Today marks six years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I’m not quite sure how to sum up everything that’s happened in the last 24 hours, let alone the last year or six years. So here’s a list, in no particular order, of random thoughts and people who have inspired me. Continue reading
Category Archives: Emotional Health
HuffPost: Is 30 Too Old to Start Again?
I was a bit nervous about writing this one. Despite everything I’ve shared on my blog over the last year and a half – fertility, periods, dating, the works – it somehow feels more personal talking about my career and why I decided to do an unpaid internship at the grand old age of 30 (/31).
But I figure at least half of my friends would love to quit their jobs and start again if they could, so maybe some of you will find this relevant.
Anyway, here it is, my latest blog for the Huffington Post:
Is 30 Told Old to Start Again?
As always, let me know what you think, and Happy New Year. Laura xx
The Trauma Trigger
It turns out the mere mention of the word ‘cannula’ (a thin tube inserted into the vein to administer drugs) is enough to make me cry.
I had gone to the Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester for my MRI scan – a routine check-up on my breasts that’s recommended for women under 40 because it’s more reliable and doesn’t involve harmful radiation.
I have never been one to dread scans or be afraid of them in any way. I sailed through 33 rounds of radiotherapy because it was just a case of going into a room, lying down under a big whirring machine and waiting. No pain, no dark tunnels. So, for my first ever breast MRI on Thursday, I breezed into the radiology department, all smiles and regular heartbeat, expecting to be in and out within an hour or so.
I just had no idea I was going to need a cannula. It was just a pin prick so they could insert some dye half-way through the scan, to allow my boob matter to show up on the images (or something). It was actually the smallest type of cannula available, used for babies, no less. (I say this so that you know just how much of a wimp I am).
But as soon as I heard the word ‘cannula,’ I burst into tears in front of the nurse, because to me, a cannula isn’t just a little needle-like thing. To me, a cannula is synonymous with chemo. Just a whiff of the saline going into my arm was enough to make me want to vomit, bringing with it all the traumatic memories of six months of chemo. The nights in the hospital when it took three different nurses to finally (and painfully) get a cannula into my hand, and the gut-wrenching feeling of those toxic drugs seeping into the veins…
The nurse handed me a bunch of tissues and told me a story about how she can’t go down the catfood aisle in the supermarket because it reminds her of the cat she lost three years ago. This story of association was supposed to make me feel better but, of course, she didn’t know she was talking to Cat Lady Supremo, for whom any tale of dead, unhappy or injured cats is enough to bring on the waterworks. So, naturally, that just made me feel worse.
So I lay there, horizontal, on the MRI machine with my face squashed into a squashy pad looking down at a white space, tears streaming down my face, cannula in arm, strapped to the machine, for about 40 minutes. As we all know, when you cry, your nose runs (especially when you’ve had flu for the last week), and when you’re lying face down, without the use of your arms because they’re strapped to a machine, there’s nothing you can do about it. So I lay and watched a large bogey slowly drip, drip, drip, along with my tears, until it finally hit the machine. I hope it doesn’t interfere with my results.
It really wasn’t a painful experience, and the staff in the hospital were amazing, but sometimes it just takes a trigger to bring back every horrible thing you go through with cancer. I’ve done a lot of reflecting over the past few weeks and I’ve been quite emotional.
The results won’t be back for a while yet, but hopefully it’ll be another all-clear. And – with any luck – I won’t have to go through all that again for another year.
HuffPost Dating After Cancer: “Single, Bald Female (30) Seeks…”
A few months ago, I put myself on an Internet dating website. I was still having radiotherapy for my breast cancer and barely had a few sprouts of hair on my head, but after eight months of being cooped up at home during surgery and chemotherapy, I was more than ready to put myself back out there.
The question was how to advertise myself. You see, an Internet dating profile is like a CV. Just as you have to find a way to explain the massive cancer-shaped hole in your resumé, you also have to think about how to factor your illness into future relationships.
Should I post an old picture of myself with flowing locks and bushy brows and not mention that I ever had cancer? Or should I use a photo of my natural, bald self and come clean about my possible infertility, ongoing treatment and scarred breast?
To read the rest of this article on the Huffington Post website, please click here.
Vita: Life, Disconnected
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.
I’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.
Find What You Love: The Next Chapter
The 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.
So, 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.
Then 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.
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.
Vita: Making Friends With Cancer
A few weeks ago, back in my hometown of Huddersfield, I bumped into a girl from school. I hadn’t seen her for at least 15 years and could barely remember her name, but I did the courteous thing and said, “Hi, how are you?”
“I’m fine,” she nodded. “But how about you? Are you fully better now? I’ve been following your blog.”
And that’s when I realised just how far-reaching and powerful social media can be.
To read the rest of this post in Breast Cancer Care UK’s Vita Magazine, click the link below:
Coping With Cancer’s Ugly Sister: Guilt
I’m one of those people who feels guilty about everything.
Guilty for buying a new dress instead of giving money to the homeless guy; guilty for reading girlie glossy magazines instead of the newspaper; guilty about spending £2.40 on a coffee when I could make one at home for free. Guilty about having cancer.
To read the rest of this Huffington Post blog, please click the link below: