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When Julie was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer during lockdown, she wanted to do something to ensure both she and her son stayed healthy and happy – so she took on a challenge.
Note: This blog was originally shared in January 2021. It has since been updated with more details.
I am a single mum to Charlie, who was 10 when I was diagnosed, and so the hardest part of my breast cancer experience was being advised by the oncologist that I would need to either keep him inside with me for 18 weeks while shielding or send him away. Neither was a workable option, as you can imagine!
It's not healthy for a young lad to be stuck inside for that long, and he was already feeling a bit down because of lockdown and being away from his friends.
So, I called the Breast Cancer Now Helpline - and it was brilliant. The nurse I spoke to was so helpful.
I had a plan in my head of what I thought might be a solution, and the nurse talked through it all with me. She made me feel like I'd really come up with a great plan, so I left that call feeling buoyant and ready to take it on. As long as I knew Charlie was going to be okay and manage to stay with me most of the time, I was happy!
She also reassured me that the way I had told my son about my cancer was textbook stuff. She really was an angel on the phone.
For me, in that moment, it meant everything to have that nurse taking the time to help me work through a solution. This is the main reason I decided to raise money for Breast Cancer Now.
I then went on to do a bit of digging into what research they are doing, and found they were working quite a lot on triple negative breast cancer. This is of personal interest with regards to my own diagnosis - but they also have a great presence on social media and provide live Q&As covering various topics, which I also appreciated. They just seem very present and approachable.
In order to support them, I aimed to walk or run 275 miles before my last cycle of chemo - which I achieved a week ahead of schedule!
The most rewarding part of undertaking this fundraiser was being contacted by another woman who had been through a similar experience and told me that I had inspired her to do something similar! She is now raising money for Breast Cancer Now through her own challenge.
This, as well as all the fantastic support, really made the experience enjoyable for me.
I finished my treatment with a mastectomy, but then had a recurrence about six months later. This meant that, in total, I had four surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy and 19 rounds of radiotherapy.
Since then, I have put together a reflective coaching program for people diagnosed with cancer, the pilot of which is running on 10 of March for between 6-8 weeks! I’m so excited about it.
I am now a Transformational coach, a Meaning and Purpose Practitioner and Resilience Practitioner. It isn’t about cancer or giving advice, it’s giving people the opportunity to explore various topics including the following: acceptance, resilience, meaning and purpose, mindset, values, strengths and how we can begin to tap into these areas in order to move forward and build lives that are congruent with who we truly are.
At every opportunity I've had, I have helped others who are just starting out on their treatment and healing journeys, and my new coaching program allows me to do this on a larger scale.
Through this period of my life, I have become a total believer in focusing on my wellbeing rather than my cancer diagnosis. I have held visions of perfect health and vitality throughout my treatment, and the challenge is something that I knew would help me with that.
When you are walking in nature, moving your body and getting lots of fresh air in your lungs, it's almost impossible to feel anything other than healthy and positive.
I've also been blown away by the support I have received through donations and words of encouragement along the way. People really are incredible!
If you have a burning desire to do something, just take the first step towards making it happen. Then you have to keep asking, 'What is one thing that I can do today to move me one step closer to my goal?' and do that! We can so often talk ourselves out of things because we see the goal as being too big or too far away, so it's important to keep going one step at a time.
When I was doing all the walking and running for charity during chemotherapy, I always held the vision of perfect health in my mind. I'd also picture myself with the Golden Retriever I'd always wanted: something I now have!
For anyone else out there that is thinking of doing a similar challenge I would say, absolutely go ahead and do it! It has been so beneficial to me in so many ways.
If you’re going through active treatment like I was, then you'll get to know when you can push yourself a bit and when you need to take a slower pace. Just listen to your body and don't overdo it. The support you will receive from others will keep you going, and also the knowledge that you are helping a great charity.
Also make sure you choose something that you enjoy doing for your challenge! That definitely makes it a whole lot easier.
If you’ve been inspired my Julie’s story, why not take on your own challenge? From marathons taking place later in the year to socially distanced walks and virtual events, there's something for everyone.