New beginnings

It’s that wonderful time of year when all the trees flower into beautiful blossom, plants are shooting and new life is springing up everywhere. My favourite tree in our garden, the magnolia, has once again given us a display of the most glorious flowers and transformed the look of our garden. The spring season really is a time of change, of optimism and of new beginnings.

Since my earlier posts I feel that I’ve really turned a corner from those sad, depressing, teary days I’d experienced after completing my treatment. I feel positive, happy and feel more ‘alive’ with much more energy and motivation again.

I’ve started to see friends and family more and have had some fab times already this year with my loved ones. Life certainly feels more normal again and I have enjoyed some amazing trips away and have holidays to look forward to.

I’ve also had some challenges with work and last month I found out that my role was being made redundant. Whilst there was another similar role in the business I could have applied for, after a lot of rather stressful deliberation, I eventually figured out that this situation is actually providing me with the opportunity for a change.

I’d spent nearly a decade of my life working at that company. It has been rewarding and challenging and I’ve certainly learnt a lot and grown tremendously over that period. I’m also very lucky to have met some brilliant people who are now life-long friends. But it was also insanely stressful at times and I worked very long hours often late into the evening and at weekends and sacrificed seeing my friends and family and my personal life on too many occasions.

I can’t help but feel that if we don’t make changes in our lives for ourselves that sometimes we’re given a push by other means. They say everything happens for a reason, I’m not entirely sure I believe that as that takes away your free will, but whatever it is, I couldn’t help but feel that there was a great big neon light flashing at me and urging me to move on.

“I believe in process. I believe in four seasons. I believe that winter’s tough, but spring’s coming. I believe that there’s a growing season. And I think that you realise that in life, you grow. You get better.”  – Steve Southerland

What I do know is that now I see it as a very positive thing. Granted, if I was told at the beginning of last year that I’d be dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment and would then be made redundant I really wouldn’t have believed it. Quite rightly I would have been absolutely scared stiff about what the future had in store for me.

But now I’m out of the other side of the experience and looking forward rather than backwards. It’s quite surprising the things us humans can cope with on a daily basis and in the longer term. What seems completely insurmountable at one point then blends in with all the other challenging obstacles that are thrown in your path, and, with a lot of support from some very good people, you somehow find the strength and courage to get through it all.

I guess the events of last year have changed my perspective on many things. Shay Sharpe describes this perfectly in one of her Instagram posts:

“Cancer changes people. Our lives are different now. Our bodies look and feel different. We value life more. We see life through different eyes. The grass is greener and the sky is more blue. The old normal is gone. Evolve and find adventure in your new normal.” 

Sometimes you have to take risks in life, and whilst it’s not my go-to place to be a big risk taker anymore, sometimes you have to be brave and just go for it. When considering my next steps I just kept thinking to myself that whatever happens next can’t be worse than being diagnosed with cancer. It can’t be worse than going through treatment, than losing your hair, your fertility, your female hormones or the constant thoughts about how long you might have left to live before it may come back again.

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I’m an optimist by nature, the glass is always half full to me (and excuse me who drank the rest of my drink?!). I see this situation as an opportunity to move on, to learn, to grow, to transform, to hopefully be able to help others at the same time and also to bring a bit more balance to my life.

I’m very pleased to have received a lot of interest in me from a job hunting perspective which is really encouraging and gives me great confidence. However, I now question whether it was the right thing for me to have blogged about my experience of having cancer so openly (and now publicly visible on the internet and social media) now that I’m back on the market looking for a new opportunity.

My blog has been, and still is, a great channel to express my feelings and to connect with others. It has been so beneficial to me over the last year that I sincerely hope it doesn’t go against me.

Whilst it’s obviously illegal to discriminate against someone in the recruitment process with regards to disability, I would hope that by being a cancer survivor, my future employer will be able to overlook the fact that I have been ill and see that I have incredible strength of character, clarity and a determination to succeed as well as the ability to deal with all manner of stressful situations. I’m sure I’ll soon be able to report on what the next new exciting chapter has in store for me.

