2013 was a rollercoaster of a year for me. In the March I had to go back to work after a year off on maternity leave albeit to a job I loved. I was very blessed to have grandparents on both sides looking after my 10 month old little girl but I still struggled every morning when I had to kiss her goodbye and make the dreaded commute into central London.
Whilst it probably sounds rather melodramatic, I genuinely felt like a little piece of me was being broken away on a daily basis every time I left the house. I had my daughter quite late in life, I was 38, and had already suffered a previous miscarriage so, in my heart, I felt that I wanted to enjoy every second I had with her. By the time Autumn came, I decided that I had to find a way to re-structure my life so as to enable me to dedicate as much time as I could to my daughter, both for her sake and mine, and after much searching on the internet, I came across MamaBabyBliss and, having enjoyed doing baby massage with my daughter, I knew instantly that working with mums and babies was what I wanted to do and that running my own classes would offer me the flexibility that I needed. I was also drawn by the company’s ethos and I loved the fact that the focus was on both mums and babies. I was extremely excited and I signed up almost immediately to the Baby Massage and Baby Yoga course due to take place in February 2014.
Little did I know that just weeks later, my entire life was about to be turned upside down and my desperate wish to spend more time with my daughter was about to be fulfilled. The only snag was that it took me being diagnosed with breast cancer on 4th December 2013 to achieve this. That date will be imprinted in my head for ever more. Life really can be so ironic. I had gone to my GP in mid-November 2013 having noticed changes in my breast but no lump. Two weeks later, I was at the local breast care unit having a mammogram and ultrasound/biopsy (ironically, again, the latter took place in the same room that I had first seen my daughter as that nondescript black and white image on the screen). A week later, I was given the diagnosis that I did indeed have breast cancer which had spread to my lymph nodes under my arm and up to my neck. The diagnosis was of course a huge shock but I think I already knew in my heart what the consultant was going to tell me. A woman’s gut feeling is rarely wrong. My husband, my mum and my daughter, who was then 18 months’ old, were all with me. Lots of tears were being shed and the only thing which I said to the consultant was that I had to live to see my little princess grown up and I would do whatever I had to do to achieve this. Thankfully, the cancer had not reached anywhere else!
The subsequent year was filled with numerous hospital visits. I had six months of chemo to shrink the tumours followed by a single sided mastectomy and temporary reconstruction. However, my body rejected the implant and, after developing cellulitis and spending three weeks in hospital on IV antibiotics, the implant was removed. I then spent five weeks having daily radiotherapy.
It was undoubtedly the toughest year of my life so far and I must have experienced every single emotion possible at various stages of the treatment; from sheer anger and ‘why me?’ to being positive and joking about how trendy I would be with my new wig, new breast and 3 tattoo dots (for radiotherapy alignment). I have to say that the wig drove me nuts so I did what I never thought I would do and wore a headscarf (I really admire ladies who are brave enough to venture out bald!) and my new breast….well that has yet to happen as I can’t face any more major surgery just yet. This leads me on to the physical issues I had to face up to; seeing my lovely hair fall out in handfuls over a period of days was traumatic to say the least (the cold cap didn’t work for me), the chemo sickness was horrible as was the anti-sickness steroid induced weight gain. Then there was the tiredness and the constant numbness and pins and needles in my feet (neuropathy caused by the chemo). Oh, I almost forgot, I also developed a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in my lung) soon after starting the chemo for which I had to inject myself with a blood thinning drug daily for six months.
All in all though I would say that the worst emotion I have experienced in all of this is fear; fear of dying and fear of not seeing my little girl grow up and I’d be lying if I said that the fear has disappeared now that I am two years post diagnosis. Having said this, however, I have always tried as much as possible to contain my moments of fear and panic and I have always been a firm believer in the power of the mind as a healer. Over the years I have read many articles about cancer and how it feeds off negativity so the fact that I had signed up to the MamaBabyBliss course pre-diagnosis was a true blessing in disguise. By sheer coincidence, the timing of the course also fitted in perfectly with my chemo sessions and doing the course gave me something positive to focus on. It was something for me personally to concentrate on and achieve and for my family’s future because I knew, as soon as I was diagnosed, that I would never want to go back to the working life I had. Things had to change for the better! I wanted to strive for a calmer and less stressful life and if I could that whilst also helping other people in my community then all the better!
As I said, the cancer was actually a cloud with a silver lining for me; I was signed off work sick for a year which gave me a year at home with my daughter and time to prepare my next career move and just as I was about to return to work, the option of voluntary redundancy came along and I jumped at it. So, here we are at the end of November 2015, almost two years to the day since my initial diagnosis…….In February this year I ended my 17 year career in the broadcasting industry which was sad in a way but I knew it was the right time and on 1st April I was running my very first baby massage class which was fully booked. What a momentous and proud moment that was for me. I love teaching the classes for so many reasons. I love explaining to mums the huge physical, psychological and emotional benefits of skin to skin contact with their babies for both of them and the amazing health benefits of baby yoga. I love meeting different mums with their cute bundles of joy (and of course tears) and watching them build new friendships as a result of my classes. I am now able to spend more time with my daughter and am able to fit my classes in around the pre-school run. Over and above all this, I find that teaching the baby massage routine helps me to relax which can only be a good thing it terms of keeping the big C at bay!
I have also taken a holistic approach to trying to look after myself better by revising my diet, exercise, the household products and personal hygiene products we use as a family etc. and whilst I am still having to attend various hospital appointments and will be on medication for another nine years, I feel that I have gained some element of control in my life and I am positive about the future.
So, for anyone out there reading this, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is a very tough journey to go through but I have been very lucky to have an amazing medical team, a very supportive network of family and friends around me, a very supportive employer and now the fabulous family of MamaBabyBliss teachers around me. I am also eternally grateful to the various charities which provided support whilst I was going through treatment. Last but not least my amazing husband and my beautiful little angel who reminds me every day why I am not going to let cancer get the better of me! Try to stay positive, find something you enjoy to get your teeth into and, if you have a baby, start massaging them because it will help the both of you in more ways than you know!