My Breast Cancer Journey

The toughest part of my life taught me so much. 

Staring at myself in the mirror, I used to wonder what my body is playing at. I stand looking at my body reflected back, the scars crossing through me like hairline cracks. Some say scars are a marvel to medical technology, the proof of battles won and how we humans have beat nature this time around. But to me, they are a constant reminder of how my body has let me down. Each thin pink line and dents in my flesh showing me a weakness and vulnerability that should never have been there. But after almost 18 years, I don’t see them anymore, they are part of me, part of my journey.


Just before the Bank Holiday in August 2002, I decided to nip onto the Sunbed and get a base tan before we went away. As I was moisturising I noticed a lump in my right breast, ‘Ok this is fine, I am only 30, it’s probably just a cyst’. So after the weekend, I popped into the doctors and feeling quite unconcerned, he thought I should go to the hospital for some tests anyway. Two weeks later, the world came crashing down and I was given three short weeks to sort out my affairs before I was admitted for a full mastectomy and reconstruction. Now at the time, my main concern was the business, I had recently opened a salon and we needed that to work to pay off the investment we made. I didn’t really have time for it all to sink in, I couldn’t process what was going to happen to me, I had to make sure the salon would stay open while I was in hospital.   

It was only whilst I was in my hospital bed on 17th October recovering from my surgery that I realised life was going to change for me. The pain was unbearable, I could barely move after the mastectomy and reconstruction where they had taken the Latissimus Dorsi muscle from my back and flipped it, bringing it around to my chest with an implant behind it so I wouldn’t lose too much size off my breasts.  It was going to be a while before I recovered fully, but I was more concerned with the fact that I couldn’t see.

I woke up and everything was a blur, and I had the worst headache ever.  At first, they said it was the drugs, but after a few days, my sight got worse. When my family came to visit I couldn’t make out who they were till they came to my bed and spoke.  I was miserable, not able to move because of the pain, I couldn’t even read or watch TV to take my mind off it.  I was utterly terrified of going blind, I needed to see for work! To fulfil my passion for art and to see my family. I was feeling sorry for myself because of cancer and the implications it had for the future. It was a mess! I was a mess!

The doctors and consultants couldn’t tell me what was wrong. At one stage my husband was called in, they took him to a side room and delicately broke to him that I may have a brain tumour and to be prepared for the worst, he was devastated. They considered airlifting me to Southampton hospital and their neurological unit.  After days of tests, which included MRI’s and a Lumbar Punctures they finally diagnosed me with a condition called Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH) or Pseudotumor Cerebri (PTC).  It is a very rare condition, affecting only about 2 in every 100,000 people, mostly women. The symptoms include headache, visual disturbances, nausea, problems with balance and memory, tinnitus and neck and back pain along with depression. Patients with BIH look ‘normal’ but it can be a very disabling illness. Support, help and understanding from others are of prime importance to anyone suffering from this disease, along with medication. 

It is extraordinary now when I think back how I managed to cope, not only cancer and possible chemo treatments I had ahead of me, but the regular lumbar punctures to release the fluid and pressure on my brain. Finally, after 2 years and plenty of trips to Southampton hospital I was fitted with a shunt, which controls the level of CSF fluid and relieves any pressure on my optic nerve and brain. The headaches abated and my eyesight came back. But it left me with crippling Agoraphobia, I was unable to leave my house for anything. The one thing that had plagued my thoughts had come to fruition. I had to give up my business, all I had worked for was gone.

We made the decision to close the salon in 2006, and with the series of events that have followed, I now think about the condition my body is in right now and what I have already been through, and figure, hell I have it easy.

With the added stress I had developed cellulitis, a severe bacterial infection in my arm which pretty much wiped out what was left of the healthy lymph nodes left after cancer. I ended up taking just over a year out, not being able to leave the house or even make any decisions, my life felt it was on hold.

Life is funny, I look at my life today and mourn for the body I had without the chronic pain, but in writing this blog I realise, my life and body today is the best it has ever been.

