This is hard, tough and quite shitty, but recently I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 51. The irony that this diagnosis arrived on the day I was due to photograph a Breast Surgeon for the 2020 Vision Project NHS tribute, did not escape me!
I don’t like the term ‘the Big C’, because it denotes something that is larger than me, something that is scary, something that will overpower, take control and defeat. It won’t! I won’t allow it to define me or my life. It’s just another challenge.
Through photography, I have reinvented and redefined for several years now, so it’s about continuing to move forward.
A couple of years ago I went back to college to do a post graduate degree in photography at LCC in Elephant & Castle, south east London.
Photography has always been a passion of mine. The course allowed this mother of 4 teenage daughters and wife of 20+ years to be where I am today. It has been a stepping stone to my new career, allowing me to reinvent myself and be me.
Over the last two years, I’ve taken part in exhibitions, been selected as a finalist by the Wellcome Photography Prize for Best Day’s Of Your Life, a project looking at teenage self-harm and this year was rather chuffed to be awarded a grant by Brent Council to exhibit online, A Lifetime’s Work, portraits of family businesses as part of the 2020 London Borough of Culture which is happening now. There’s more to do and achieve.
I’m invigorated by the New and how to direct it – it’s in my DNA but I never thought cancer would be. There’s no history of it in my family. This is not as a result of genetics or lifestyle. I am a 1 in 8!
In a months’ time I will be in theatre with bright lights shining. A leading consultant will take centre stage and then my life enters a new phase as I begin a post theatre future with all the challenges it will bring.
I’m told if I was to get any type of cancer, this is the best one. It’s treatable and has a good survival rate. For anyone who knows me, you know, I only like the best!
But it’s still shit to get, it’s still crap to be told you have cancer even one that is the best cancer to get. It hits you hard, you question why and how. But it has and there’s no point dwelling. I have aspirations and a future to look forward to.
I’m not afraid, I’m cautious and there are times which do scare me but I won’t let that win and will keep my brand of humour.
They say my procedure to remove lymph glands may result in my right arm becoming limited in its use. As a right handed photographer that is going to be a challenge to overcome. My right arm is important to how I take photos and set up equipment.
I’m going to have to learn new ways to manage with what some say, may reduce movement of my right arm. It could be painful, like many others I don’t look forward to pain, but who knows, cancer and the treatment varies from person to person.
I may not feel as much pain as others, I may have more usage than some, I really don’t know.
My worry and concern is about how I can start immersing myself back into photography post theatre – but I will. I need to. I have projects to complete, commissions to get and people who rely on me as I rely on them.
This is my life, this is my journey and I hope by sharing this and my updates with others, they too can get a perspective and understanding of what the New me can be and how I will ensure life is on my terms and not on cancer’s.