As I peered over the top of the mountain, beaming and proud for finally reaching the summit and completing the most challenging chapter of my life, my heart sank. The fatigue that ached through every muscle I had, engulfed the euphoria, like mercury in my blood stream and I froze, solid. Fear and anxiety shook my core. How the hell was I going to get down?
According to Cancer Research, in 2014 there were 55,222 cases of breast cancer diagnosed. 78% of those survived. I was one of them. I was twenty seven when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I was thirty six when I was diagnosed for the third time. I am now three years into my third remission and after experiencing this on more than one occasion it has become my passion to create an awareness for that huge percentage of us who have made that climb, but who have also had to navigate their way down, dealing with the shadows of the far reaching affects of cancer.
Being diagnosed young was a shock. After a year of intensive treatment backed by an incredible support network, I felt that mountain had well and truly been climbed! Yet, when all the regular hospital trips and appointments were over and my consultant signed me off ready to flap my wings, I was terror stricken. At twenty seven my friends were focused on climbing the career ladder, earning money and enjoying disposable incomes, some were even starting families. I was absolutely lost, wondering what on earth had just happened.
Three months after treatment ended I was diagnosed with depression. Rates for depression after breast cancer are the third highest of any cancer group and within six months of a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, rates of diagnosable depression have been estimated to be 20–30%. My serotonin levels were shot. Within two months and a gentle course of anti depressants, I was able to move forward with life again.
After a second diagnosis in my clavicle five years later, resulting in a diagnosis of PTSD and then two years later a third diagnosis, this time in my right breast, while convalescing from a double mastectomy and reconstruction, something clicked and I decided to pro actively explore a blog about all the things we can do to help our wellbeing post treatment and focus on this stage of the cancer journey. Writing became an invaluable healing tool and guess what, no mental health issues!
In 2015 I set up Samspaces as a resource for anyone recovering or nearing the end of cancer treatment and this April I am launching The Daily Space, a virtual community to empower and connect survivors with a team of well being professionals they can trust. It is a network where we can build our own power posse and embrace the healing and recovery, signposting and offering first hand advice and guidance on all the practical things we can do to help us take those tentative steps forward in a supportive environment.
Everyone is different and everyone’s journey down the mountain will be a reflection of that, but I didn’t want anyone to feel they were alone. The healing process for body and mind is incredibly personal and we must give ourselves permission to take this time, for soul searching, nurturing and gentleness, that others might not fully appreciate. Unity at a time like this is vital and knowing that there is a socket that you can plug into as and when, to give you that charge of energy and hope, is recovery in itself. This is the bit where we can reflect and celebrate and as Albert Espinosa says in his amazing book Yellow World,
“Don’t be afraid of being the person you have become.”
A Guest Blog from Sam Reynolds
Sam lives just outside Guildford in Surrey with her husband and runs SafeSpace support groups in the local area. She has one daughter and works around school runs and those other important mummy duties! She is a total knitwear junkie, loves regular yoga practice and meditation, singing, dancing and walking her black labrador while enjoying the great outdoors. Sam writes regularly for other various cancer related websites and has also collaborated with Hanging By A Fred and produced the beautiful Samspace bracelet to raise #AfterCancerAwareness.