Two weeks ago I drafted a blog post about how my new life was shaping up. I had just started another freelance role with a small newspaper and alongside my part-time charity role I was starting to think that this might be the portfolio career I had been looking for. Although the newspaper role was as Editor’s Assistant, it would also give me a chance to do some features writing and get published — something that I had increasingly been drawn towards during the time I have been getting to know myself again.
On the 7th July I went to my first press conference, wrote about it and managed to get my article published. I was feeling very excited about what was to come and had started my packing list for the big family adventure to Borneo. I was so busy that I didn’t get around to finishing the blog post.
On the 9th July I was told I have breast cancer.
In the space of a few seconds everything fell apart. A month ago a mammogram had been clear and a biopsy carried out ‘just to be sure’, but here was the doctor mouthing words that made no sense….’there is a tumour….I’m so sorry….it is in your lymph nodes too…surgery….ER+…HER negative…24th July…you need to cancel your holiday’.
By the time I left the hospital 30 minutes later I had joined a new club, been given the membership pack and had a head buzzing with questions. How do I tell people? What will it sound like when I say it out loud? My kids….what do I tell my kids?
I knew very little about breast cancer, but in the space of 12 days I have had to become an expert. One thing I did know is that women with breast cancer are often described as ‘brave’ and I am not.
I decided to be open with everyone and to tell all my friends and family rather than trying to keep it to myself and I have been richly rewarded for this decision. People have been very, very kind. So many have offered me help over the coming months that I feel overwhelmed. Many people have a friend or relative who has survived this and as I am not brave I have been able to draw on the courage of others by hearing their stories and finding out how they coped. I still cry every day, but I am starting to feel better equipped to deal with this.
I started this blog to record my career change — to spur myself on and, if the outcome was positive, hopefully to help others make the same change, I never envisaged that it would become about cancer. I have decided to ‘share’ this part of my career change journey, because it reinforces every feeling I had about continuing in a job that made me miserable. I keep imagining how I would be feeling now if had stayed there and sold another year of my life.
In leaving my job I left behind private healthcare, life insurance and death in service benefits that would have given my family a great deal of security at this time, so over the last two weeks I have been forced to ask myself if I now regret leaving behind that security. Every day the answer is the same. No.
I left so I could feel I was living my life not just working through it. Yes, the benefits would have been useful, but for the last 12 months I have been able to take part in my life, to shape it, enjoy it, to live it. But now, life is on hold.
The last 12 days have been a haze of scans, tests and biopsies while My Team decide how best to treat me. My surgery will be in three days time and when I recover I am scheduled for chemotherapy and radiotherapy and all the trimmings.
Today I should be lying on the beach at Gaya Island Resort, Borneo. Instead I am packing my hospital bag and waiting for the phone to ring with my latest results.
Thinking of a career change in 2014? Don’t wait. Life really is too short.