comes from.

The fear of cancer returning is very real for me and at times absolutely consumes me, often at night. To me every new lump, mark, ache or bulge is the cancer back. Just this year alone I have been referred back to the breast clinic as I thought the breast cancer had returned, scan on my liver, thought I had a cancerous lump on my arm, thought I had throat cancer and now my latest worry is skin cancer. Luckily my GP is fantastic and understands me and does a brillant job of reassuring me. He knows when my anxiety is running high and deals with me in a very nonsense way and even when I doubt him and his diagnosis.

I am not sure this fear train I am on will ever end due to losing warrior friends and family members to this cruel disease and metastatic cancers. I can hear people now saying oh don’t worry put it all behind you, move on, be positive. Unless you have been on this journey you have no idea believe me and you can’t get through this without being positive. Unfortuately I cannot not slay my fear dragon and think it will always ride with me in the shadows. Only when I share my worries with my Gp and my oncologist can they kill the dragon of fear for a short time before it reincarnates.

Cancer versus Corona

Three weeks ago I was doing okay, no in fact I was doing better than okay. I was in a new job, a new routine, I was driving up the M27 every day, catching the park and ride bus, I was learning so much. I was back being me and loving being back at work and meeting new people. Yes I was tired and fitting everything in, was taking the skills of a juggling acrobat. But I was coping. Even my mum had said I was doing brillantly well and that is high praise indeed.

I had been watching the world news and I knew Corona was out there. It was like watching some huge Hollywood blockbuster called Pandemic. It all seemed a little unreal if honest. I don’t know whether I truly thought it wouldn’t invade here and creep in and take over our lives or whether I wanted my new normal life to continue. To think if someone sneezed or coughed at work we joked and asked if they had corona.

Suddenly out of nowhere as the news escalated, I became fearful, anxious and frightened for my health.On the Sunday 15th March 2020 I came to the decision inorder to preserve my life I needed to self isolate.I knew due to the chemotherapy I had endured that I was prone and that my immune system was poor. I had to take action.So I contacted work and asked to work at home due to my vulnerability and my anxiety. Luckily for me I have the type of bosses who care and totally understood myanxiexty and fears.

I couldn’t believe that my 19 month battle with cancer which was over would now be challenged by a huge virulent killer.

Then life changed and rapidly too. Life as we knew it was shutting down. The Prime Minister would announce new rulings live at 5p.m.on T.V. and by the morning that was the new way. A week later my work colleagues were now working from home, my son’s school was closed, my husband’s place of work (charity holiday home for the disabled) was taken over by the NHS and my Brownie pack meetings had to cease until further notice. Covid 19 became the topic of conversation everywhere.

When I made the decision to self isolate I was thinking two weeks maybe three. Then the Government sent the text which stated I had to ‘shield’ for 12 weeks and no going out. God that hit me hard. I was cross and angry I had fought so hard to get back on my feet.How dare this virus trap me in my own home. Then add in working from home, home schooling and the one that hurt the most not seeing my mum and dad.

Then the discussion should my husband be at home with me?We consulted the GP who referred us to the Covid 19 website but that was not clear. So at the moment we have some strict rules about when he comes home i.e. handwashing, clothes in washing machine and a shower.

So I hit a low and after a trying day working at home.I lost it and broke down and sobbed. I was cross at the unfairness I was angry I couldn’t step into my garden. I didn’t want this life because it really sucks. People really understood how I felt.

Then a ray of hope dropped on my door mat. The letter from the government that said I could go out in my garden but no further. It was only a small thing but meant the world to me. My garden had been my happy place during my cancer treatment and now it was to become a life line again.

I have on my journey learnt the art of self talk particularly when I am anxious. So I sat down and thought andthen felt a huge wave of guilt.Here I was being asked to stay at home to protect my health when people were putting their health and lives at risk everyday. I thought about the paramedics, the health professionals and all levels of hospital staff, the emergency services, the teachers, learning support assistants and site staff, the delivery drivers, the social workers, the retail workers and so many more. All these people were ensuring life could carry on, or tending the sick or protecting the vulnerable. I am full of gratitude for these amazing individuals. So I stuck my smile back on and got back to a new normal life.

I am missing life being able to pop to the shop, go for a walk, sit and look at the sea, pop to my mum and dad’s, going to friends, going to work and my Brownies too. Hey, hopefully in 12 weeks time I can resume life and boy it will be so overwhelming I think. Please expect tears.

Back in the Game.

So a month ago I stepped away from being Michelle the cancer warrior( sufferer) and back into the world of work. I had been signed off sick for 12 months and I left my role as a teacher, Sendco and Vice Principal , working for a community I adored and a school that had been my life for 21 years. My time off ill, taught me that I wasn’t cared for, or valued by my employer as much as I thought I was and a series of blunders and noncommunications left me no choice but to step away.

You believe when you are in a job for so long that you are not capable of anything esle and anyway who would want you. My confidence took a huge knock. The more time I spent at home with only the cat and daytime TV the more you loose your self worth. Your self belief, slips until you are wearing it as a choker.

