If life is a marathon, Jackie is happy to run it
Jackie volunteers for breast cancer charities, runs half marathons, and is only weeks away from her first full marathon! And that’s only 2 years after her breast cancer diagnosis!
But running was never her “thing”. She is a publishing professional who had to “learn how to walk 3 times” due to surgeries. As we learn more about her, you’ll agree that she does much more than run!
Jackie in her own words
Before being diagnosed with breast cancer, I was a 32-year-old publishing professional so busy rushing through life that I’d had forgotten to live. I worked too hard, thought winning was having enough time at the weekend to do the laundry and go to the supermarket and didn’t look after myself properly. I thrived on stress and I think it nearly killed me.
Now, at 34, I’m still a publishing professional, but I have a life I love. I smell the freshly-cut grass, I travel, I run, I am grateful for every happy moment, I volunteer for six cancer-related charities and I make the best of every day.
When I was in hospital recovering from my mastectomy surgery, the student nurse looking after me got the measure of me quite quickly and said: ‘Jackie, what is it you want your gravestone to say?’ It’s a message that is as sobering now as it was back then. It reminds me to enjoy the moment and make sure I am making every day count.
Jackie's last day of chemo!
Blogging started as a way to inform in a positive way
I wrote my first blog post on 1 February 2014, just weeks after my breast cancer diagnosis. Having been inundated with messages and not really knowing how much information to give in my responses, I decided to write something that people could access at the time that was right for them. I also wanted to document my experiences in a positive-yet-authentic way so I could provide other people diagnosed with a message of hope that cancer is doable. I also wanted to be able to write something that I could return to throughout my life to remind myself both that it is ok to not be ok sometimes and that if I can face cancer treatment with a smile, anything is possible!
Life is a marathon. And Jackie is about to run one!
I was certainly not born to run. I had my pelvis reconstructed back in 2007 (which means I have a hip full of metal) and, with surgery as a child and my breast cancer surgery in 2014 (which left me with a super-glued stomach that was so tight I was bent double for a while), I have taught myself to walk again three times in my life.
But, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I realised I had to do something for me, to take back control of my body. So, I turned to running.
I ran my first 10k during chemo with a bald head, a PICC line in my arm and my acute oncology card in my back pocket. I ran my second one to celebrate the end of active treatment. And, since then, I have never looked back.
I recently complete a half marathon for CoppaFeel, and ran three half marathons last year. Actually, I am just weeks away from my first marathon. Just don’t tell my hip surgeon!
I wanted a blog name that would make people smile
This is why I named it “Small boobs, big smiles” (not thinking it might also lead them to rather amusing websites when searching for it online). As I say on my blog: When you’ve spent the best part of two weeks with your top off in front of surgeons and nurses, it doesn’t take long to work out that having ‘not much there’ is not an advantage. But, even when they were sizing up my tummy fat and cupping my less-than-ample breasts, I still managed a smile. That’s what this blog is about – finding happiness in unusual places. I started this year thinking 2014 would be the best year yet. I am so positive, I know there is no reason why that still cannot be the case.’
I feel that my posts are all different
While I like the brutal honesty of the active treatment ones (so many funny things happened that I still can’t see myself in those posts), I think I prefer the ones where I reflect back on all that has happened and draw out a few more of life’s lessons. Lesson 175: You don’t need a nipple to feel whole again after breast cancer surgery and Lesson 176: A cancer diagnosis brings clouds but it doesn’t have to block out the sun are two of my favourites. One is about finding strength in scars and the other is about the fact that the blue sky is always there in life (imagine being in a plane) but that you have to find your way through the clouds.
Blogging helps other see that they aren’t alone
Blogging is a really cathartic experience and, for that reason, I know was a major driver in keeping my mind focused on the positives throughout treatment. But, it is also a great way to reach others who are frightened to ask questions in the consultation room or unsure of where to go for advice. I focused on practical tips and hints so that others might find a way to smile through their treatment. I never thought I’d ever write publically about losing all my hair or not being able to wee in a straight line. But, by writing about something lots of people were experiencing (but daren’t say out loud), I know I was able to help others see that they aren’t alone. As a young woman who didn’t see other young women in the hospital waiting room, it was also a way to feel connected.
Other patients’ blogs can be really useful
I have been reading many of them during treatment and found them really useful, especially the ones of the Breast Cancer Care website. I looked to them for practical advice mainly. I return to them now and again and love Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer for its weekly digest of blogs in the space. The writer, Marie Ennis-O'Connor has also created a list of 150 of the best breast cancer blogs that I dip in to from time to time.
I would encourage everyone to write down how they are feeling
Some people prefer to do this privately in the form of a journal, but they still reap the benefits. Others prefer to join a forum to share ideas. I help with a Facebook group called Younger Breast Cancer Network (YBCN) and see every day just how valuable that online interaction can be. If you do decide to blog online, think about who you would like to read it and remember that if you use a public platform, your story will be online for all to see - for a very long time. If you don’t want to be reminded of the bald days, for example, best keep them hidden from the search engines!
If you are fighting cancer, it’s OK to not be OK
You must be the person you feel like when you wake up in the morning and put your oxygen mask on first - before you can look after others. And, ask for help. By this, I don’t just mean friends and family (who love to feel useful when you ask them to do something practical). There are so many charities and websites that are there for you and I know just how important they were for me. Oh, and remember the small things, because you really will wake up one day and realise they were the things that brought real happiness to your life.
More about Jackie’s blog