I got diagnosed with breast cancer at 38. None of the major risk factors applied to me. No genetic markers, no family history, no smoking, no obesity, very moderate alcohol consumption, relatively low stress levels… I am very fit and healthy. I am in a great relationship. My business is doing well.
So cancer diagnosis felt extremely unlucky. How could it be me? It just didn’t make any sense.
But after a few weeks, I recalibrated my outlook. I accepted breast cancer as my new reality.
I have also read many personal stories of women who got diagnosed in much tougher circumstances than me. Many truly heroic cancer warriors fight cancer alongside many other challenges.
I now realise I am actually lucky in many respects. Here’s why.
Healthy and young
38 is considered a young age for breast cancer. And it’s a bummer to get it when you feel so healthy and active.
But on the plus side, this means I have a lot of reserves to help me through the treatment. My doctors can blast my cancer really hard. I am strong enough to go through this and recover fully afterwards.
I am grateful for my health and strength.
Great hospital right near me
We live in Oxford, very close to the Churchill Hospital. It is one of the leading UK hospitals for cancer care. Everyone I have met there so far has been amazing. I feel confident that I am in the best possible hands for my treatment.
We’ve actually been thinking about moving for the last few years. The only reason we haven’t done so is that we’ve been unable to sell the house (Oxford housing market really slowed down due to Brexit). If we had moved, I may have ended up very far away from a hospital. And it would be unlikely to be as good as the Churchill.
I am grateful for this great hospital.
My partner Hugh and I have been together for almost 14 years. He is loving, supportive and reliable. He is my rock. I can draw on his strength when my own is all used up.
We were always close but this experience has brought us even closer. And we decided to get married — our wedding is about a month away on 20 December!
I am grateful for my loving and supportive partner.
Own business of just the right size
I started my own business as a side hustle six years ago. Three years after that, I quit my day job to run it full-time.
It’s been growing very nicely and I am very proud of it. I hoped to expand it further and start hiring people in 2019. I won’t be doing that now — but I can certainly keep it going at its current rate.
As it stands now, my business is big enough to provide me with income to cover all my bills and expenses. But still small enough to run without having to hire someone else, or having to devote all my waking hours to it.
I am grateful for my small and robust business.
No dependants to take care of
Many cancer survivors have to look after their children or their elderly parents (or both) while coping with cancer. You are heroes and I salute you!
Whereas I have no dependants to worry about. I am childless (“nulliparous” is how the doctors call it). My parents are both healthy, active and relatively young. Also, they live in a different country.
The only person I have to take care of is myself.
Is this a blessing or not? Perhaps being responsible for other people gives you the extra determination to survive — as well as more love? I would guess so.
But for now, I am grateful that I can focus solely on getting better. Whenever I feel like complaining, I remind myself that many women manage to cope in much tougher circumstances.
I am grateful that I can focus solely on getting better.
Already on a sugar-free diet
Cancer cells feed on glucose so cutting out sugar and refined carbs is a good idea. But changing your diet is always difficult. Even more so when you have so many other pressing issues to deal with.
Luckily, I have been on a low-carb diet for over 10 years. So it’s actually very easy for me. My diet was already pretty much in line with recommendations.
The only tweak I made was eating more fish. I am still rather confused about the nutritional impact of red meat and saturated fat — need to do a bit more research. (Also, my red wine consumption perhaps doesn’t quite qualify as moderate, ahem…)
Cancer tumours take years to grow. Mine could have been in my body for the last 5 years, or even longer. A friend of mine who is a holistic therapist said I may have been intuitively choosing optimal foods to stall its growth. Maybe, maybe…
I am grateful that I have cut out sugar years ago.
Everyone is so kind and sympathetic
The most amazing discovery so far is how sympathetic everyone is once they find out you have cancer.
This includes my family, friends, doctors and all hospital staff, and even complete strangers on social media.
I have never felt so much kindness and affection in my entire life.
I am deeply grateful for all this love and kindness.
Originally published at www.makesyoustronger.co.uk.