I’m sure anyone who goes through something like this experiences a level of shock, no matter what age. Cancer has presented me with the realisation of how vulnerable we are. The diagnosis has changed my outlook on the world, the people in my life, my identity, and my mortality.
Life has not gone according to the script I was writing for myself. On the day I was told of my diagnosis everything was hurried, suddenly nothing was relaxed, there was an urgency to the situation I needed to grasp and a sense of unfathomable and palpable discomfort.
My immediate thoughts were of my children, husband, and mother, how they may react or even if I should be letting them know at all at this stage.
I’ve previously been extremely healthy and, as some of you will know, I’m a British Army Reservist, employer and director, so this diagnosis has been an emotional rollercoaster. However, my principal attitude has been to tackle this illness like a work project: do the research, do the preparation, define the outcome, and keep the end goal in mind. I have even created a colour–coded file!
My reason for sharing this news is two-fold; one I didn’t want to hide it and for those in my network to worry or hear it second-hand – you might as well hear it from me! Secondly, because cancer is more common than some perceive, certainly from my personal, previous knowledge – I am therefore trying to demystify and normalise the conversations around cancer. With 50% of the UK population having the illness at some point in their life, (according to Cancer Research UK), this experience is more common than we like to think. It matters not how busy, or fortunate, or successful we are, we are all equal when it comes to health – cancer does not discriminate.
My treatment begins next month, and though I know that every diagnosis and treatment is different, I see my cancer as manageable: I will still go to work, host meetings, and contribute to the business with flexibility.
Obviously, I will have to adjust and there is no mistaking how crucial the support of family, friends, and colleagues is going to be. I will be continuing with my portfolio career in business, whilst still making some space and time for myself. Cancer is a moment in my life but it in no way defines who I am as a person. As I have said to those close to me, ‘this is just another chapter in the colourful tapestry of my life; onwards and upwards.’ I know I will need to really dig deep at times to find resilience and to rely on those around me.
Venturing into the unknown is challenging. For now, what’s hardest is the waiting, but I know I will come out the other side even more determined to make an impact and change things for the better. I will do as much as I can with the time I have, which I hope will be decades.
Not everyone is comfortable talking about cancer, but I am happy to talk about this journey. Openness and honesty are so important, whilst also respecting that some people find the topic difficult.
My thanks go to two organisations that, until my diagnosis, I didn’t expect to have much connection with – Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support – and to the amazing personnel who I’ve had contact with and support from already, not least my dedicated cancer nurse! Knowing that there is immediate support and guidance out there for me as I begin this journey has already been an incredible boost.
There are so many people I’ve recently spoken to who have opened up to me about going through a similar journey. I’m incredibly thankful for everyone’s good wishes.
One of my good friends and now business colleague, Richard Morris, has been through a cancer journey of his own with a rare form of leukaemia. In the time that Richard has had cancer he has founded two national entrepreneurial charities (one in the military sector) and been such a useful touchstone about life during and after treatment.
Finally, please, please self-check for lumps and bumps and if I can vouch for one thing it is that our amazing NHS doctors and nurses would rather you reach out to them if you have even the slightest concern and not put it to one side, thinking it’s probably nothing or ’just a cyst’ like I did!