Olivia was 3 years old and Lotte just 7 months old (still being breastfed) that fateful Wednesday twelve years ago when I was told I had cancer. My 'Cancer Journey' is very much linked to my children and being a mum
Joking with the Breast Surgeon that I hadn't come to my appointment to get the results of the previous week's biopsy on my own... I had the baby with me! I had found the pea-sized hard lump under the skin whilst breast feeding and knew this wasn't 'my normal'... but still I wasn't really worried. I had no family history, I was not overweight, I'd never smoked, drank little, vegetarian and breast fed both my babies... couldn't be anything right? Wrong.
Investigations, lumpectomy and lymph node removal and various scans proved the cancer was aggressive... I had Grade 3 advanced Breast Cancer. Without intensive and immediate action my life was in danger and I wouldn't get to be a part of my children's lives; I wouldn't get to be their mummy. The worst thought for me personally was that they were too young to remember me.
I had to do everything I could to ensure every year possible... to get to an age where they would remember me... feel my love for them and know how precious they were to me. I repeat, my cancer journey' is very much linked to my children.
Twelve years ago this weekend just gone Lotte had her 1st birthday and whilst I was too ill to arrange a party for her we started our new tradition of 'Birthday Breakfast' and I vowed to make every other birthday very memorable for them.
I had my second chemotherapy infusion on that day at home. My hair had already started to fall and I'd shaved it in preparation. Quite a traumatic experience and I with hindsight urge any woman needing to shave her head to entrust this to someone they trust and is very sympathetic, whomever that may be (which may not be the obvious choice).
Losing my hair with Chemo whilst it was difficult to deal with at the time with my young family. I looked very ill. I lost the hair on my head and all over, including my eyebrows and eyelashes and combined with the bloating from the steroids, I looked very different.
My hair loss however set me on a path to start my business Bold Beanies and make a range of cancer alopecia headwear and gifts to make a terrible situation a little bit more bearable. I designed them with younger cancer patients in mind with an emphasis on style as well and for comfort and ease.
I was unable to lift my arms for long after my mastectomy and lymph node removal and therefore tying traditional headscarves was too difficult for me. I needed something soft and simple to slip on and get on looking after my children. I also felt incredibly cold at night. The wooly beanie hat I wore was itchy and often got too hot, so I would take it off and then I would get cold quickly. My chemo headwear needed to be made from thin natural cotton material, soft, stretchy, breathable and temperature controlling. Its so much easier to face the side effects of cancer when you're able to get a good nights sleep.
Having received a lot of flowers by post from well meaning friends and family, I also felt it very important to provide gift solutions for cancer patients, helping those around them feel less helpless.
With every year that passes I gain strength in the bond I have with my girls. I teach them, I guide them to grow into confident young women who very much know they are loved whether I am with them or not.
Whilst I continue to battle with making my life count, battling the feelings of borrowed time, a bucket list of dreams and the normalities of being a single parent with a growing business and people in my life who are determined to make it harder than it needs to be... I hope that others who are at the start of their story with cancer that they get some comfort from my 12 years... sharing the positive stories is so important. I'm still here and enjoy every day with my children and look forward to the exciting times in their lives that I get to be a part of.
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