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Laugh in the Face of Adversity

Moya was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33. As someone who prided herself on being healthy and active, it came as a complete shock. At the time, she was writing up her PhD, about to start a new job as a Lecturer, relocate to a new city (Bristol, UK) and was planning her wedding – talk about timing! Bizarrely however, although there were occasions when this all felt like a lot to take on, it also created a great distraction from cancer and helped to bring some normality to an otherwise very surreal situation.

My cancer journey has felt like a whirlwind full of mixed emotions, I would be lying if I said I have never felt sad or angry, however, for the most part I have managed to stay positive and laugh in the face of adversity. It is thanks to a wonderful support network of friends and family that I’ve been able to do this, so I feel extremely lucky. I have one more chemotherapy session left and some radiotherapy to undergo, but I feel that there is light at the end of my treatment tunnel. Although the word cancer can conjure up negativity, it is possible to find humour during times when you least expect it!

After my mastectomy surgery, I remember waiting in the recovery room at the hospital. I felt the need to try to sit up on my bed, as I knew it would help me to come around from the anesthetic. I asked my partner to adjust the bed so I could do just that. He started pressing buttons and before I knew what was going on, the bottom of the bed started moving downwards and I began sliding off the bed taking the blood pressure cuff, the IV and everything else I was attached to with me! It was like a comedy sketch and certainly made us laugh as well as helped to wake me up.

About two weeks into my chemotherapy, I began to start losing my hair. It got to the point where it was falling out quickly; in fact, I remember having a meeting with a student and hair falling out onto my desk, which was pretty embarrassing. I therefore decided to take the plunge and shave it off. I asked my partner to do it as he is far more adept with a razor than I am. This might be one of those "you had to be there stories" but me sat on the toilet, with shaving foam all over my head and my partner standing over me with a razor in his hand was pretty hilarious. He took on his hairdressing responsibility with great enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to show me his handy work – when I looked in the mirror, he’d left me with a Mohawk and I looked like Robert De Niro in "Taxi Driver." He did eventually shave the rest of the hair off thank goodness.

My final story although not particularly funny, is certainly poignant and one I’ll never forget. It’s also a prime example of how people can lift your spirits. It was New Year’s Eve and my partner and I had invited my brother and his girlfriend round for a chilled evening with delicious food and drink. I had managed really well throughout my first three rounds of chemo and had relatively mild side effects.

My fourth chemo happened just after Christmas; it was the start of a new drug and unfortunately, hit me much harder. To the point where it got to 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and I had to admit defeat and go up to bed. I was sad. I cried. I was worried that I had ruined the evening for the others.

However, a few minutes before midnight, my brother’s girlfriend came in to check on me. She asked if I wanted them to come up and join me to toast in the New Year. Through my tears, I mumbled, "yes please!" So a few minutes later, they all came up and sat on my bed with me. We drank prosecco and all stared out of the window watching the city skyline light up as fireworks were set off here, there and everywhere. It was a truly beautiful moment.

Cancer is rubbish, but I’ve found it has given me invaluable life lessons. I have become so much more patient with both myself and others. I appreciate every small, tiny, insignificant thing that I am able to do. I look at the world and my life with more positivity and excitement than I ever have. I will continue to laugh my way through my cancer journey because if I don’t, cancer will have won, and I simply refuse to let that happen.

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