This week it is a real pleasure to feature this very inspiring piece from Abi, who is a great friend of mine. She talks about the difficulties of living with very complex cancer, and how she tries to focus on the positive things in her life.
“Living with secondary breast cancer is hard. There is no way of making breast cancer pink, fluffy, fun, sparkly or easy; contrary to what ‘Pinktober’ tells you! The ‘pink’ army have nothing but good intentions of that I have no doubt; however it is no mean feat living through October when you have incurable breast cancer. The focus of the majority of the campaigns is on early diagnosis, primary cancer being treatable, survivable and ‘doable’ as a well known TV personality said recently. All of these messages are very important but what if you have done everything you were supposed to do, been breast aware, acted quickly, had all the treatments, the operations and reconstructions but still find yourself being told there is no cure for you, the odds of you surviving another 5 years is unlikely! What or who do you rely on then?
There is very little attention given to secondary breast cancer – the killer! This MUST change! In the UK we do not even have accurate statistics showing how many live with secondary breast cancer and for how long – a truly shocking statistic in itself! I have been living with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) for 17 months, I am on my 5th type of chemo in this time to try to keep the beast at bay. TNBC is the most difficult to treat, there is no targeted treatment such as Herceptin or Tamoxifen to prolong my life, I can only rely on a limited number of options of chemotherapy; and those options are becoming fewer as there are no new treatments on the horizon. It’s a very precarious way to live life but live life I must.
It would be criminal of me to waste the precious time I have by hiding away or letting the disease, treatments or fear control me. Someone asked me recently “How do you do it? How do you stay so positive?” The answer – What option do I have? When I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, after the initial shock had subsided I decided to write my ‘bucket list’ or as I prefer to call it my ‘life list’. I sat down pen in hand and let my imagination go. My big passion is Formula One so this was an obvious place to start. I began to prioritise the list, look at timescales then proceeded to raise the funds, book the tickets and make it happen!
This in itself was new to me; I was always of the opinion there would be time, I was in the ‘I’ll do it later brigade’ but having this diagnosis very rapidly changed that and that’s no bad thing. Having something to look forward to has been my lifeline throughout the last 17 months. Planning my trips to Monaco and Abu Dhabi has kept me strong, focused and positive. Having a goal to stay well for has been not only a physical benefit but an emotional one too. I have almost forgotten what it was like to live life without cancer but actually in my pre-cancer life I should’ve been doing this but I had been sucked into the career bubble. Sharing experiences with family and friends has never been so important, I am blessed with wonderful people in my life; a few have walked away and that’s fine, not everyone can deal with reality of mortality.
Another massive part of my life now is fund raising for The Haven Breast Cancer Centre in Leeds which was so important to me when I was first diagnosed and Breast Cancer Now, a charity that invests in research for a cure. Next year, my friends and I are embarking on The Pink Kayak Challenge 2016, kayaking from Lands End to John O’Groats with the aim of raising £100,000 for these two charities. We are looking for volunteers, sponsors and helpers, for more information see our website. I also have a Formula One charity auction starting soon through Memento Exclusives, for more details see my blog. I have mixed the two aspects of my life together and am genuinely having a great time. Nothing is more fulfilling than giving back and raising money with awareness for causes so close to my heart, and all this whilst throwing caution to the wind and engaging with personalities and teams from a sport that I enjoy, a sport that has some extremely kind, generous and supportive people.
If I could offer any advice to others who may find themselves in this unenviable situation it would be to try to think of what you wanted from your life prior to having cancer and still aim for it. I know this sounds very idealistic and there are some days I struggle with it but when the fear and the reality of secondary breast cancer kicks in I get out the list and see what I can do next!”
By sharing experiences we can all learn from each other, which is the purpose of what I do. Thanks so much Abi for sharing your very personal experiences for the benefit of others, and I wish you well with the incredible challenges you are facing! It is always a pleasure to feature ‘guest blogs,’ so please feel free to get in touch if you would like to share yours.