PUBLISHED ON: 11 February 2019

One year on from her diagnosis, Emma writes about how far she has come, and what she has learnt from her experience.

Emma after her treatment

I thought I could just get on with it

One year ago, my life was forever changed by four words: ‘I’m sorry, it’s cancer.’ I’d heard them before, when my mum was diagnosed. The difference this time was that it was me being given the news.

I replied, ‘What are we gonna do about that?’

Quite a strange reply. I laugh now at how nonchalantly I responded. Cancer? Easy after the year I had experienced! My mum had passed away three weeks before. This was just another thing I would have to get on with.

Cancer fuelled the fires of my anxiety and depression

In many ways, I did just get on with it. Travelled for my appointments, had my scans, got my treatment and made little fuss. There were even positive moments, like meeting amazing new friends through my experience.

That doesn’t mean I had an easy ride. There were many times when I didn’t think I could keep going, when I didn’t want to carry on. There were even more tears. Depression, anxiety and OCD were already part of my life. Cancer became their best friend and added fuel to the fires those demons had already set.

I’m not the same person

Safe to say it has been the most challenging time of my life, but I’ve grown more as a person and have built more self-confidence this year than in all the years before my diagnosis combined.

For one thing, I wore a leotard for a Halloween costume! Might sound stupid to you but it’s quite a big deal for me and a huge change.

Not that you’d expect me to be the same person after facing cancer without my mum three weeks after her death from the same disease.

Emma during treatment

I discovered my strength, bravery and courage

It was the tragic circumstances surrounding my diagnosis and the magnitude of having cancer that set the precedent. To face my first challenge without my mum so soon after her passing, and for it to be such a huge one, forced me to discover just how strong I am. It made me realise the true potential of my strength, bravery and courage.

Finally, I truly understand what those words really mean and look like in reality. They don’t have to be stoic. They can be found in the vulnerability that comes from sharing your feelings. They don’t have to be huge gestures. They can be something as simple as wearing red lipstick to your chemotherapy appointment. They aren’t without fear. It's the fear that confirms their presence in your spirit.

I'm building a new life from scratch

Even though I tell people that now I can handle anything and that I’m invincible, it’s not true. My body is broken, I’m living with the fear of recurrence, my mental health issues are more complex than ever before and I’m trying to build a new life from scratch.

None of this make me any less strong, brave or courageous. If anything, it makes me more of these things. I am trying to repair my body, deal with demons, manage my anxieties and move forward in my life after cancer.

 We’ve all got that spirit within us, we just have to discover it.

I don’t know what next year will hold

Other than more hospital appointments and uncertainties, I don’t know what the next year will hold. As a bare minimum, I hope to maintain my NED (no evidence of disease) status, get back to work and build my new home.

Better stop writing before this post turns into a list of resolutions. I guess your cancerversary is the cancer club’s version of New Year’s Eve. The only difference is that my goals won't involve diet shakes.

Tomorrow will be kinder.

This blog was originally posted on Emma's website, Talking for Freedom.

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