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Meet Jess, leading a life of positivity after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Talk us through a little bit about your journey since being diagnosed with breast cancer last year?
When I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer (after finding a lump in my armpit), it came as a huge shock. I was facing a life threatening disease and would have to undergo intensive treatment and surgery which I knew would be brutal, then COVID was added into the mix. It feels like a complete whirlwind and has been without a doubt, the craziest 9 months of my life!
I have undergone fertility treatment to harvest embryos, had 6 months of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the affected boob and I’m now waiting for the next stage of treatment which is radiotherapy. I’ve also bought my first house with my partner, got engaged and (luckily) avoided getting Coronavirus so I’ve been very busy!!
How important has it become for you to do regular check-ups, health visits and general self-assessments?
My cancer diagnosis has highlighted to me that we need to be even more in tune with our bodies and understand the importance of talking about anything that is out of the ordinary. Since being diagnosed, I have been so shocked when learning about the number of young people who get cancer – 34 young adults are diagnosed every day. We are not ‘too young’ of ‘too healthy’…cancer doesn’t discriminate and we need to feel confident to talk to healthcare professionals about any changes we see, whether it be a lump, pain, change in skin, blood in our poo, unexplained weight loss. There are plenty of reasons aside from cancer that can explain these symptoms, but the sooner it is investigated, the better.
My cancer is stage 2 – it had spread beyond the breast tissue to my lymph nodes. If I didn’t get it checked, go to the follow up appointment and get my diagnosis, I could be looking at a very different future. The cancer could have spread to my organs or bones and been incurable. So my advice to everyone is to be body aware, know yourself and always err on the side of caution in getting any concerns checked out.
Do you think having a positive outlook has changed your perception on a situation like this that is so tough to overcome?
Yes, I really do! I believe that although I can’t change my situation, I can choose how I react to it. Somebody once told me that ‘things don’t happen TO you, they happen FOR you’ and I think it’s such a great perspective which allows me to see the opportunity for learning and growth. I am also really lucky that I have an amazing family and friends who support me, inspire me and keep me smiling. I think it is so important to surround yourself with good energy.
In a time like this, I can imagine it feels very overwhelming having to be worried about your health, leaving the house etc, What are some things that you do that help you to relieve anxiety/tension?
Practising gratitude has become a daily priority for me and I really believe it is one of the easiest things that anyone can do to live a happier life. Being able to appreciate even the smallest things has helped me to live in the moment and feel calmer and more content.
For me, it can be as simple as silently listing off things that I’m grateful for as I lie in bed before going to sleep. I like to be really specific, for example: I’m grateful for a safe place to sleep tonight. I’m grateful for the phone call I had with X today. I’m grateful for learning about X today. I’m grateful for the kind thing that X did for me. It is a great tool for when you’re feeling a bit down, to just check in with yourself and welcome in some positivity.
What is your power?
Finding joy. I love feeling happy! People often ask me how I stay so positive and I put it down to the way I look for the best in every situation. I have down days like everyone else and I am not always happy, but I do proactively look for ways to improve my mood. During lockdown I’ve had some very challenging days and I’ve had to bring myself back to what makes me happy – being in nature, cooking, exercising and connecting with friends, to name a few things. Having a go-to strategy for breaking out of a negative mind-set has been really powerful for me.
For more information on breast cancer awareness please check out the NHS official website for more information.
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