Wednesday 16 January 2019

How Cancer Changed my Life

It's been three years since I finished my treatment for breast cancer, and yesterday I had a meeting with my oncologist to discuss my latest blood tests.

I have, he told me, 'a perfect set of bloods.' I don't have a perfect set of boobs any longer, obviously, but you can't have everything.

This, my friends, means that I am, as far as we can tell, still cancer free.

I swore, when I was first diagnosed, that if I was lucky enough to survive this, I would never, ever become one of those irritating people who said that cancer was the best thing that happened to them.

I still stand by that. Cancer was the very worst thing that has ever happened to me and my family, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

However, in many ways my life is so much better now than it was before my diagnosis.

I am Grateful

Many studies have shown that feeling grateful is really good for our mental health. It's so easy to send life feeling constantly dissatisfied with our lives, and to forget the important things, like health and family.

I can never forget. Because three times a year I have checks at the boob clinic.

The night before this check-up, I lay in bed mulling over the usual issues of the day, like whether my son will ever get to grips with French grammar, and where my daughter's hockey mouth guard had disappeared to, and it struck me that in twenty-four hours I might be worrying about how long I had to live instead. From one day to the next, your life can change irrevocably.

Every four months I am reminded that having your health and your family is a precious gift that we can never take for granted.

I Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

I used to stress out about the smallest things. Everything had to be perfect.

A cancer diagnosis puts things into perspective. Once you've had to stare death in the face and think about your children growing up without a mother, a parking ticket or a less than perfect school report seem utterly insignificant.

I'm still not an entirely laid back mother, but I'm much more so.

I'm More Empathetic

We are always so quick to judge each other, and to get angry when we think that someone has treated us badly in some way.

Dealing with cancer makes you realise that everyone has their own stuff going on - a sick parent, a troubled child, a mean boss. Sometimes, just getting to the end of the day is a triumph. No-one can be expected to be perfect.

I Have a 'Fuck-it Button'

My life has totally transformed over the last three years. There were always many things I wanted to do with my life, but I thought there was plenty of time. I'd get around to it one day, when the time was right.

I was also paralysed by the fear of failure.

Since I was a child, I'd wanted to write, but I worried that I didn't have time, that I would never be good enough, that I'd be rejected or, worse, laughed at.

Since the cancer thing, however, I've developed a 'fuck-it button.'

Now, whenever I hear that little voice of doubt saying you can't, I reply FUCK IT! What's the worst that can happen? I'm not going to DIE (yet), and if I don't do it now, I might run out of time, because who knows what's around the next corner.

So, I published the story of that year of my life - the year I quit drinking, and then got cancer, The Sober Diaries (click here for my Amazon page). And, next year, my debut novel is being published.

I told this story to my oncologist yesterday, and he said that many of his breast cancer survivors have gone on to do extraordinary things.

But it's not just about cancer.

Whatever trauma you are dealing with in your life right now, know this: when you get out the other side (which you will), you will be stronger, happier, nicer and - what's more - you'll be a superhero.

Love to you all,

SM x


  1. great news, so pleased for you. I'm currently waiting for an appointment at the boob clinic having found a lump last week. My GP thinks it is nothing but checking it out just in case. Needless to say, I've not had a drink since! It does make it easier to deal with, not being drunk or hungover. Fingers crossed :-)

  2. Absolutely loved your book, I laughed, cried & was pretty much in awe of you (and still am).
    I hope I can continue on my journey to giving up alcohol.
    I'm on day 16 & feel wonderful!!
    Thanks for your inspiration, congratulations on being cancer free, that's wonderful news & thanks for your continuing support on FB.

  3. Wahoo!! Big congrats Clare, I bet you feel amazing and I am SO pleased for you. I'm just so glad you wrote your book as hearing you on radio 2 stopped me in my tracks and set me on my journey to sobriety for which I will be eternally grateful. Thanks for your support. I have a similar thing to a 'fuck it' button and know we have to live for today. My favourite thought is "you have to have dreams and you have to follow them, otherwise life is just a slow process of dying" (especially if you booze heavily!!) Dream big, you can do it.
    Best of luck to anyone who's struggling, there is light at the end of the tunnel and you can get there, it's so worth it I promise you. Big hugs, Meggie xxx

  4. Congratulations on your good check-up! That's awesome! January makes 19 years cancer-free for me. I know that anxious feeling I still get before each yearly check. I really relate to what you said in your post. I also have to thank you for helping me reach 262 days alcohol free! I was about 2 months in when I discovered your book. It amazed me that you were describing things that I'd felt and done! Then as I finished that book and began reading more from your blog I couldn't believe that there are women all over the world going through the very same thing! It gave me the courage to carry on and not look back. At age 64 I'm finding the new and improved version of myself. I couldn't have done it without you. Thank you so much! Continued good health!

