Letter From a Survivor

A letter from a Survive and Thrive programme participant

While finding breast cancer awareness month particularly overwhelming this year as all my one-year anniversaries of diagnosis, surgery and chemo were passing and approaching, a friend from college shared a video his company had recently produced for the Marie Keating foundation called #notjustpink.

As I watched, everything about the video was relatable, it was like I felt less alone in all the emotions I had been feeling.

After messaging Tommy to let him know how much the video spoke to me, he mentioned a course the Marie Keating Foundation were running called Survive and Thrive, and of course the name had me straight away.

If there was anything, I was going to put my energy into following a cancer diagnosis it was surviving and thriving! Not knowing what was involved I signed up for the course straight away and was accepted onto it. Little did I know that this course was the exact step I needed in helping me navigate my way to and through the next stage of the journey I have been on.

Being 2020 this course was all online which I’m sure could turn some people off but after our first day when myself and all of the other fabulous ladies shared our stories it was obvious that there was a connection and that this new way of doing things was going to work.

Although our diagnosis, surgeries and treatment plans may have been different we were all on a similar path and had all gone through a life changing experience. Over the course of the few weeks, I listened to some inspiring stories, got some amazing advice and learnt how to deal with certain issues and situations that I didn’t realize I even needed guidance in. Even though we were in 12 different houses from one end of the country to the next, it all of a sudden felt like we were in a room together, with the perks of being in the comfort of our own homes or own bed with hot water bottle in my case!

From decision making to dealing with fatigue, anxiety, body changes and everything in between, it was all covered and there wasn’t one topic that I didn’t take something from whether it was directly from the course or through the experiences of the other ladies. The breakout rooms throughout the course allowed us time to chat between two or three which created an extra safe space within the group, although we could share what was discussed with the group when we returned it was nice to have time to get to know each other a bit more and share more detail of certain problems we may be facing or have recently been through.

Each week we created an action plan, this for me was amazing, in the past I found it easy to pressure on myself to eat well, drink water, take my vitamins, exercise, meditate, journal, sleep well, the list goes on and I would end up getting overwhelmed but as Addie pointed out I wasn’t failing, rather just hadn’t found a way that worked best for me. So gradually introducing healthy achievable habits over the past 6 weeks has really changed my mind set. Over the duration of the course, I have been getting my 10,000 steps most days, stretching more, learning how to meditate and calm my mind, eating a well balanced diet and am now feeling more confidence in not only myself but in my health too. Speaking with women who have similar fears and anxieties about their health, hearing and learning new ways of coping with these fears and feeling less alone in my own fears is probably one of the most beneficial things I’ve learned this year.

If there was anyone considering this course I would tell them without a doubt, do it, and get involved, take all the advise and information offered and give back any they may have themselves, because no matter how small, there is someone who can help with how you’re feeling or someone who needs to hear how you have helped yourself through some of the toughest times, everyone in the ‘room’ with you is there for the same reason, because they want to grow and become the best thriving versions of themselves, and I know after the six weeks it’s definitely brought me closer to that version of me. Yvonne and Marie have both been incredible, sharing their own stories and getting involved with the group actions plans it was a pleasure to be guided by them through the six weeks. And to the ladies it was an honor to share this experience with them from some very emotional conversations to even better laughs and I look forward to sharing many more zoom moments with them in 2021!!