Since her diagnosis in 2016, Susan has had time to reflect on the positive influence breast cancer had on her life.
Somewhere recently, I read about an exercise a school had been given which was to list the pros and cons of cancer. Everyone’s reaction was to say, ‘How can there be pros to cancer?’ and, when I was going through breast cancer treatment, I would have also thought this. I was very angry and miserable and definitely wouldn’t have found anything positive to say.
But I started to think about my own experience from my diagnosis in 2016 all the way up to now, and decided to find the positives. There was a hell of a lot of loss… but what did I gain?
A new sense of self-worth
I used to work myself into the ground trying to please everyone and now I think about my own well-being first before anything else. My energy levels aren’t what they used to be and I now know that I need to respect my body and my time. Previously, I would rush around like a headless chicken always feeling panicky and exhausted. Now I only chose to do what I can, and prioritise my time and respect it.
Learning to say no
I was always such a people pleaser - I never said no. I’d go out of my way to do everything for everyone else before myself. ‘No’ is such a powerful word; it puts me back in control and shows people I respect my own time and worth.
I know who my real friends are
When you are diagnosed with cancer, you expect everyone to rush to help. But suddenly there are some odd responses and lots of silence. However, I know who was there for me in my darkest hours and who not to waste my time on anymore - which I consider a blessing.
Sense of adventure
I used to be stuck in my ways, working 12-hour days running my own company. Work was my everything. Now, I make time for adventures and push myself to try new things. I abseiled down St Thomas’ Hospital for cancer research last year - something I would never have done before cancer.
I am a more understanding person now
I know what it’s like to have gone to the depths of despair and I’m a more patient, kinder person. I make time for other people and try and support them in anything they are going through because I know what it’s like to be in a very dark place emotionally.
I don’t waste my time worrying about things I cannot change
I used to spend the whole time during my cancer treatment worrying about everything. If I got a temperature, I’d worry that I had an infection and would have to be admitted to hospital. I worried about every ache and pain. I was exhausted from worrying. Now I realise worry won’t solve anything or change the result, so I don’t exhaust myself worrying about things beyond my control.
A new appreciation for life
I don’t waste my time on negativity and complaining. I try to appreciate the small things and make the best out of any situation. I notice lots of people spend their lives complaining and never seem happy. I try to count my blessings and make each day count. I also try and surround my life with positivity and stay away from negative people.
During treatment I was very angry and depressed, but now that I’ve had time to process everything I can take the lessons I learnt to help me be kinder to myself and those around me. Overall, I can say that cancer made me a better person, and I live a more meaningful positive life.
Susan's positivity is wonderful, but it's OK not to feel the same. If you have been through breast cancer and still need some support, we are here for you.