What I learnt from surviving Cancer

It’s 8 years ago yesterday that I was diagnosed with having Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Not something anyone wanted to hear.

There were lots of things I was cross about.

I was just about to have my 30th birthday (I had the worst 18th birthday & the worst 21st birthday), so this seemed just a little bit unfair. I was too young to have cancer. I was a single mum to Robin who was only just 1 at the time. I didn’t want to die.

I didn’t want to leave Robin. I should have been at the Glastonbury festival, but instead I was having cancer. I was skint and on income support and wasn’t entitled to any more benefit to pay for extra heating or taxis. I didn’t want to lose all my hair. I was cross at my body for failing me when I was just a new mum and needed my body to behave. I didn’t want to die.


Don’t think cancer cared about any of that.

And yet I would never undo having cancer.  Which if you’d said that to me at the time I would have called you crazy.

So, what did I learn from having cancer?

I learnt to ask for help.

This is a biggie. Especially for independent women like me, who want to prove to the world that they can do anything.

Be a single mum, with a one year old and a cancer diagnosis and you quickly learn to ask for help. And you learn that it’s not so hard. And you learn that people actually like helping, it makes them feel great.

Friends are amazing

Really they are. I hope you have some good friends, they are our life blood.  And they don’t have to even be in the same town as you.  Friends across the world can pull it together to come and help you.  My best friend gave up her job and moved to Nottingham to live in my living room on a tiny couch to look after me and Robin.

A friend flew from Spain to spend time with me.

Neighbours delivered homecooked food and looked after Robin so I could rest a little.

Your state of mind makes a big difference

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Whatever you face in life, you can choose to smile at it and embrace it, or be cross and angry about it. We are all allowed to be cross at bad news at first, but then we need to move on and conquer.

I could have disappeared into myself and spent a lot of time crying (and vomiting – chemo is the worst), but instead I sat back and thought – what can I learn from this situation? What positives can come from this? How can I use this to grow and develop? Where are the positives?

You have the power in all situations.  You can’t always change what is happening to you, but you can choose how you deal with it. That is where your power is.

Choose positivity.  And I’m not saying we have to be positive all the time – that would be insanity. Of course, we all have shit days, but on the whole, once you’ve picked yourself and your snotty tissues up, choose to look for the bright side.

Things generally get better – we are more resilient than we think

I could have died and then I wouldn’t be writing this, but I would be dead and life would move on, and in itself there is something beautiful in that.

I have had lots of trying things happen in my life (cancer is just the icing on the cake!), but what I have learnt is that nothing lasts forever and life moves on, and even when we are in depths of depression, it will lift and good things will come. Nothing lasts forever.

And we are more able to cope with things then we realise. When the worst does happen and you survive, you realise hey I survived that, what’s next – I’m a survivor.

Good things come from bad things

Life moves on and we find ourselves in new places with new people that we wouldn’t be in if the bad thing hadn’t happened.  It’s all part of the magic of life.  If I hadn’t have got cancer a whole host of things wouldn’t have happened.

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My friend wouldn’t have come to Nottingham to live and ended up working for Architects of Air and travelling the world.

I wouldn’t have ended up living in my dream home that belongs to the Director or Architects of Air, because my best friend would never have worked for them.

I would never have put myself on Guardian soul mates desperate for some sex and ended up meeting my now partner of 7 years, who was my first ever internet date.

My best friend Mali who lives in Spain also now works for Architects of Air and travels the world.

I would never have decided to have a whole 5 years off with Robin, I got to enjoy spending so much quality time with her as I slowly recovered from the terrors of chemo.

I may never have started this self-employed journey where I now earn far more than I ever earnt as a manager in my previous job.

And so the rich tapestry of life continues and I know that we are strong, resilient and humble and that so many people get cancer and survive – we are survivors.

And I got great curly hair that I’d always wanted – even if it was just for a bit!

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