When Claire was diagnosed with breast cancer, she followed doctors’ advice and took the necessary steps to fight it. But 18 months later, the cancer had returned, and Claire was given only a year to live. She felt utterly defeated, especially since she did everything possible to mitigate the risk of the cancer returning. With limited time and options, Claire decided to do what she could within her control to beat the cancer again. This was despite doctors telling her she only had a 2% chance of survival. This is Claire’s inspiring story on second chances and how she found love along the way.
In 2014, Claire was your typical 39 year old woman; a successful career woman and mother. Life was good, but her world was shattered when she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. When you are young and healthy, and you hear the words “you have cancer”, it just doesn’t feel real. As Claire describes it, “It felt like a terrible dream, like it was happening to somebody else.”
Nothing was as life-and mind-altering as coming to terms with this diagnosis. Nevertheless, Claire accepted the fate life had suddenly sprung on her. Upon the doctor’s advice, she underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During this time Claire was focused on her health and beating the cancer, which meant romance was the last thing on her mind. Yet, the universe had other ideas.
A New Beginning
Claire and Barry had been introduced before Claire’s diagnosis, but romance didn’t evolve from their initial friendship. Nevertheless, at the time of diagnosis, Barry was a pillar of strength, offering his help and expertise in the Neuro Linguistic Programming space, and encouraging Claire to channel her inner strength and ‘mind body connection’ to assist her healing.
It’s funny how life works itself out. From an outsider’s perspective, cancer generally signifies the beginning of the end. Yet to Claire and Barry it felt like the start of something, it wasn’t the end.
Although romance was the last thing on Claire’s mind, over the coming months she couldn’t shake the growing admiration and love for Barry that was evolving. By now Claire was bald, going through rounds of chemotherapy, with reconstructive surgery yet to come and certainly didn’t feel her best. But that didn’t deter Barry, and a loving relationship was formed. Eventually they moved in together with Claire’s son and became a family.
1 Year to Live
Claire meticulously followed all the doctors instructions during her initial treatment and by 2014 she thought she had beaten the cancer. But life can be cruel, and at a routine check-up 18 months later, Claire and Barry heard the most devastating news. The doctor turned to her and said; “I’m sorry Claire, the cancer has returned in 4 places in your lymph nodes. It’s likely that you have only 1 year to live. You need to get your affairs in order.”
How do you react to this news? Silence, is all Claire could manage.
Barry asked, “What chance do we have of beating this?” The answer was 2%. “We can work with that.”, said Barry.
It took some time for Claire and Barry to process the news. Once again, Claire was faced with her own mortality. How does it feel? “Crippling.”, was Claire’s answer, but Barry was hopeful.
Claire was alive, and that’s all that mattered. Nobody knew how much time they would have together, but Barry was determined to overcome this battle with Claire and kept reassuring her that they were going to beat this.
Sometimes it is challenging to remain positive when the war you think you won returns with such force. When you are in this position, you need to have someone as positive and loving as Barry by your side. The passion he had for the woman he loved drove Barry to propose. Planning a wedding at a time like this is bittersweet, but they both knew deep down that they wanted to take this step and be united as husband and wife no matter what the future held.
A Second Chance
With Barry’s unwavering support and her own determination to live, Claire decided once again to do whatever she could to survive. This led Claire to give alternative natural treatments a shot. She boosted her immune system with natural remedies, meditated, exercised, cut sugar out of her diet and worked with a coach of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to release the cancer.
Despite the diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer being confirmed by a team of expert oncologists, Claire defied the odds. After 4 months of receiving alternative treatments, she was told that the cancer had “resolved”. Claire’s ability and willingness to think outside the box and do her own research, all led her to being declared cancer free.
If there is anything Claire learnt from this journey, it is these 2 points;
- Listen to your body
The mind and body connection are powerful. Claire learnt the importance of having an open mind and didn’t take the doctor’s prognosis as gospel.
Sometimes doctor’s don’t get it right. Our immune system is capable of resolving cancer cells naturally and with the right support we’re able to amplify that process. The mind is one of the most powerful systems, and there’s still so much to discover about it.
- Letting go
Claire like so many of us, was fiercely independent and had a lot of structure in her life. She was organised and liked to be in control. Despite facing unbearable odds, Claire learned to accept what is, focus on what she can control and continue to live.
Never Give Up
There is always hope, and that hope is sometimes changing. It means something different for each person in any given situation. When one doctor tells you there is nothing more that can be done, they are saying they’ve exhausted their options. Hope may come in the second, third, or fourth opinion, or totally evolve into a different form. Never give up.
Claire has moved on from re-living the early days of diagnosis and trying to make sense of what had happened. She is a little battered and bruised but wiser, braver and with a quiet inner strength that reminds her every day of what she has achieved. Cancer changed Claire in many ways and taught her a lot. Despite the trauma it caused, she can reflect on what she’s learned and appreciates the new perspective it’s given her.