Published on: Aug 13, 2012 @ 2:45
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2006. This event changed my life beyond recognition. In February 2010 my cancer returned, having spread to my liver, bones & lymph nodes, with a diagnosis of incurable secondary cancer. After fighting for my life during a period of intensive chemotherapy, my cancer was kept at bay. Since September 2011, I have been on successive rounds of chemotherapy which have indeterminate impact on the disease, that has now spread to my lungs. My spirit is incandescent, inspiring me to love life even more deeply, but my body struggles daily to weather the storm of living with cancer.
Since and between the rigours of cancer treatment, my zest for life has driven me to constantly strive for meaningful achievements, with some fantastic outcomes that I’m proud to be a part of:
- Throughout my progressing disease, I have fought to retain contact with Ananda, my beloved teenage son, whose father has thrown continuous obstacles in the way of our precious time together. Dauntless, our relationship has been strengthened by the struggle. We are growing to understand what it means to have my shifting health condition entwined with our connection, taking time to build shining memories and cherished keepsakes of our shared love.
- Since my initial treatment for incurable secondary cancer in 2010, I have pursued the cause of cancer survivorship services, so that people are supported within the NHS to re-engage with the new life that they wish to live with cancer. That can be medical understanding, diet & lifestyle programmes, returning to work, travel, parenthood or retirement and transformative life questions. My greatest triumph so far is to have been invited to join the London Survivorship Commissioning group.
- I applied for and secured a place on the UCH Macmillan Patient Experience Board, set up to oversee a culture change in cancer services to accompany the launch of the UCLH hospital’s brand new, state of the art, Cancer Centre in April 2012. Naturally, I volunteered to lead on Survivorship Services Support.
- Mark & I attended two exciting Macmillan Centenary Receptions: at No.10 Downing Street, hosted by Samantha Cameron; and at Parliament, hosted by the All Party Parliamentay Group (APPG) for Cancer – where I was on the bill of speakers between Ciaran Devane, CEO of Macmillan Cancer Support and Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP, Secretary of State for Health. I also attended the APPG’s Annual Britain Against Cancer Conference in December 2011, where all the who’s who in cancer services are to be found.
- I was featured as a Case Study in the Human Rights Review 2012 for the Equality and Human Rights Commission with a video testimonial. This helped Macmillan Cancer Support to promote a Human Rights focused Values Based Standard of cancer care, which places cancer patient outcomes of quality and dignity as the standards to be achieved. When integrated into cancer care, this will effect the way NHS services are commissioned, run and evaluated.
- When I completed my first round of treatment in 2007, and following much soul searching, I opted to change career. In 2007 I obtained three qualifications in Mediation (civil, community & workplace) and become a pro-bono mediator at Camden Mediation Service.
- For three years I explored the domain of local politics, becoming chair of my local labour ward, attending the annual conference as a delegate from my constituency and coming within a hair’s breath of standing as a local councillor before recognising that I’m not cut out for blindly standing behind every choice my party makes – and thank goodness I stepped away, because my Miliband was not chosen.
- Over an intensive yearlong course in 2008-09, I studied for a Masters in International & Commercial Dispute Resolution at the Uni of Westminster, School of Law. With a huge graft I attained a distinction in both my dissertation about International Water Disputes and my overall LLM degree.
- Lived and loved and played and travelled and baked to my heart’s content!