One year after finishing her breast cancer treatment, Fran looks back at her breast cancer journey and how she has found hope, strength and unity through her recovery.
Hope from writing and smiling more
This time last year my hair had fallen out because of my chemotherapy treatment. I looked at myself in the mirror one morning and thought, ‘I look awful’.
I smiled back, and suddenly looked so much nicer. Hiding beneath the pale, red-eyed, bald image I saw ‘me’ again, and instantly felt a little better.
From then on, I smiled lots. Occasionally putting on some lovely lipstick and a quick smudge of pink on my cheeks helped too. People would tell me I looked well, and there’s nothing like that to help you feel better.
I have always tried to be positive and hopeful in my outlook, but sometimes this was a bit of a challenge when going through treatment. At the end of every day, before my attempts to sleep, I went through everything I had achieved.
I wrote a dairy and listed how far I had walked, recorded my steps and wrote about how I felt. This way I could go to sleep in a hopeful frame of mind and sometimes even feeling a little bit proud of where I was and how far I had come.
Strength from starting to walk again
Before I started my treatment, I listed places I would like to visit that were nearby and that I could have a gentle walk around. The National Trust houses and gardens nearby proved to be interesting and fun and provided a useful distraction on days when I might potentially feel low.
I was prepared to feel tired, exhausted even, and it did happen. I had read that walking would be good for increasing my energy levels and for boosting my immunity, so I started walking every day. Some days I did not feel at all like going out, but I would make myself take at least a few steps.
The countryside around me is so beautiful that it made me happy to be there, outside and away from thoughts about treatment. Sometimes I would feel rubbish and say to my husband, ‘I don’t think I can go that far today.’
But as I walked I began to feel as though concrete bricks were falling off my shoulders. Even if we didn’t walk far I often felt better.
Unity from my family
I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to do anything too strenuous, but I wanted something to work towards in the future. I have family abroad, so I made it my goal to visit them once treatment ended. I did get there in the end, and my family – most especially my two gorgeous grandchildren – were the best tonic ever.
Looking back on how I felt last year, there are so many ways in which I have moved forward. My confidence is also getting back to where it was. During chemo I didn’t drive because I felt wobbly. Then when I started to drive I felt a little weird and stressed. Now I enjoy driving with my family and feel happy behind the wheel. My passengers haven’t moaned yet!
I hope that this time next year I will feel even more energetic and find other little surprises as my body and mind get stronger. Everyone’s journey is different, but we find a way through.