Love yourself and find your tribe

Written by Rachel Hanley on 18th July, 2022

Rachel had primary cancer in 2011 and secondary cancer from 2017

If you are reading this then I am sorry, but I’ll also let you into a little secret, this elite club, which nobody wants to be a part of, well it can flourish given time, and blossom into something beautiful…

Yes really!

If you ask me next week, I will probably write you something different, but right now, I want to tell you that YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE, and the people you surround yourself with, and whom you do life with, are going to be your building blocks of strength by your side.

People will come alongside you in this moment and whether you share your story with them or not is a personal choice, but the universe sends us the right people to be by our side at the right time.

The flip side is that there will be those who leave your side because they can’t handle the ‘c’ word, or don’t understand what you are going through. That’s ok too though it might hurt, however, it is good to have a spring clean of your friendship closet from time to time.

The invaluable oncology team are naturally a key part of getting through the medical stuff, but they have access to other valuable resources such as counselling services, and in person support groups both in the hospital or cancer support centres.

Online, there are many resources and forums, social media networks and zoom groups.

Walking your cancer story with empathetic, positive people who have walked this path means you are so well supported and loved. They are in a strong position to equip and empower you as you navigate this chapter through these unchartered waters. Often, living proof that you can live well.

There is no right or wrong way to do this thing called cancer. It is your own personal story of your brave, difficult, and yet beautiful story and of how you can rise strong.

When I was first diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 2011, I kept a journal of everybody and anybody who I knew with breast cancer. I was obsessed with what type of cancer they had, its grade and stage, how many lymph nodes were affected, what age they were, the treatment they had, and this even included the Tesco delivery guy who didn’t fail to notice my bald, chemo induced head when he dropped our shopping off.

I needed to work through this though and process my thoughts about what I was going through.

I began to understand that cancer doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care what colour your skin is, your age, or how healthy you have lived, it quite sadly, just is…

I was trying to become a better version of myself, and I thought I had failed my old self by not being good enough.

I channelled my time into googling and research and got myself into a pretty bleak and dark place.

I called it ‘having my own pity party’.

Quite honestly these are very real and valid feelings, and I am sure you will have had many of your own when those unspeakable words were spoken to you or a loved one. It’s about letting them go, and some find that easier than others.

I was just beginning to find my new normal and reach a point of acceptance in early 2017, when I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, but this time I was told it was incurable.

I knew within my heart that something had to shift and that I needed to be kind to myself and find my tribe and supportive community in this next season.

Being able to talk it out with others in the safe space of a secondary breast cancer support group, it was like a light switch moment because I was not alone this time.

Others were there who, like me, had faith, which was something that I had also turned back too at this time. Something within my soul was drawing me back to my roots and I had deep need and desire to rekindle my relationship with the God of the universe.

Little by little, chunks of me have come back, I have let go of a lot of the past, and the worry and fear has been replaced with a peace within, which has helped to heal my heart and know joy again in the everyday little moments.

Life is unpredictable yet full of mystery, awe and wonder and myself and my husband find ourselves now swapping our UK British life for a life living in Switzerland!

My UK oncologist blessed this career move for my husband and I take my ongoing cancer treatment here.

Alongside traditional and researched medicines I was brought a naturopath healing lady to work alongside me in the UK, and thankfully, I have found the same here in Switzerland alongside other alternative therapies, so I am quite happy and love where I am at right now.

This country is so beautiful, and I love that we have been able to have visitors, allowing others to experience the beauty of such a place. However, there is no love like the love of those who know you, who stand with you in trials and testing times, and the pandemic has been one such test of faith, love, and endurance. Oh I do miss my tribe.

But I own my story and we chose courage over comfort to live overseas even when l am living with stage 4 breast cancer.

Nothing is impossible, only our mind makes it seem that way.

Don’t let this diagnosis hold you back…fly high, run free, find the child like wonder again and make memories.

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