Isabel, UK

All stories

Cancer has been a gift in an ugly wrapping paper.

One morning I was taking my shower, thinking about how to celebrate my 40th birthday, when I discovered a lump in my right breast.... 
This party never happened as I spend most of 2003 on a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  And most of 2004 on three reconstruction surgeries (two failed). After that, five years of hormone treatment.     

It's only when I didn’t need to see any doctors anymore I started to experience a big shock! I slowly became aware of what actually happened to me! A mix of emotions took over; anxiety, anger, confusion, sadness and depressions....
So how do you get on with life? I couldn’t see me going back into my 'previous busy (work)life', juggling between a management job, being a wife, mum and having a social life.

I simply couldn't concentrate on this demanding job anymore, I didn’t have the energy level anymore to commute 3 hours a day, but most of all this "previous life" didn't fit me anymore. I felt in limbo...

I took a conscious decision to close the door to my "old life" and turned around to move on to my "new one"...but...no idea where to go and how to get my life back on track. I tried several things to see if any of them was resonating, but it wasn’t. I've spent a long time on my "roundabout", didn’t know where I was going..... lost any sense of direction and purpose and got depressed.

One day I sat at the hairdresser flipping through a magazine where I spotted an article about a one-week programme where you can explore who you are, what you’re dreaming of and how to realise these dreams using life coaching. This is what I wanted to do! I've joined the programme and had a life changing experience!

I learned that a great part of who I think I was, was strongly related to my career (gave me identity), my performance, my possessions (a beautiful house, nice car) and my presence (the way I look). Just external factors where you are seen (and judged) by others, your family and society. I also learned that I was my own worst enemy in my recovery process by negative thinking and pushing myself like "It's all over now, I should be happy, I should be able to do this and that again"..... Not helpful!

I realised that I wasn’t connected to who I really am, who I want to be, my personal values, what my priorities are and my life purpose. I never questioned these things before my cancer diagnosis and the experience with my coach have given me the opportunity to (re)connect to all this.
I came home with an action plan to realise my dream; to retrain and start my own life coaching business! This was so resonating and thrilling and so powerful!
I got my degree at one of the best training institutes: the Coaches Training Institute. It felt like coming home and everything was falling into place. Thanks to coaching I discovered my new life purpose and have been able to rebuild my life which is still feeding me every day. And this is where you meet me now, coaching people affected by cancer through my own social enterprise LYLAC: Live Your Life After Cancer. 

I guess in my life 'before my diagnosis' I lived to work, whereas now I work to live. I work limited hours per week in a job that I love, I live my values as much as possible, I do as many things I like, avoid stress, I live in the moment, enjoy the details of daily life, have more friends than ever, love to see my kids develop, give time to the community via charity organisations and feel balanced again.

In a way, I'm glad that my breast cancer woke me up and I can admit only now that getting cancer has been a gift in an ugly wrapping paper!