Wednesday 29 April, 2020

From cancer relapse to cancer thriving

Writer, mum of four and three-time cancer survivor

From cancer relapse to cancer thriving
Just when I thought it was all over I had a cancer relapse… 

As I headed towards the ‘magical’ five year mark life was finally feeling in a good place. The children were growing and therefore less physically demanding, my regular check ups at the hospital were becoming less frequent, I felt healthy and strong, was exercising, eating well and feeling like I’d finally found a way to live with the fears that had dominated for so long.

Devastatingly, at the end of 2014 I was told that my cancer had returned. I had ignored symptoms for weeks –  the red rash that had appeared on my chest was spreading. I couldn’t bear to face it. Not again, please not again.  This, to me, changed everything. Officially now a secondary breast cancer patient, my worst nightmare had come true.  What did this mean? How long did I have? So many questions spun round in my head but I didn’t vocalise any of them.  I was so terrified of hearing some awful statistic or prognosis that it felt easier to live with the ‘what if’s that find the strength to ask the most terrifying of questions.

Life is funny. Within days of this new diagnosis I found myself in a new relationship with the man that is now my husband. Dave appeared at the darkest of times but from the very beginning was by my side, unwavering and confident in my, our, future.

More chemotherapy, of course. It was brutal but it worked and by the end of 2015, I found myself in remission though with the knowledge that I would remain on treatment indefinitely.  Herceptin and Pertuzemab worked their magic brilliantly. Side effects were minimal and life, once more, moved on. Three weekly hospital treatment was the norm. Regular check ups showed I remained cancer free, heading for the five year mark once more….

Meeting the love of my life, just before I relapsed
Gratitude and in remission again

And then in January 2019, I was told that the cancer was back again. This time in the other breast and, from what the PET scan showed, the upper lobe of my right lung. The shock was immense but there was hope. Options. A plan. That’s what we need, don’t you think? To know that there is a plan, a way forward. That’s when we take a deep breath, roll up our sleeves and dig deep.

I started targeted chemotherapy – Kadcyla which worked incredibly well, incredibly quickly. My miraculous body was responding once more and that felt fantastic. In July I had a partial lobectomy which, after weeks and weeks of testing and biopsies, showed no traces of cancer. Another miracle!  What I’d been told was most likely a secondary tumour was in actual fact a Inflammatory Myofibrolastic Tumour  and benign. I felt like I’d won the lottery. A mastectomy followed towards the end of the year and I celebrated Christmas back in remission and wondering how I got to be so lucky.  I practise gratitude every day. It’s transformed so many areas of my life. From the black, black hole of depression and hopelessness, feeling like I had no control over what was happening, I now work hard at focusing on the good. The areas of my life that are working well. Anxiety and gratitude simply cannot occupy the same space and I finally feel like I have the tools I need to continue to live a strong, healthy and joyful life. I remain a cancer patient. I live a life of no guarantees. But I passionately believe that by being conscious of the thoughts I think and the words I speak that I can continue to thrive.  I say thank you to my amazing body for it’s resilience and strength and I say thank you to cancer for awakening in me an intense appreciation for so many things.  Life is good. I am blessed.

Download the War On Cancer app connect with me @limitless_em – I would love to connect with you and talk more about ‘cancer thriving’ and share how to turn life around from cancer relapse to cancer thriving.

Writer, mum of four and three-time cancer survivor

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