Hope After Cancer Alison's story
Alison (she/her) - White British
Diagnosed in 2020 - Stage 2B (T2, N1) ER+ Breast Cancer
My top affirmation - Self-care is not selfish.
Thank goodness I went along to my routine mammogram appointment in October 2020.
It would have been so easy to find excuses to postpone it – after all, we were in the middle of a pandemic!
I quickly became an expert in ‘tunnel vision’, blocking out worrying world events and focusing all my attention on each next hospital appointment and each next step of the process.
Following surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy (and a fractured ankle that was very slow to heal), I was exhausted and unfit, but also trying to carry on with life and work “like before”.
Eventually it caught up with me and I took some time out over Christmas 2021 to properly rest and recuperate.
I arranged some coaching sessions with Fiona Stimson of Working With Cancer, who helped me address my work:life balance. She also helped me get my fear of recurrence into perspective, so that it doesn’t negatively invade my thoughts every day like it used to! I created my own recovery plan, starting with prioritising diet and exercise with new ‘habits for life’.
It was not until the post-treatment phase that I really started to reflect on everything that had happened, like finally stopping to take a breath. I contacted Breast Cancer Now and spoke to one of their ‘Someone Like Me’ volunteers; she had been through such similar experiences to my own - I think this was the start of me coming to terms with everything and finding a way forward that felt right for me.
"I began to realise that I had been putting way too much pressure on myself to ‘bounce back’"
So I started the process of re-setting my goals with more realistic expectations. I signed-up for the Life After Cancer group sessions and this really helped me work out what was important to me, going forward. And I learnt that you really can’t rush the process; in fact, it is exactly this process of deep reflection that has transformed how I think and feel about my future.
It’s hardly surprising that many people go through an enormous amount of soul-searching following a cancer diagnosis, and I hugely admire and encourage everyone that wants to make big changes to their lives!
Through the coaching sessions I realised I didn’t want to make any dramatic changes – I was happy with the overall structure of my life and just want to focus on enjoying how I live now and spending time on the things that are most important to me!
The most liberating thing I have learned is to accept my current limitations (and long-term treatment side effects) and not let them upset or frustrate me anymore – and most of all, not to let them hold me back from what this life after cancer has to offer!