  5. Delighted to hear your great news Clare!
    Again, you're leading the way and fighting the battle on this one. You must be exhausted.
    Thank you for making alcohol abstinence so hip and fashionable.
    I celebrated one whole year off the drink recently and I know I couldn't have done it without you.
    You deserve great things from the Universe.
    Maybe this fuck it button is the start of many more fabulous things to come.
    Well done.


  6. I have just finished your book - AMAZING. Thanks for writing it.

    I am on day 16 of Dry January - longest I have gone after a many many attempts. I think the best effort before this was 6 days. I was spending more and more time thinking about drink and more and more time actually drinking. Any of my life's "f**k ups" were sponsored admirably by booze......I can see that now. The book was inspiring and funny and my long commute to work was so much fun listening to it on Audible.

    I know now that I will make it though January. I like the idea of another month or two or more or maybe even until April 28th (day I run the London Marathon). That would be 118 days and it's funny why I would even count that out. I have had some support but a lot of comments that I wont make it. We will see.......

    Many things in the book resonated but two in particular:

    1. I love words too
    2. But I have never really done anything much with this

    I am bored to shite (sorry!!) in my current role but fortunately paid well to be bored. I write this post from work (tut tut) and with copious amounts of the famed Irish guilt.

    I am starting to believe that 2019 can be a special year in more ways than one. I will celebrate a "special" birthday. Maybe I will do other 'special" things too? For now being a sober warrior feels like something amazing and thanks for your inspiration to make it this far. Who knows where the journey takes me but as you say and to quote a line from a horrible Irish ballad in the 70s - One Day at a Time......

    Thanks again.........INSPIRED....

    Sober Paddy!!

  7. Great blog Clare - I read it while in hospital waiting for my colonoscopy (also got the all clear - yay!) - Alan Bennett’s autobiography talks of being awarded a precious “parcel of life” every time he gets through a 3-month cancer check up - love this analogy - helps me live in the now and not swear the small stuff - Janet Gourand xxx

  8. Lovely news.
    I read your book a year ago and am now approaching my first year sober this coming Monday.
    Thank you for your inspiration.
    Jane xxx


  10. Oh that's such good news Clare. I have 5 clear years now and everything you have said is absolutely true. I am grateful for every day whether it is good or bad. xx

  11. Congrats SM - thanks again for your help and insights - I finally got around to ordering and reading Jason Vale - excellent suggestion. Eeyore

  12. I've just read your book Clare and I found it an amazing source of help..I'll keep following you on here and wish everyone else good luck in their quest too :)

  13. Clare and others, I am on day 34 and physically feel better. I don't think I am doing well emotionally, though. All of this past weekend, I just stayed home, slept, listened to books or watched movies. I was feeling guilty about it until this morning I had a revelation: Bad feelings about the past few years of taking prescription pain killers or lastly, drinking were getting me down. I wasted so much time and experiences. Well, I figured out what I was doing, instead of forgiving myself, I was unconsciously avoiding my bad thoughts and feelings by sleeping, or listening or watching others. That's what I used to do when I drank. I drank to go into oblivion and not worry about anything.

    I'm not sure how to deal with the bad, sad emotions I feel about the past, they also bring a lot of guilt. How do I go about forgiving myself so I can continue to grow in my sobriety? That's what I need to figure out.

    Thank you for keeping your blog up and active. It really has helped me.

    1. I read your earlier posts Queue and you're doing 34, wow! I'm a little way ahead of you and I can't say it's been easy but it's getting easier. My wine witch isn't pestering me now but I sometimes sense she's there watching! The emotional and physical journey you're on is a rollercoaster ride, it is for all of us!

      Focus on the future, keep looking forward, set milestones and be proud when you reach them...I'm looking forward to reading your post saying "I'm on day 50, day 100"....

    2. Awareness, such as you are showing, is SUCH a big first step. Congrats on that! For the questions you have,,,,,I want to say - DON'T RUSH IT. You don't need to figure this out today. Or tomorrow. Or next week.

      Focus and give yourself credit for what you are achieving....RIGHT NOW. Other things will fall into place; you'll find your way. Give yourself credit....positive things build on positive things.....give yourself credit......(get the idea...??��)
      - northwoman

  14. This is very motivate story come from a drink thank you very much for sharing your story with us and telling how drinks are becoming remedy for us .
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