Thanks to advances in medical care, the rate of survival in the UK has doubled over the last 40 years and around half of cancer patients survive for ten or more years. It is therefore important to appreciate that cancer can have lasting psychological effects extending beyond treatment and into remission.
Having a life threatening illness feels like being on the next level. You're not on earth because you're closer to death, but you're not quite in heaven either because you're still alive. You're on this strange limbo level. Mikey feels the same. Being told from the age of four that you could die at any moment and you might not make it past childhood is a lot to deal with.
Today, I am very lucky to be able to say that my cancer registers on my life via two little pills taken daily, and six monthly CT staging scans to check my metastatic disease is still behaving. So I'm not being hard-hearted and selfish when I say that Breast Cancer Awareness Month means less to me now.
The summer of 2015 still seems a blur: I was on the emotional roller coaster that is cancer treatment. That May, aged 51, I had been called for a routine mammogram which showed signs of abnormal cellular activity - twinkling fragments of glitter on the computer screen staring back at me in the Consulting Room. I was dumbstruck and in shock...
October is here. In previous years the only thing guaranteed to bring tears to my eyes would be the cost of getting my boiler fixed as I fired up my central heating. Now, since my breast cancer, there are two new things that annually make me weep: Strictly Come Dancing and Pinktober (Breast Cancer Awareness Month).
Last year, aged 41 and the mother to two beautiful young boys, I was told the words that, at the time, brought my world crashing down: 'you've got breast cancer'. Now 19 months on, I can't believe how much my life has changed, but not necessarily in the way I thought it would when I was given the diagnosis.
During the past 20 years, I've had the pleasure of traveling the world to spread messages about breast health, education and the importance of medical research to find a cure, and I've felt such a strong, universal desire and need to make a difference in this fight that truly spans countries, languages and experiences. .
This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Let it be more than that. Let it be a celebration of the beautiful women we have lost, the amazing ones who are fighting, the ones who like me are taking actions to prevent breast cancer and of course a celebration of all those who stand by us and with us.
I read a suggestion that having cancer was a bit like seeing someone you'd rather avoid at a party. As far as you're concerned, you just want them gone. They're there, and there's nothing really you can do about it, so you just have to co-exist together until the end of the party. Then, when the party's over you'll go your separate ways.