Living Life Beyond Cancer

on Tuesday, 14 March 2017. Posted in Blog Tags cancer, cancer survivor, CancerCare, chemotherapy, hypnotherapy, Lancaster, Sarah Livingstone, With Love and Light

Guest Blog by Sarah Livingstone

So, I’ve heard about blogs but haven’t actually ever written one and I’m not even sure I understand what it actually is! 

Sarah Livingston croppedBut I wanted to share my story because when I have in the past, people have responded positively….so here goes!

The Mammogram

In 2013, I was extremely fit and hoping to train for an ‘Ironman’ event. I ate very healthily and exercised regularly. I had previously found several lumps in my right breast, all cysts or fatty lumps, so when I found a new one, I wasn’t even too bothered.

Randomly, I was called up for a mammogram. Then the dreaded letter followed. “Oh don’t worry this happens to lots of women and it’s highly likely it is nothing at all,” they said.

Then the appointment with the Consultant. “Miss Livingstone, you have breast cancer, three tumours.” (Strangely, three is my favourite number!)

I was married at the time and the love of my life, my dog Finn was 15. A double mastectomy was waiting for me.

The day before the operation, I paced the living room and sweated continuously with fear. The next day it was done. I made myself look straight away, “Face the fear”, I thought.

I watched my partner become distant and cold and looking for the nearest exit….gone.

Dark thoughts

I started chemo and then had to find a new home. Being stubborn I didn’t want to ask for help so I moved myself. It was exhausting.

My beautiful boy Finn then went off his legs and I had to drive him to the vets, singing all the way so he didn’t cotton on. I curled up on his sofa and wept for days and I confess, at this point, I had some very dark thoughts.

sarah l and finn

I had two rounds of chemo and decided it wasn’t for me. I declined the rest and all the medications offered. It’s a very personal decision and I’ve always taken alternative treatments, which I am doing now. My belief is I would rather live a shorter life but a full one, without side effects of anything. Who knows if it has worked, and, when I reach my ‘5 years clear’ in 2018, you’re all invited to a massive party!

On the edge

I eventually went back to work but of course, I was a very different person. I felt lost, completely lost. I found great support with online groups because although my friends are amazing, unless you’ve been through it you can’t get it and I was desperate to talk to someone who got it, someone who understood being taken to the edge, thinking you’re going to die, soon, and trying to come to terms with that.

I think I was in shock for months, actually, possibly a whole year to be honest. I wasn’t happy at work anymore. All of a sudden, it felt I was getting a different perspective on life and it felt important. I was determined every day was going to count, not a day was to be wasted. I gave up my job in the NHS and headed south, to Cornwall. I had savings so I was fortunate I could afford to take some time off. I still felt like I was in shock but I never doubted my decision to give up chemo.

Sarah Livingston treatment

A new direction

After a year, I decided to return back north and I came to CancerCare. I’m not sure what I would have done without them. I felt desperate, I wasn’t sleeping and I couldn’t relax. I now have a lovely friend Georgie who sorted me out with Hypnotherapy.

I felt very strongly that I needed to give myself direction. I originally trained as a potter and had missed being creative for years. It was something I just never got around to; even though I knew it made me very happy. I also wanted to somehow, help others. I had come across cremation ash being made into glass in Cornwall. The market was limited so I decided to create something new and I set about designing. I wasn’t going to give up, I was determined.

love and light2

Every sale a donation is made to CancerCare and the RSPCA. I felt like I had started to live and had a much better understanding of life. I love my new business with passion.

Losing the Fear

One thing that I have learnt, that was the most important thing, was to lose the fear of dying. It had previously been constantly on my mind, ‘Was it coming back? Will it get me? Will I die?’

Will I die – of course I will! We all do, but there are lots of things I want to do first. I spent so much time focusing on fear I wasn’t living at all- it was all I thought about! I slowly taught myself to start looking at things differently and putting everything into perspective. I have a very strong instinct that I’m going to be ok and remain cancer free. I’ve had this feeling for a long time now.

Being Grateful…and a warrior!

And - I am truly grateful for my cancer (yes, I did say that!) because it caused me to change direction. I now LIVE. It has taught me to know myself better than I have ever done before and without cancer, I would never have had that opportunity. My confidence and my self-respect have grown massively. I’ve met amazing friends I would never have found. I feel like a WARRIOR. When I have enough money I’m going to buy myself a Mitsubishi Warrior, just because it says that on the side and I’m thinking it’s going to be very nice to drive anyway!

love and light

Sarah is a local artist based just outside Lancaster. Visit her website to see more of her gorgeous glass creations at http://www.withloveandlight.co.uk/