I was diagnosed at the end of January 2017, not many months after I had turned 48 years old. There is no ‘good time’ to get cancer, but this just felt like it must be some sort of mistake.
I already had a lot going on in my life – working two jobs, which I knew were ending in May, doing PhD research with lymphoma cancer survivors, and being a single mother to two teenagers. I did not have time for cancer and I definitely couldn’t afford to have cancer financially, emotionally or physically.
Thinking I had a secure job and wanting to reduce some travel time to work and school, we had recently moved, and that meant a huge mortgage. I was realising a dream to get my PhD in something I am passionate about – cancer survivorship – but I wasn’t letting it take all my time. My children still depended on a fully functioning mother. Life was challenging, but it had felt manageable (most days).
I have been a cancer nurse my whole career, so I know age is no barrier, but suddenly I felt I was too young – I hadn’t had a chance to do all the things I wanted to do. I felt too old to contemplate trying to get through all the treatments and start living a ‘new normal’. I am always telling people that cancer does change you, and life after treatment will be different.
So now I have to start living the suggestions I make to my patients: take it easy on yourself and don’t feel guilty for putting yourself first. Acknowledge side effects like fatigue and cognitive impairment are ongoing. And regardless of your age, hope for a long and fulfilled future.