• Kathryn Hulland

2 years on

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

I find myself looking back on the cancer experience this time of year, Facebook shows me memories from 2019 and I look at the photos of me and Grace smiling, little did we know that our world was about to be thrown in to turmoil in the next few days. As others thought of Christmas and plans for 2020 I was petrified I was about to be told I had incurable cancer, they had prepared me a little for that because of the type and size of tumour.

This time last year I was dealing with a lot of anxiety still over reoccurrence and chances the cancer cells did escape and it will be back and incurable, I am pleased that this has eased over time. It is still there knocking on the door on occasion, especially when new pains arise which aren't my normal, the first thought is it's cancer. Now these thoughts aren't with me every day, it's only when they are triggered, they don't overwhelm me all the time the way they used to. I find my practices are helping me to let them go and the techniques I use allow them to move on more easily, I don't wake in the night with panic attacks any more, the flashbacks are far less and I sleep pretty well!

I am still living with a huge amount of pain and fatigue as a result of the cancer treatment, it has seriously exacerbated my existing health conditions but I am finding ways forward. I am taking my time, looking after myself and have support around me for which I eternally grateful.

The cancer may be gone but it will never leave entirely. I sometimes find myself worrying about Grace, though I did not have the heredity genes for breast cancer the fact that myself and my mum had the same type means Grace is very high risk. At least we are aware and I pray firstly she never has to experience it but if she does treatments will hopefully have come on a long way by then! I think the only thing worse than being told you have a serious illness is to be told your child has one, I would hate her to experience all the things I have! Worrying however won't help or change anything, so I acknowledge the thoughts and let them move on rather than keep dwelling further.

It is Grace I find myself thinking of more than ever this year, those images of her at 2 years old seems to be kicking off the mum guilt a little! I had to turn her routine upside down, I remember our last "boobie feed" before bed and my tears that fell. I had to leave bedtimes to others because she would just scream because I couldn't feed her and I was distraught with the impact the diagnosis was already having. She'd then scream because it wasn't me putting her to bed. I'd have to go somewhere I couldn't hear her, it was heartbreaking.

There were times she'd be banging on my locked bedroom door but I was too ill to be with her. I was hospitalised away from her for days, for the first time in her life I wasn't there for her and she couldn't visit.

In the midst of this she'd start preschool!

I look back now and I feel sad things didn't go the way I wanted, I also feel grateful I didn't have to suddenly wean a new born baby and I'm still here to look back, it could have been far worse.

I also look back today at the photos and videos from that time and actually among all that horror there are so many smiles and happy memories made, and she is fine, she's amazing! In fact because I was off work we probably spent more time together overall! I got through it, we got through it, she holds no grudge (I think - maybe that's why she wakes me up at 5.30am every morning....).

I'm forever grateful I was here to see her start school, I've met people through cancer who aren't now here to say that. I plan to be here to see here finish school too!!

It's good to notice how far I have come in a year, to notice I'm not all consumed with fear and trauma is refreshing! I know I've come such a long way, with a long way still to go. When you're in the middle of a crisis it can be hard to see a way out and wonder if you'll ever recover, but you can. Piece by piece I continue to put myself back together, even my hair keeps growing, maybe it will be shoulder length by next Christmas!

My reiki, meditation, horses and nature have all been instrumental in moving forward and I am so excited to be well enough in myself to be back offering healing, a year ago I thought I'd never do it again!

Below are some photos and videos of the many smiles that always remained!

I will finish with this, my list of what cancer is and was:

Cancer is the fear Grace will lose her mum too soon and I won't see her grow up

Cancer is not something you brought on yourself

Cancer is middle of the night fear that grips you tight

Cancer is wanting to do so much but sometimes not even managing a shower

Cancer is needles, scans, IVs, machines, doctors and nurses in all coloured uniforms

Cancer is finding humour in the direst of times

Cancer makes you very vulnerable to other infections

Cancer is fear of re-occurrence, any pain can trigger the fear

Cancer is trauma, sometimes relived over and over

Cancer is being brave but vulnerable all at once

Cancer rips through your life, takes your job, money and passions

Cancer is ulcers, sore skin, losing nails and other weird bodily things

Cancer is finding tools to manage fear & anxiety

Cancer is erratic emotions, sometimes feeling like you're going mad

Cancer is feeling guilt

Cancer is looking into every possible option that might help cure and prevent

Cancer makes you realise just how strong you can be

Cancer is being cut open and parts removed

Cancer makes you realise it's OK to ask for help and say I'm not ok

Cancer is questioning treatment choices and decisions continuously

Cancer is having to stop breastfeeding before you are both ready

Cancer is looking at you daughter and bursting into tears

Cancer is fear of scans and results

Cancer is a whole new look! No hair, short hair, pink hair, purple hair. Hats, scarves, bandannas....

Cancer is not needing to shave anywhere..

Cancer can help find your power and confidence it can also help you lose it

Cancer is nausea during treatment

Cancer is finding all sorts of holistic and self care choices for mental and physical health

Cancer is meeting incredibly wonderful people.

Cancer is about realising what's truly important to you. What is most important to do with time left and the dreams you really want to follow.

Cancer is all encompassing fatigue

Cancer is being grateful for life, not taking it for granted

Cancer is gratitude for the incredible NHS

Cancer is gratitude for all the amazing support organisations trying to make life a little bit easier for every cancer patient

Cancer is gratitude for friends and family who kept me going, smiling and laughing

Cancer is gratitude for the small things, like being alive to hear the birds in the morning

Cancer is gratitude to medical science and research

Cancer is gratitude for all the alternative holistic methods I knew of to support me

Cancer is gratitude for my healthcare accessibility privilege

Cancer is not who I am but it has given me a different view on life

Cancer is not who I am but it will always be with me

Cancer is finding and clinging on to hope

Cancer is finding light in the dark

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