I was lucky that a conversation with the Charity manager at the Haven Breast Cancer Charity introduced me to a lovely lady who owned the Charisma Charity Recruitment agency in Winchester. I had an appointment with this lady and she boosted my self confidence and made me believe I had skills and knowledge to offer. She provided me with some great advice on cv’s and advice on where to apply.

So in November after giving in my notice in and a huge weight being lifted of my shoulders. I began the task of creating a cv and applying for jobs. Luckily my good friend Jane was on hand to advise on applications, cv’s etc. So I started to send off applications and I began to receive emails saying I had been shortlisted. Oh the joy and excitement this created. A flurry of interviews came – 3 in one week. Poor Jane and Julie completed reference request after request.

When I attended the interview for my current job as an SEN Caseworker I immediately felt at home and comfortable. The world of SEN was a passion of mine. Something I knew about. The joy of finding out an organisation wanted to employ you. Then the long 6 week wait for my dbs to come through.I started to think I had committed cromes I knew nothing about.

As the day drew nearer to start I grew anxious what if I couldn’t do it? What if I couldn’t remember things? What if I didn’t have the stamina?

Then the preparation where to park,value for money, the route, timings, lunch, what would I need, what would I wear?

So a month on routines are established, I have worn a route in the motorway, park in the same spot,sit in the same seat on the bus and hot desk. I am part of a great team who have been so welcoming and accomdating. 2 great line managers and a very patient buddy who has taught me a wealth of things. In 20 days I have learnt so much procedures, processes, policies etc.

I can remember things, I can be of use again. I am enjoying being challenged every day and helping where I can. Boy the tiredness though. I am sleeping better than I have for 20 months. Maybe I should of started slow and built my time up, but so like me to throw myself in.

I rarely think about cancer recurring again at work as there is no time . So now I will concentrate on enjoying a job where I can make a difference to children and young people and when I am not at work I will do things for me and my family. It is time now for me to move on and get back in the game. I won’t forget my journey and the lessons I have learnt will not be forgotten ever.

So the New Chapter Begins……

Phew where did those 17 months ago.To say it has been a whirlwind would be an understatement.

So here I am . Still standing, cancer free, with two new breasts and a whole new outlook on life. Some people are sad that I have been on this journey but I am grateful. I know odd right? No I am not under the influence of mind enhacing drugs or alcohol ( ha, ha). I am a great believer things happen in life for a reason.

As you know I was a deputy headteacher working in a school with many challenges.I was working 70 to 80 hours a week. I am embarrassed to say I put work before everything; my family, my friends, my interests and my HEALTH. I couldn’t say no. I would work from 7.30a.m., work through my lunch break, I didn’t socialise in the staffroom, I would return home sometime after 7p.m. Quickly gobble down a meal and start again marking, planning, emails, texts etc. Rolling into bed after 11p.m. Consumed by thoughts of work which often kept me awake. This job was killing me.I now know that people were worried for my mental health, my health and utimately that I was on a journey to burn myself out.

Then life took a turn, a series of odd events took hold in 2018. I developed larynx spasms due to anxiety. I caught chicken pox after 26 years of teaching. Even the doctor couldn’t understand it, but clearly my immunity was comprised and it couldn’t fight the cancer and the chicken pox, I caught virus after virus and reacted to medication. Then I discovered the lump in my left breast.

At first I wasn’t worried I had lump after lump , cysts, fatty tissue before it had always been nothing. As time ticked by after initially telling the doctor and waiting for 2 weeks ( common procedure hormones, women of a certain age, peri- menopausal) it dawned on me this was not going to be okay.

From the second GP appointment the fight began. Little did I know I would become an olympic hurdler jumping every hurdle in my path. Initially fighting to be referred to the breast clinic as GP thought it was a milk duct infection. Then the marvellous NHS kicked in mammogram, biopsies and a diagnosis of Stage 3 cancer in my left breast and lymph nodes. 15 th August will never be a date we forget in our house. Darkness descended, but I pushed on each day often teary and scared if honest. Scared this was it, I wouldn’t see Charlie grow up, I wouldn’t be here to sort everyone out,I wouldn’t be here to care for my mum and dad. I avoided people as that was easier. Mri, CT scans to check if it had spread. Oh boy the fear, the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that never went away until 5th September and my marvellous consultant telling me no evidence to suggest it has spread, except a nodule in my lung. Phew relief.

Surgery beckoned and no word of a lie I prepared to die. I am not an idiot I knew the risk of operating on a person my size but the anaesthetist said if you don’t die on the operating table you will die from this so no choice. I instructed Darren on everything he had to do for Charlie in my abscence.I left written instructions too as his memory is crap. I never expected to see him or Charlie again. It hurts now to recall that moment. I can still see me holding onto the anethistists hand and begging him not to let me die.

Joy, oh joy I survived the op. In hindsight maybe surgery to remove the tumour and breast reconstruction was too much all in one go.The pain, the discomfort, the infections, the limits in moving and lifting, the fatigue. But you get on with it because you have too.