Life is fickle and you need to grab every opportunity you can to live it to the fullest. Life is all about the struggles and the journey and it is how you deal with these that make you stronger.

This is a never-ending journey which we are all on, so where is it that we all hope to reach? When I look back today on my past journey I figure I have reached my destination but was this what I was reaching for? Hell now. It is ten times better.

The final destination is already within us. It is learning to unlock the door that is the journey. Having the drive and ambition you have now, but with a new sense of understanding, will take us further then we could ever have dreamed of.  If it is appreciation and approval you are seeking, then you need to look no further.  If it is money and riches, then you have that at your fingertips, if it is redemption and guilt that drives you, then your forgiveness is all that is needed.  It is hard to imagine that something so simple is the answer when our lives have already been so hard. Don’t get me wrong there will still be mountains to climb and valleys to cross, but ultimately if we can make this journey with the understanding that we have all the answers, our steps won’t be so heavy.   

Yes, I had breast cancer and so many other complications, but I am not alone and I write this not as a badge of honour but to share with you, that your troubles, your rocky road is not the one you need to walk alone. There are people who see you, know you and feel your pain.

There are many teachings out there, each point of view leads back to the same thing,  Books on how to become enlightened and the secrets to the universe have been written for years, they are there for you, available for you to help you make your life easier.  It is just a matter of finding the right voice, one which relates to you and one that you can understand.  I am writing this today in the hope that this will be one of many messages you need to support your own journey.

This is the age of understanding, we are all meant to know a deeper purpose to our existence and if we can just tap into a thread of that understanding then we can work in a more productive way.

Here are three quick and easy exercises to help you start your journey:

  1. 1. Each morning as your feet hit the floor, smile and thank the coming day for the new things it will bring into your life. Think about the possibilities and get excited about your life.

    Don’t make a list of the jobs that need doing and never get up with dread. Do you realise that you can only hold onto a feeling for 90 seconds, you then reinforce that emotion, if it is pain, anger or dread, by reminding yourself about it, you can hold onto it for as long as you wish. Remember the same applies to love, happiness and understanding. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, and then let them go. Try it, it’s amazing.

    2. Never try to see further than the end of your nose. As a car drives in the dark, we only see as far as the head lights allow us to. We trust that as we drive our road is lit and we will be able to see the way. Imagine your day like that, trust that what is around the corner will be shown to you when you need to deal with it, instead just enjoy the moment you are in now. As you read this, forget about what should be happening when you are finished, it will happen anyway, instead sit and enjoy these words and let them sink in. Take a moment to reflect and put it into effect.

    3. What you reflect is what you will attract. When you look in a mirror you see yourself. The same applies to the people you attract in your life. You have more power than you realise. Have you ever wondered why when you are angry and frustrated everyone else seems to be too? Making you feel more angry and frustrated

These three little steps are by no means the mystical solution to a better existence, but they are a short cut to a magic life.

If your life is a journey, then you walk a well-trodden path, along the way you meet others going in the same direction, now and again they will walk with you for a while, you might laugh and joke and enjoy their company, perhaps you recognise in them something of your self, each person teaches you something valuable, and allows you to move forward.  Eventually, there is a fork in the road and their path is no longer the same as yours, so with a hug, you say thank you and goodbye and take with you the memories and lessons.  Then you will meet others that will ask you the way, stopping for a while to help them, you put down that heavy Rucksack and sit, together you pour over the map and point them in the right direction.  Everyone you meet on this journey will share with you something special, take from them what you are freely giving, and then each step you make will be lighter and freer. 

The real lesson here is to enjoy the journey, no matter what it brings.

I was inspired by my 30 Days Portrait Challenge through Sketchy, to create a nail art and nail application course, with 5 other celebrated and award-winning educators. We have all been working hard over the last few months to bring you a set of lessons, 30 of them. which will help you in your business and your confidence.

Now you need to decide which set of values you hold that will say yes to investing in this course and in your self.

Check out this link – doors open 1st October to sign up, the course starts 1st November.

My Breast Cancer Journey

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