My life changed 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, an experience that lead to my spiritual awakening. This is my story:
“I was diagnosed 15 years ago on the day before Good Friday. I was living in Nassau in the Bahamas where you have to have private medical healthcare. We had a good private policy which gave me a once-a-year ‘well woman’ check. In the February I had a mammogram and had been given the all clear but almost immediately I felt a lump. Because I’d had the all clear I waited for five weeks then I presented myself to the doctor. He wasn’t happy and sent me to hospital the next day for an ultrasound. Although I was feeling in very good health on the whole, with hindsight I realized that my immune system was running down.
I was super-fit and would run 5 km every morning and go to the gym. I realise now that this was my way of coping with the loss of identity and home I’d faced. I had sold my super-successful London UK PR Company and 8-bedroom house and moved to the Bahamas believing that I’d pulled it off and was able to retire at 40. Frustrated at being without status, job or voice and regarded as an ‘Ex-pat wife’ I became obsessive about my body and exercise. Bulimia had helped to keep the weight off and I was weighing in at about 90lbs.
Since about January I’d noticed that I was having to break my run with intermittent walking as I was tired. Even when I went for the ultrasound I was thinking it was probably just a cyst. But Bahamians are quite emotional and afterwards the nurse grabbed my hand and said: ‘Live every day as if it’s your last!’ And I was like, ‘Oh God, is this something serious then?’ I hadn’t even taken anyone to hospital with me. They asked me to come in the next day for a biopsy. My husband went with me and four days later I was told that it was cancer.
I was in complete shock.
The next day we went away on holiday to Eleuthera — an outer island. I went to a church service and it was all about death; it was Good Friday and all of a sudden I thought: ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to die.’ I couldn’t stop crying. I had youngish kids at the time so I had to be really practical and we had to look at lots of options really quickly. We did a lot of research and I ended up going to the Moffitt Cancer Centre in Tampa, which was absolutely outstanding. The Moffitt is an independent clinic whereas I felt that some of the other hospitals were in the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies (my niece was doing a PHD at the time and was in Washington DC and had access to lots of online research.
I was into very holistic health and tried not to even take headache tablets; I wanted to know that I was going somewhere where they would listen to me and I could make good choices, rather than having some chemotherapy-focused regime.
Three weeks later I was on the operating table. My initial diagnosis, of invasive lobular carcinoma, was not good. My Bahamian doctor advised a double mastectomy and the Moffitt carried out further tests. They have one of the most advanced breast MRI machines in the world and found five lumps in addition to the one confirmed as cancer across both breasts. They recommended double mastectomy, chemo and radiation treatment. Because of my young kids (who were back in the Bahamas) I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon straight away and the operation was booked in for a few days.
I suddenly started to feel very bulldozed by it all. I went to a local church in Tampa and passed out. I later found out that all the people in my home church in the Bahamas had been praying for me at the same time. I came out of the church and thought: ‘I just don’t think all those other lumps are cancer.’ I had a complete certainty about it. So I rang the hospital and they said they’d biopsy each new lump one after the other. They said that if all five were not positive then I would have defied all odds. And basically I did defy the odds. I had five biopsies and every one came back negative .I had a lumpectomy and brachytherapy radiation. I still bear the physical scars from that today.
We moved to Eleuthera and rented a 10 acre organic farm on a pink sand beach. For two years we lived on the land and sea. I distilled Noni juice. I meditated, read, watched positive movies. It was one of the most amazing and uplifting times of my life and I recovered fully. Sadly six months after my diagnosis my mother was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. My father had had a stroke six months prior to my diagnosis and became very depressed. I spent two years visiting hospitals for my treatment or to see my father or support my mother. It changed everything in my life. I was sadly unable to continue in my marriage or living overseas. I returned to the UK as a broke single mother and after a short time I moved into Charity Marketing (my background is Marcomms.) after a stint as Head of Innovation for a Business Development company.
I had been given a book when I discovered the cancer — Pain, The Gift No One Wants — about leprosy. I worked with The Leprosy Mission and helped people throughout the world. I felt that the cancer was all for a reason. It woke me up to my spiritual calling. It changed everything and now I’m an Advanced Rapid Transformational Therapist and I help people with all issues and I am compassionate and positive. I have a radio show and newspaper column and three best selling books. Cancer gave me this gift. It has made me compassionate and able to show and share my vulnerability. It enables me to say with congruency that I can help to heal you as I have done so repeatedly. It is a gift. I thank it. I also was angry that it took my mother from me. What I know is that everyone’s cancer journey is their own. Mine is positive. Others may not be. But there is support and hope in most places.”