In my earlier piece I mentioned I now have had breast cancer twice in my life. The first was in 1994 when I was in my 30s and the second time in May last year.
But this time there was a twist - I now work as the Director of Breakthrough Breast Cancer in Scotland. This means that my personal and professional worlds collided in quite a dramatic way. One of my dilemmas was how to handle this; to acknowledge the impact honestly in my day to day work but also protect my own vulnerabilities - not easy.
My answer was to write a blog. It has allowed me to park many of the thoughts, worries and frustrations somewhere and stop them filling my head. It's also a way to help people understand how it feels - a little window into the experience. I hope too that it reaches out to those who are going through it.
My own recent cancer diagnosis has reinforced for me, on so many levels, the importance of our work at Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Our focus is on finding the causes of breast cancer, detecting it early, diagnosing it accurately and ensuring the best care and treatment for all, wherever you live. Early detection and receiving best treatment and care are the reasons I am still here - and I want that for everyone. This gives me a real passion for Breakthrough's work and vision - a future free from the fear of breast cancer.
So what have I learned so far from this experience?
Well I have loved joining the ranks of bloggers. I find myself itching to write about what is on my mind, what I have learned, what has made me sit up and take notice. I know that every day and every week there is a resonance between my experience and what I do.
When I look back over entries I see how I am changing as time passes and how there is an ebb and flow to the experience. And my responses do change over time which reinforces for me how important it is not to rush decisions when you dealing with the shock of a diagnosis. So yes, I do have ups and downs and I hope my blogs helps me and others accept that as normal, rather than some kind of failure. The feedback I have had has been great. People seem to value that although I am a director of Breakthrough, I don't have all the answers, and I too trip and fall at times.
So last year I did face my demons and survived but it hasn't been easy. Also many others have been travelling their own breast cancer path at the same time and many of them have much harder journeys than I have. Courage comes in many forms I have found. It's in getting through the daily grind and impact of treatment, it's in taking care of others when you are struggling yourself, it's planning your funeral to deliver messages of love and thanks to those left behind. I have witnessed at close hand all of those forms of courage this year. That courage gives me inspiration to continue our life-saving and change the future for women affected by the disease. To ensure our work continues and saves precious lives and changes futures for all the people affected.
Like me, maybe this year you would like to play your part in supporting Breakthrough's work. Have a look at our website for just some ideas on how you can make a difference. You can campaign with us too, joining CAN to lend your voice or volunteer with the service pledge. I too have committed as Audrey (not the Director, you understand) to be a Breakthrough £1000 challenger. I'm having fun considering how best to raise it. This year my blog will also track my reconstructive surgery so watch this space...
I can't finish without sharing some of my reasons to be cheerful (a regular feature of my blog which I know people like). I work with great people who really make a difference - how fortunate am I? When I have considered my own bucket list I don't get much further than spending time with those I love and this year has allowed me to focus on that and treasure it too.
I know others have lost the fight for time so I want to give the last word to Angie whose funeral I covered in one of my blogs. When asked just prior to her death, was she frightened? She replied " After living with this awful disease for so many years, nothing on this earth can scare me now".
We want to end the uncertainties that make breast cancer so frightening, so that every woman knows for certain that she will be here, with the people she loves, for years to come. See our website to get involved www.breakthroughbreastcancer.org