What Cancer Has Taught Me


I always try to look for the silver lining in life. No matter how bad or sad the situation, I believe that if you take a step back and look at the situation objectively, removing any emotion, there is always at least a sliver of good to be found. (I wrote about this previously in A Tribute To My Sister – Finding Positives In Loss).


After being told of my Cancer diagnosis, I could feel myself shut down (my defence mechanism whenever anything hurts me; I have no control over it, I feel the stone walls go up and my capability to connect or feel anything of any note leaves me) and I knew my brain was closing down to allow itself time and space to process what it had been told.


Thankfully, 6-days after the diagnosis my brother got married. The timing for this was perfect for me, as I was so incredibly excited about the big day and so brimming with happiness, that the sheer level of emotion I felt for that stopped the grey cloud of misery from coming down completely.


And so, with my brain having this jolt of absolute joy fired through it, I began to process the news in a different way. Floating on a wave of positivity after seeing my brother and his WIFE (!) share the happiest day of their life, I began to think about what I want my life to be, how I want the diagnosis to enhance my world going forward, and all the positives that can come out of the situation.


Now, as crap as it has been, I feel like this health issue of mine has the potential to be life-changing. It’s given me such a kick up the backside, reminding me that I’m not immortal, that I only have one life and that tomorrow is promised to nobody, so we all need to make the most of today.


I’ve had such a lot of time to think as I rest up on the sofa with my leg resting on the coffee table and I can honestly say I have a frisson of excitement for the future. I suppose you could say I’ve had an epiphany of sorts.


Of course, I would rather not have had this nasty little critter of a disease in my body, but you can’t change the past. You can, however, let it change your future, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.


Here’s what having Cancer has taught me…


True Friends
Cliche alert! Thought I’d get this one out the way nice and early in the post! One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in the past few weeks is about who my real friends are. People who I thought would be there for me, who I have bent over backwards for in the past, haven’t been seen for dust, but people I never expected have surprised me with the amount of love and care they have sent my way. I have felt like the luckiest girl in the world with the sheer level of support and friendship I have been shown and it’s something that will always stay with me. Friendship isn’t necessarily who you’ve know the longest, or shared the most drunken nights of laughter with in the past, it’s about who is there when the chips are down and proves themselves as being well and truly in your corner helping your fight your battles when it counts.




Love Your Body
Perhaps an obvious one, but this has given me such a wake-up call about my body. Not just in terms of needing to eat better and exercise more (both of which I am so on the case with once I’m up and about again) but moreso in terms of loving this body of mine.
I have never been happy with the way I look, but in the past 12-months I can honestly say I’ve hit rock bottom with myself. I literally despise what I see in the mirror, from the shape of my body, to the shape of my eyes, to the way my hair is. As a result of this, I more or less, I don’t know, let myself go? I’ve found myself in a daily uniform of jeans and a shapeless jumper, no jewellery and basic make-up. I felt like if I made any more effort than that I was just ‘polishing a turd’.
However, my mindset has now changed. Sure, I don’t look like a supermodel, nor will I ever. Sure, my hair is a bit poofy and isn’t sleek and gorgeous, nor will it ever be. But, this body of mine is the only one I have – or will ever have – and I need to love it. To love it, to take care of it, and to live within it is a privilege that only I have and I should be treating it as the special, unique thing it truly is.
I haven’t changed overnight, I still don’t like what I see when I look in the mirror, but from now on, every single day I’m going to make the effort to love this flesh carriage of mine.


Wear What You Like
As a sort of roll-on from the point above, I’ve decided that I’m going to start dressing as I like rather than in an effort to hide myself and vanish into the background. My jeans-and-jumper combo make me almost invisible in the world; a shapeless mass that nobody sees, but when being a shapeless mass of nothingness makes you feel even more rubbish about yourself, then you find yourself in a vicious circle.
I’m still a podge and will continue to be for a few months until I manage to get my exercise and healthy eating regime bedded in, but even if I remain bigger than I would ideally like to be, I need to stop trying to hide myself and start dressing in clothes that make me happy to wear, rather than those that make me want to eye-roll at myself when I look in the mirror. I need to start being unashamedly me – every single dimple and roll of me.


Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
I am one of the world’s worst (or best, depending how you look at it) worriers. I have an unending capability to worry about absolutely everything and nothing at the same time. I’ll wake in the night and fret about something, laying awake in the dark in a state of near-panic, but come the morning when I wake up for the day ahead, I can’t remember what was causing me so much stress. However, really, all of the things I find myself worrying about, what do they mean in the long run? Not a lot. The only things that truly matter in life are the people around you, your health and living a good life.


Let It Go
I feel like I might be the only person in the world who hasn’t watched Frozen yet, but that’s by-the-by, what I’m talking about here is letting go of bad feeling and not holding grudges. We’re only human, things happen, people let us down, our feelings get hurt, but as the saying goes, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” From now on I don’t want any negativity in my life, and that includes that induced by myself by holding on to hurt caused in the past. I don’t want to hold on to grudges any more, I don’t want to hold on to bad feeling, I just want to have an open, happy heart.




One word but so powerful. The biggest thing I’ve taken out of this situation is that I want to live. I really want to LIVE. I want to explore and have adventures, I want to learn, I want to achieve, I want to have dreams and fulfil them, I want to dance, I want to laugh, I want to love. Of course there will be days where I lay on the sofa with Ben and the animals, wearing my comfiest but ugliest clothes, binge watching Netflix programmes interrupted only by intermittent naps, but on a whole I want to really live my life and make the most of the fact that I’m here. That I’m still here.


Life is so precious but perhaps the one thing we all take the most for granted. It’s there for us, 24/7 and so we assume it always will be, but that’s simply not the case. On our graves will be marked two dates – the date we were born and the date we died – two dates considered important. But it’s not those two dates that mean the most, it’s every single date that falls in between, and I intend to make the most of them.



Penny xx


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