As it’s a period of new beginnings and change, the big 40 that has been teetering around on the horizon for a while now is also finally in sight. I had thought I might feel a bit odd about turning 40, after all it’s a major milestone in one’s life. With everything that’s been going on, it’s kind of paled into insignificance really.

When my hubby asked me what I’d like to do to celebrate my birthday a few months ago, I said I didn’t want a big fuss or a party because, given how I felt at the beginning of the year, I just had no idea how I’d be feeling at this stage. Instead, I’ve opted to spend quality time with people in smaller groups and to celebrate it in my own way. I know my fab hubby has been diligently organising some sort of surprise for me which he’s absolutely bursting with excitement about – I can’t wait to find out what he has in store. So onwards and upwards folks – here’s to a new chapter and to a totally awesome 40th year!

Have you been in a similar situation where you have had to look for a new job following cancer treatment? Similarly have you been blogging about your experience and feared how this might be viewed negatively by prospective employers? I’d love to hear your thoughts or any advice you might have.

 

Cancerversary

I received the letter last week for my mammogram screening appointment. The one-year anniversary, or “cancerversary”, is approaching since I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

April has always been quite a significant month in terms of anniversaries for my hubby and I. It was the month that we first met each other, when we got engaged, when we first moved in together and when we arrived back home from travelling around the world together. Now the month holds a much less joyful anniversary and brings back disturbing memories from a traumatic period in my life.

The 24mm sized lump in my left breast did not show up on the mammogram I had last year. This is because breast tissue is dense in younger women so I had to have an additional MRI scan in order for it to be visible. At my last oncology appointment I requested to have an MRI as I was already feeling anxious about whether I would only have a mammogram. As soon as the letter arrived, a horrible feeling arrived in the pit of my stomach and my eyes filled with tears. I immediately rang the hospital to check whether the appointment I’d received was for an MRI. The nurse said the appointment is for a mammogram and explained that they always do a mammogram first and that I was also scheduled to have an MRI too.

I’m not sure if the terror and fear of the cancer coming back will ever leave me, but I know that at that hospital appointment I’m going to be transported back to the scary place from last year. The innocent and somewhat naïve approach I took to attending that screening appointment with my dear friend. The day that unfolded into having an ultrasound, laying on that hospital bed in tears having a needle biopsy and the ensuing trauma from the worrying look on the doctor’s face who sat and told me that “we are concerned”. The day my life and the plans I had for it changed, the days of being care-free ended.

Luckily my breast care nurse happened to call me this week to see how I was getting on. I told her about the mammogram and I asked how long it would take to get the results. She said I could ring her if I hadn’t heard within 7 days and she would then follow up and get them for me.

I’ve also just started my Tamoxifen medication. I had been waiting for my oncologist to let me know whether I’d be taking Tamoxifen or an aromotese inhibitor, Letrozole. He was conferring with his colleagues as to which I should take. In the meantime I’d been doing my own research and had used Breast Cancer Care’s Ask the Nurse service. This was particularly helpful as they sent me information on results from trials that have been carried out on both drugs.

I’d come to my own conclusion that as I was pre menopausal at the end of chemo and was having ovarian suppression, that an aromotese inhibitor proved slightly more effective than Tamoxifen. At my last oncology appointment I was slightly miffed at the fact that I was seen by a locum, who had to go next door to check with my oncologist which medication I would be put on. This meant I didn’t have the opportunity to understand the reasoning behind his decision. I will speak with him again at my next appointment, but I must have faith in his knowledge and experience that it’s the right choice for me.

Life, and work in particular, continues to be challenging. I’m sure I can get past this significant anniversary and continue to look forward with the positive and strong mind set I already have and gradually put this whole experience behind me. They do say that as one door closes, another opens and I have a feeling that life has plenty more positive and rewarding opportunities in store in the coming months ahead.