02/05/2014 13:54 BST | Updated 02/07/2014 06:59 BST

Living With Secondary Breast Cancer: What It Is Like to Retire at 39

There is an old saying: 'No one on their deathbed ever said: "I wish I'd spent more time at the office"'. But for me I know the opposite is true. I love work, it's who I am. I am an achiever and work feeds my achievers addiction perfectly. The second part of the saying is based around spending time with family and of course I would have loved to spend time with my family. But I was never able to have one.

My cancer journey has been going on for 10 years now. When it started I was just getting into the frame of mind of having serious relationships; getting married and having children. As things have turned out, I've had to sit on the sidelines watching my friends do it instead. After I was diagnosed I knew I would never have children. I felt I couldn't bring a child into the world knowing their mother might not be around for their life. In fact it was this same principle that kept me from finding Mr Right, how could I fall in love with someone and him fall in love with me if we weren't going to grow old together?

So instead of all that I had work, a career and achievement. Of course I hate the alarm going off in the morning and Mondays suck, but once in the office, I'm in my element. When I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer I became even more ambitious and went for the role of a lifetime: Chairman of BIFM - the professional body for facilities management, and I got it.

During the last three years I have worked a day job of sorts when I've had the strength but my work with BIFM never stopped. I've spoken at conferences around the UK and Europe; I've travelled in the USA and Malaysia. In fact, I was even on national radio in Malaysia! I've been on television; I've met amazing people; been to the Houses of Parliament; opened the industry exhibition and my favourite memory is speaking at the industry awards night at the Grosvenor House Hotel, with 1300 industry peers watching.

I loved that role, it was my legacy and despite my term due to run out in July, after the doctors appointment nine weeks ago I had to make the agonising decision that it was time to resign. The next part of my journey now is to let go of the pressure, anxiety and drama that goes with such a big role. It was absolutely the right thing to do but...

Now I'm retired from the corporate world, everything I was proud of and I felt made me who I am has gone. I'm no longer a worker, a consultant, a chairman... I'm just a cancer patient and it makes me feel very small and insignificant. When people retire at 60+ they have years to prepare, adjust and think about what they are going to do, I've had weeks and I'm only 39.

I don't miss the alarm clocks, the commute, the stress, the deadlines but I miss feeling useful, being needed, the challenge, the problem solving and the camaraderie. Sitting on my sofa watching Escape to the Country (or Escape to the Continent for variety) just isn't the same and although I do have my cats for company, you just can't quite get the same level of banter going with them.

I've really struggled with the change and initially hid in bed for a week. Thankfully a friend pulled me out and made me go to lunch at her house. It was only when I was crying at the thought of leaving the house that I realised how down I was. A few days after that I'm still not doing great, but at least I'm out and about a little bit more.

I know all the platitudes about how there is more out there, I'm more than my work, etc. But I need to grieve for yet another thing cancer has taken away from me. All this damn disease seems to do is take, take and take. It is also a very real indication of the way this journey is going. I've known since my secondary diagnosis this would happen one day, but at the time you put that day away in the back of your head and pretend it's not there. Now all I can see in my future are a lot more milestones of those horrible things you know are going to happen but you don't want them to.

Let's hope I can find some milestones that are a bit happier and more fulfilling.

For more information about secondary breast cancer, visit