Life on Hold

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.

10 Thoughts on “Life on Hold

  1. Clara ….. I started reading your blog & was just about to click on ‘family adventure to Borneo’ to read that first and then I saw the next line ……. it stopped me in my tracks and I needed to read on. I have been inspired by your blog and by your resilience through the ups & downs of your decision to leave the relatively safe confines of corporate life. Whilst reading about your journey, I have had nothing but admiration for the way the sometimes doubts in your mind have not stopped you continually moving forward with your portfolio career. I am so, so sorry to hear of your diagnosis and I send you nothing but good and positive thoughts for Thursday. Thank you for sharing this most personal of news – you are and will continue to be an inspiration to many. Gina

    • Thank you so much Gina…I have never been so unsure of whether to blog or not. Truth is, in the corporate world I often felt my world was so small that no one would miss me if I disappeared. The real benefit of the last 12 months is to know so many new people and to feel that I am part of their lives as well. It is this mesh of people that is currently holding me together and supporting me and it only serves to magnify just how irrelevant my budgets and targets were in measuring my ‘value’. So happy to have you rooting for me too – I feel I have a real head start on this cancer!

  2. Jo wright on July 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm said:

    Thank you for deciding to blog. It’s good to hear your thoughts and must be a little therapeutic for you to write about it…?
    We all need reminding to appreciate every moment that we don’t have such a ‘cloud’ hanging over us so thanks for the reminder! Just trying to find a positive in the situation….
    You will be in good hands I’m sure and it could have been worse- a flight to Borneo over Russian held Ukrainian territory!
    Will be thinking of you over the next few days. Love and hugs xx

    • Yes, it’s all relative!
      After all the tests and waiting I am keen to get on with it now…never thought I would say that about breast cancer surgery!

  3. Clara, I have been following your blog since we met on the WordPress course and I am so sorry to read your latest news. I think you are right to share the news and hope that you gain support from all your friends. You have been an inspiration to me with your honesty, your cheery posts and willingness to try new things. I am sure that spirit will get you through the next few months and I will be thinking of you tomorrow and send my support and prayers.

  4. Clara – I hope you don’t mind me dropping the briefest of lines. I just wanted to send some more thoughts to you & to continue to wish you well.

    • Thank you Gina – happy to report that stage 1 is out of the way. Had my mastectomy and lymph node clearance on the 24th and I am up and about now. Results this week, then let the battle commence! x

  5. Hi Clara, I’ve just read your post and wanted to find out how you are?

    • Hi Lucy – thank you for asking! I am alive – so that’s a positive! In remission now after two separate cancer diagnoses, two mastectomies, chemo, radiotherapy and seemingly endless hospital appointments and lots of other surgeries along the way! I re-entered the work place a year ago and I am now working part-time in a very different role.
      It’s been a challenging 3.5 years, but every day I am grateful to wake up, and the sky has never seemed so blue as it does now!

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