I recovered enough to return to work for a very short time before chemotherapy began. Oh boy my first appointment in oncology was a shock a sea of differing headwear and bald heads, worried carers and partners, young, old, male, female and so so many people. I wanted to bolt and fast forward to six months time. I took my mum’s hand, swallowed hard and stepped in. Little did I know then this would become my safe haven.

So chemotherapy next I had attended the workshop, read the leaflets, asked questions of the consultant and read lots on forums. Yet I was still not prepared. I wasn’t prepared for the sickness, nauseous, fatigue ( making a cup of tea and feeling like I had been hit by a bus, walking up the stairs and needing a lay down), the lack of appetite, losing my hair, the shock of losing your hair everywhere, the thrush, the nose bleeds , the joint pain etc…… On my 5th dose I remember just wanting to depart this world.I couldn’t stand, I could just barely lift a glass of water to my lips, I couldn’t take myself to the toilet even. The pain was intense. Every day I made a vow I was a mum and had a job to do and it wasn’t finished.So put up, shut up and get on with it.

Radiotherapy was a breeze compared to surgery and chemo.I thought I would never be able to hold onto my breath whilst being zapped. The thing at this stage is I was now like the professional patient. So I was left with 4 tattoos and hot boobs.

The one think on this journey that has irritated me ( apologies health professionals) is you would explain a side effect you were suffering from and they would often say no, not due to this. For example, after radiotherapy each day I felt sick and would get a cracking headache. I was told no its not due to the radiotherapy, but we each react differently. Funny it happened 15 times after every session.

Then the recovery and the goal was to return to work. Still more hurdles to jump: fatigue, joint pain, hot flushes, and the list goes on.The targeted therapy Herceptain was administered every three weeks. In my bid to return to work I worked with Occupational Health, attended the Hope course, did everything my consultant suggested, I tried to do more each day.

I cannot talk about my relationship with work here at the moment but will one day in the future.

Needless to say, when I made the very tough decision to leave my job of 21 years and walk away from a school and community I loved it was hard and many tears were shed.

In the days that followed that decision I began to feel a weight lift and each day felt better.

Then the hunt for another job began oh the joy at submitting an application and being called for interview.I had not had an interview in 21 years. I attended 3 interviews all in two weeks and secured a job. The financial burden of cancer is huge and I needed to return to work.

So what have I learnt: I learnt that somedays you need to let the tears fall. That telling people how you feel is important, when your scared, tired, poorly. Positive attitude is essential. The asking of questions and research is a must. Be grateful for each achievement, no matter how small. Sweat the big stuff the little stuff does not matter at all. Believe and you can overcome hurdles. Family and friends are the best medicine. Laughter beats any drug. I saw how the journey affected my family and how it caused them worry and upset. The benefit system is so difficult and frustrating to negotiate. The NHS is a marvellous service and runs on dedicated staff who are committed to you and your health. You appreciate beauty in things you haven’t taken notice of for a very long time art, nature, people, food, etc. I value sleep as I haven’t slept through the night now for over 17 months. I now value my health. I learnt that everyone’s journey is different and how we all react and deal with it is different.

Time spent with family and friends is now my goal and so valued.

The fear of reoccurence is with me everyday. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about the cancer or that it may return. Simetimes several times a day.

Now it is time to step into a new chapter of my life. A new job, a new lifestyle, taking time for me and my family and friends. So deep breath and best foot forward.

Cancer is now part of my every day life.

13 months ago I was lucky enough that cancer had never really touched my life.Yes I knew of people who had it, I even had had a friend who had breast cancer sometime before. Boy I did not know the path these ladies had travelled and the sheer bravery they faced every day in their fights.

The past 13 months I feel I have become an expert in the world of breast cancer. Having been immersed in this world, I have learnt over the past few months. Previous to this I had had one operation in my life and a baby, my knowledge of the medical world was limited. My mum was a nurse and I orginally thought this would be the career for me but alas as a student I discovered I was not strong enough emotionally. So took a career in teaching instead.I have always loved things medical but never before thought I would experience so much.

I am now a walking encylopedia on breast cancer and scans CT’s,MRI’s,Xrays,mammograms, ultra sounds, types of breast cancers, chemotherapy and the different types, surgery, medications, side effects, radiotherapy, preventative medications, early menopause, physical effects of surgery, medications and treatments, emotional effects on you how it changes relationships, life outlooks, plans, intimacy with your partner, how it makes you reflect and sadly how many other cancer warriors you come to know on your journey.

I have read so much over the last year and researched every treatment, medication and procedure.

Then there is all the other stuff not hospital related benefits you can claim, free prescriptions and being signed off work. All of this takes time to get your head round.

The cancer charities are a god send to a cancer sufferer they are there to offer support in a range of ways whether counselling, alternative treatments, financial advice, dietary advice or just a friendly face and an ear to listen.

There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by when I don’t think about my cancer. It has been a rollercoaster ride and I have hit a few bumps on the way. I am still here still dealing with the gift that keeps giving.