Hope After Cancer An anonymous story
Anonymous (she/her) - Arab
Diagnosed in 2017 - Her2+ / Er/Pr- Stage II Breast Cancer
I am a runner! I am curious. I am strong.
My life changed pretty much overnight. I was at home reading on a Saturday night in April 2017 when by sheer chance my hand came to rest on a lump on my breast.
The rest, as they say, is history. Or is it? Although my diagnosis was around five years ago now, the reverberations continue.
The early days post cancer treatment were the hardest; I was scared, uncertain as to what my future would look like, and exhausted by months of treatment. I’m not really sure I have any particular wisdom to share about those first few months - it felt mostly like an exercise in putting one foot in front of the other. But there were surprising moments of hope.
One cold November day just after I had finished chemo, and grappling with the worry of the serious surgery to come, I went on a bird watching walk organised by the rangers on my local common. The first surprise was that I was there: I haven’t knowingly shown any interest in ornithology before or since that day. But still, I was insistent, I wanted to go and find some local birds.
It was early and the sun was just beginning to rise through the trees - a beautiful golden morning. I’m a keen photographer so had my camera with me and I took the picture you can see at the top. That was the second, and best, surprise of the day. Despite the fatigue and fear and frustration I could still notice, and be awed, by beauty. It felt like a precious moment of joy.
And then the day went slightly downhill. About half way through the walk, having failed to see any birds, I realised that I was too tired to keep going! I still giggle when I remember the look on my friend’s face as she tried to work out how to get me out of the woods and back somewhere we could get a cab home.
"As the months, and now years, have progressed I’ve realised that my cancer diagnosis has changed me in ways that aren’t outwardly dramatic, but have been quietly revolutionary."
No I haven't climbed any mountains, and no I haven’t sold my belongings to travel the world - but my attitude to work is a little different, I define success a little differently. I prioritise nutrition, exercise and sleep. I cherish my family and the friends who dragged me through the most difficult time of my life, and said goodbye to those who disappeared until it was time for cocktails again.
I have realised that I am brave, that I can do difficult things. All sorts of difficult things - after about ten months of gradual, consistent training I ran, extremely slowly, my first 5K, and have become an ambassador for 5K Your Way - Move Against Cancer, a charity that is making so much difference to so many lives. Mine included.