Before I faced cancer I always naively believed that a survivor was someone who defeated something and that was that! I have now come to realise there is so much more that comes with being a survivor, whether it be mentally or physically.
I want to share something with you that made me want to write this piece today.
I was in hospital waiting to see my plastic surgeon and a lady came and sat next to me.We got talking and people who know me know I am very open about my journey. This lady told me about her sister who passed away from lung cancer and like many others, she said I was lucky to still be here and survive the disease.
When this was first said to me not long after my treatment, I didn't think much of it but now I am 20 months on from my last chemo and I find this hard to digest!!
Surviving something like cancer is not lucky, I am of the belief that it's the outcome of treatment and how positive you are. There is nothing lucky about having to endure chemo, face life changing surgery and radiotherapy.
Yes, I am clear of cancer but I had to face the toughest time in my life to get to this point and that was not due to luck. I have never been lucky, as I also lost my mum and dad within 9 days of each other when I was of only 17/18 (both sides of my 18th birthday).
When cancer patients finish treatment, it is not the end, this is just the beginning for a survivor!
Not only do you have to get over the physical effects of treatment, whether it be chemo, radiotherapy or surgery but you also have the turmoil of dealing with the effects cancer has on your mental state.
There is always the "What if's''. My mental state is pretty positive, maybe not sane but I manage to keep my thoughts on track.
When I have a moment the thoughts of "what if my cancer comes back, what if I die, how will Nevaeh cope if I am not here, will I ever think how I used to?"
My Macmillan nurse told me it is normal to have these thoughts and taught me a great way of dealing with this. If the thoughts enter my head, I need to take a minute and visit my demons. I have to let myself have the minute but then put them in a box and forget about them until next time they creep up. This technique really works for me, I might look like a crazy lady for a few minutes but what's new!
I find I constantly worry when I get a cough or an ache! Could this be my cancer returning or a new cancer? It never stops, the checking of my breasts (I can now say breasts) and I am mentally exhausted but I just plod along.
Survivors will always be over vigilant when it comes to their health. Before my diagnosis, if I got a cough I would think it's a cold, now I contemplate whether this could be a symptom of a cancer! We just have to channel this in a healthy way and not drive our state of minds into darkness.
When you have faced death, your whole world shifts and your outlook on life changes for the better. This could be the people you associate with, how you deal with certain situations and just living your best life.
You will cut people out, you will want to face your fears and just appreciate every minute you breath this air on earth.
Being a survivor also means annual check ups, which in turn you have to deal with Scanxiety. Although everything might be fine, the worry of something showing up weighs heavy on your mind and also your body physically. I get no sleep for many nights leading up to my scans, which I am graced with 50 shades of dark circles under my eyes.
The future for a cancer survivor can be masked by negative thoughts but on the flip side we want to make the most of the second chance we have struggled to fight for.
It's an ongoing battle that we have to live with for the rest of our lives but I will always fight, as will many others!
So to be a survivor, it's not luck, it's proof that something was sent our way to kill us but determination, strength, grit and positivity prevailed.