Archives for category: Dublin
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In Buenos Aires, at a conveniently named ‘Bar,’ back before any of this ever happened

A year and a half ago, I had my very first mammogram, having just discovered the lump in my left breast while living in Buenos Aires.

Thanks to my health insurance, I had the tests and results all in the same day. Everything was fine. I didn’t have cancer, said the Argentine doctor.

I was given some printed reports and a short letter, which I read and kept, always planning to follow up with the Argentine clinic when I was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer, four months later.

But cancer is time-consuming, and it took me a year after my diagnosis to retrieve the letter and really look into its meaning. It turned out I’d been given the impression I’d got the all-clear, when in fact the medical code in the blurb actually only meant ‘Probably benign.’

Here’s what happened next…

To read the rest of this post in Breast Cancer Care UK’s Vita Magazine, click here.

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I just went for my first check-up mammogram, exactly a year and a day since my breast cancer surgery.

20130701-200704.jpgMy boobs didn’t mind the pancake-squashing machine too much and the lady who squashed them in at my new hospital in Stockport was lovely. I know a lot of women say mammograms are comparable to torture, but honestly I don’t find them bad at all – maybe it’s a boob size thing, but I’d take mammograms over needles and cannulas any day of the week.

Anyway, I’ve received a lot of sweet messages on Facebook and Twitter from friends and supporters wishing me good luck, and I just wanted to thank you for those messages and clarify that I’m actually not worried about the results of the mammogram (which should arrive in the next couple of weeks).

I know there’s always a chance of a recurrence in one of my breasts, but those chances are so low after all the chemo and radiotherapy I’ve had that it doesn’t even bear thinking about.

My Worries List is currently occupied by much more mundane concerns such as whether I’ll be able to get visas in time for my big post-cancer trip to southeast Asia and how many times it is acceptable to ask my Dad to hire a van and drive my worldly goods to whichever corner of the globe I happen to be moving to next. (On this topic, I am currently something of a nomad but will be an official London resident as of the end of September).

I know most of my fellow cancer-fighting friends spend oodles of time fretting about recurrence and tests so I don’t want to trivialise the issue at all, but firstly I check my breasts so often these days that I hope I’d detect a new lump quicker than any mammogram anyway, and secondly, the much greater risk to my health would be a metastasis to the brain or elsewhere, and that is something so completely and utterly out of my control that I do my best to purge any thoughts of it from my head the moment they enter.

I’m still waiting to hear about having a possible MRI breast scan in the next few weeks, but apart from that, my next appointment is with my surgeon in six months’ time, and then with the oncologist six months after that. Although I’ve had a lot of hospital visits in the last few weeks while I’ve been transferring from private health to the NHS, I’m now looking forward to fewer appointments in favour of making the most of my very fortunate life!

imageI’m utterly fried from a crack-of-dawn flight from Dublin to Manchester this morning, so I’ll leave you with this pic of me and my boobs enjoying a delicious pre-mammogram cocktail (Gin and Earl Grey Martini – highly recommended) last night. The three of us are toasting our triumphant survival of the last 12 months and, more importantly, a long and happy future together. Cheers to that!

When I left my job recently, one of the last things I had to do was give back my laptop and iPhone – not the end of the world by any stretch, but nevertheless two pieces of technology to which I had grown accustomed and somewhat attached.

20130630-130509.jpgI’ve been without mobile internet for over a month now and, frankly, I’m loving it. Of course, I don’t wish to be completely internet-less because the truth is the web has been a wonderful support throughout my cancer experience and I’m just as addicted to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as the next person. But there is definitely something to be said for going internet-free for a while, particularly as a recovering cancer patient in need of some head-clearing and soul-searching.

To read the rest of this post in Breast Cancer Care UK’s Vita Magazine and see my Six Reasons to Switch Off Your Smartphone, click here.

 

This is my hair, six months after my final chemo. The regrowth is painfully slow and it’s a little baldy on top, but it’s mine, all mine, and I love it!

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IMG_6429The day I quit Bloomberg in March 2012, I expected my managers to be mad at me. I was abandoning the company to which I’d devoted most of my 20s, and I was leaving my colleagues in the lurch.

Instead, the wise bureau chief gave me a hug and said “You’ll never regret leaving any job. Every time you leave a company or make a big change, things always work out for the best.”

Fourteen months on, I can honestly say he was absolutely right. Things did work out for the best. Just not exactly in the way we both imagined.

It turned out the decision to quit Bloomberg and leave Argentina was the decision that saved my life. The move to Ireland prompted me to return to the doctors for a second medical opinion, and the rest is history.

IMG_6431So, when a colleague at Facebook said the exact same thing when I told him I was leaving today, I couldn’t help but smile. Everything happens for a reason.

Some people have found it hard to see why I’ve been – for the most part – a happier person since cancer came into my life, and it’s always been a little hard to explain. Now, here goes:

When I was about six years old, I knew exactly what I was going to be when I grew up. I was going to be the editor of a magazine. From the day I learned to write, I was scribbling down stories, typing away furiously in MS-DOS and making my own magazines with cut-out pictures and Pritt Stick. Over the years, I broadened my interests and grew to love a lot of things, from acting to languages to teaching to sport. But one thing always remained constant: my passion for writing.

Somehow, though, my career took a different path. I took a languages degree, travelled the world, became a financial journalist. Seven years into my career, I left Bloomberg – partly for personal reasons, partly because I had lost track of my goals and wasn’t passionate enough about finance. I moved into a job at Facebook, continuing with my love of languages and Latin America, but it wasn’t right.

IMG_6114Then I got cancer, and every instinct in my body told me to write, write, write. And it was the easiest thing in the world: writing about something close to my heart, something I knew, something I truly cared about, something people wanted to read about.

Apart from my Mum and Dad, to whom I owe everything, writing was the thing that got me through the last 11 months of hell. My blog was what connected me with my friends, family and colleagues past and present when I was too sick to keep in touch with them in person. My blog was the thing that put me in touch with a whole new set of friends – a group of girls all over the world with whom I have cancer in common but who are by no means defined by their cancer.

But there comes a time when the Cancer part stops and the Life part starts again. I will continue this blog because there is still plenty to say and people who are benefiting from it, but I will be writing more and more about other things and the cancer part will take a back seat. It’s a shame when it takes a major illness to push you to follow your dreams, but if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that life is way too short.

photo(1)Tomorrow is my last day at Facebook and after that I plan to take a few months to properly rest and reflect on the crazy year I just had.

In September, I’ll be moving back to London to start the MA Magazine Journalism at City University – a course I’ve wanted to do for about a decade but never got the chance because life was too busy passing me by. I may be the oldest student in the class, probably doing my knitting in the back row and drinking cups of tea while the rest of the class go out drinking, but that’s ok. I’m doing it for me.

I will be forever grateful for the amazing times I had working at both Facebook and Bloomberg – two brilliant companies that taught me so much. From the lifelong friends I made at Bloomberg, to the people at Facebook who supported me through the hardest time of my life over the past year. I’m so lucky to have worked with so many talented, inspiring people at both companies and I don’t regret a single moment of my career so far.

When I was on sick leave, a colleague wrote a career testimonial in which the main message was “Find what you love”. A couple of weeks before me, she took heed of her own advice and jumped bravely into an unknown world of book-writing and doing what she loves. She didn’t even need cancer to spur her on.

When I announced my resignation from Facebook a couple of weeks ago, a big smile spread across my manager’s face. While there is the smallest possibility that he was just pleased to get rid of me, I’m pretty sure the smile indicated he was happy because he knew I’d found what I loved.

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