In 2009 I was sailing along life. Happily married with an almost 4 year old son, and just trying for our second child, at just 38 years old I had a successful career as a Global Project Manager for a large corporate US company and was working all hours under the sun, with a phone permanently attached to my ear as I jumped from one global conference call to another from my home office in the U.K.
On 23 December that year time stood still. After a few weeks of tests and scans I was given a diagnosis of Follicular Non Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 4; an incurable (but treatable) cancer. Immediately my life was shaken up like a snow globe. After almost 6 years of being on watch and wait, my Lymphoma transformed to a more aggressive type and I began treatment involving chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Just prior to treatment commencing treatment it came to light from a review of my case that I had a breast lump which had been present for 3 years but had been overlooked. After biopsy this ‘blip’ transpired to be a Fibroadenoma much to my relief. Life was horrible for 10 months and the toxicity of the treatment took it’s toll physically and mentally and I became a shadow of my former self.
Unable to work, bald and very unwell through treatment, in hospital more than out and a close shave with Neutropenic Sepsis and a week in isolation, plans of a second child became a distant memory, and I began having panic attacks, became anxious and depressed. Treatment came to an end for the time being in October 2009 and I returned to watch and wait with reviews 4 monthly.
Back to present day and my hair has regrown as has some of my confidence, but the mental and physical scars remain, as does the Lymphoma in a partial remission, and the anxiety and depression still live with me day to day.
Since treatment I suffer with fatigue and breathlessness and I now have painful Bursitis in my hips and Osteoarthritis in my hand and wrist joints, but my artwork and crafts provide me with an outlet to release the stresses and strains of what life has thrown my way and of the daily struggle. I have a passion for all things creative and I love to put paint to paper or produce a handmade pretty and experience the sense of achievement seeing one of my pieces making others smile.
Last year we relocated back to the North West to be close to my family after 13 years of Hampshire life, and it’s here I can be found mixing up my watercolours on the palette, demonstrating that whilst life is hard, you have to make the very best of what you have; you have to fight, and whilst you may not always win, you can enjoy life, as I do, living alongside my friend Lenny (my affectionate name for my Lymphoma) and my black dog (my depression).
Now in my 8th year since diagnosis of my cancer and consequencing illnesses, my life has transformed and I’m embracing the changes I have faced. I’m not down and out yet.