A year ago, to help raise awareness of World Cancer Day, Amy shared her experience of being diagnosed with, and treated for, breast cancer at just 30.
In the run up to World Cancer Day 2016, we caught up with her to find out how she was doing after finishing her treatment – and why she’s supporting World Cancer Day again.
In early 2014, I felt a lump in by breast… and then my world fell apart.
On 2nd May, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. That meant surgery to remove the entire inside of my breast and my nipple, followed by four and a half months of chemo, then radiotherapy… then another operation.
By the end of November, I’d got through all that, and the cancer was in remission. But my treatment wasn’t over – far from it. A year on, I still have to have daily pills and monthly injections to stop me producing hormones that the cancer feeds off – and these have various side effects.
After you’re told you’re in remission, you find the girl you were pre-cancer isn’t there any more, nor is the girl you were during cancer – that all-time fighter with the brave face. She’s gone, she’s ‘won’, and everyone’s happy and it’s great that we’re healthy again.
But then you wonder – who are you? Who is this girl that remains?
On the one hand, after months of treatment, a year of feeling sick to the core, you’re at the end of your tether. The world feels as though it stops turning. You hit a brick wall
One breast. Thin ashy sprouts of hair. A swollen face. A fatter, aching body from the drugs – and potentially one that can no longer have children.
Of course, you’re thankful – to the doctors, nurses and all the researchers behind the treatments that helped me. My gosh, are we survivors thankful! But there’s half a woman stood in the mirror, still a girl not knowing what her future holds, but knowing, for that year, a lot of her chances, her hope, got thrown away.
It took me months, with help, to realise that crying was OK, and wasn’t a sign of weakness. To realise that I was OK to grieve for a part of me that I had lost, emotionally and physically.
I hid this from the world, because the world is happy that you’re healthy and you’re alive – and you are too. But you’re still slightly lost.
But then, there’s the other side of things. You realise what’s important. Those who stood by you through cancer are still, and always have, and will be, by your side. Of course I always treasured them, but even more so now.
My mum was here as much as she could be, and both my mum and dad always just a text or call away.
My friends – my ‘chosen family’ – were also there – through good times and bad, my treasures, my angels, my hope and my reason for being. Not a week goes by when I don’t try to let these people know how much they mean to me.
So what did I learn from my year of being ill?
I learnt who loved me completely.
I learnt to love myself, whether well or battered and bruised.
I got to go travelling, to experience Thailand and feel at peace with myself in the jungle.
But most importantly I felt safe and loved at home.
And, so yes, I’m grateful to everyone – doctors, nurses, surgeons, family, friends, all my loved ones. I’ll treasure moments with them for life.
That’s the thing you see. No matter how broken you are – whether you’ve survived, are surviving or at the end – the one thing we all show is love and compassion for one another.
Be closer to the ones you love and treasure them.
Tell them as much as you can, whether you’re proud or happy or you have amazing memories. Never forget that a message of love, support and unity, in any form, is a beautiful thing – and I believe we should do it so much more.
Wear a Unity Band™ on 4 February, World Cancer Day, or give a small donation to be a part of the generation that transforms the lives of millions who are affected by cancer.
Visit cruk.org/worldcancerday for more information.