Unknown Speaker 0:00
sight, my temperature dropped, my heart dropped. And the hairs all over my body just sprung to life knowing that, yeah, this was the moment that life changed.
Welcome back to the pyjama interviews this week, we have Cath Elliot, now cats, the founder of my breast friend, and she had a very shocked diagnosis of breast cancer in 2019. Now, what's really great about how Cath handled that experience, is that she got clear about how she wanted to interact with people in her life, and how she wanted to interact with them around her diagnosis. And listen at the end, because there's a great announcement this week of the perfect, perfect resource for you if you're living with chronic illness and want to set boundaries. Okay, let's dive in with Kath. Hi, Kat. Welcome to the pyjama interview sercap. I'm wondering if you'd like to share with us really what life was like before you discovered the breast? lump? And then really what you thought in that moment? Like, what, what was that segue for you into a whole new world?
Unknown Speaker 1:32
Thanks, Michelle, for being here. It's a real honour to be able to share my experience. I really believe that storytelling is so powerful. And to be able to have Yeah, the privilege to continue to share my stories. Yeah, I'm very grateful for the opportunity. So life before I found the breast lump for me was I was a busy working mom working in kind of the fast paced industry of PR part time, I had three sons, you know, a marriage of, I think, sort of 18 years. We just sold our house, we will we've moved into a new house, we've just got a puppy life, which was really, really busy. You know, I've got three brothers, my parents are still alive, you know, a large sort of social network as well. So life was, I guess it was busy. And I would say in many ways it was fulfilling. I had been on I guess, a little bit of a, I would say, a deeper journey. Prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer, I started to do a bit of spiritual work on myself a deeper dive into kind of what's more in our hearts, I'd started to do quite a bit of, of yoga meditation. I had this yearning in me for more. And it was it was something that I was searching out. I think more and more before my breast cancer, I guess diagnosis and finding the lump and what and it. Yeah, and I think there were a number of areas in my life that I would say were a little bit dysfunctional, I guess. And so, yeah, when I found the lump, finding the lump was like, for me one of those life changing moments. So not everyone with a breast cancer diagnosis has that actual moment, but for me, it felt like I had this download that I needed to look at my body. I was really I was in this kind of mad panic getting ready for work. And we I just bought this mirror this floor total length mirror that had only arrived the week before. And yeah, and I thought I have to look at myself in the mirror, which I had not done and and I had to be present. And it was in that moment when I glanced up and I looked up and I saw on my right breast something that just hit me it didn't look right, I could see this dimpled skin. And then the physical reaction to that feeling then was just something I've never experienced before. My whole body sort of slipped, my temperature dropped, my heart dropped. And the hairs all over my body just sprung to life knowing that, yeah, this was the moment that life changed for me from that point. That's when I then sort of taught traumatically the response was to sort of scream and like I felt it initially. And then I sort of my reaction was to kind of press it and press it away, I was like on a lot of luck. Oh, and I saw I started. And then I realised, and I called down to my husband and he came up, and then he felt it. And, and from there each, you know, we I started the process of going to see a doctor and all that, that. And then that obviously led me to the diagnosis, but instinctually in my own body, I knew that I had breast cancer, as soon as I'd found the lamp, it was just it felt it felt that way. And so I wasn't, I guess, so shocked when I got the actual diagnosis a couple of days later, I'd sort of had that basic acceptance within myself already, although it wasn't complete, I guess.
Right. So one of the things I'm curious about is, even before that moment, there was this part of you looking for more? And I'm just wondering if we could stop in that moment and capture what what was the more that you were looking for? Or what was it the sense and feeling? Because I feel like as we talk about what happened next that more while and that looking for more really came into presence with you over the following 12 and 18 months?
Unknown Speaker 6:32
Yeah, I think the more was that, there was this feeling in my life that a lot of time was spent sort of living on this kind of on the surface on a superficial sort of a surface level. And a lot of people operating on that on that level, and seemed happy. And there wasn't, I guess, that real sharing of deep feelings in terms of, I guess, the more difficult and uncomfortable things that happen in life, and that I get. And I guess for me, I had this yearning to want to share more, more of that side of life and what was going on, I guess, in relationships, but also in myself and in the, in the experiences I was having, with myself as a woman going through, you know, there's so many phases in our lives, but that there wasn't a real opportunity to get into the real nitty gritty of what those emotions were and how we could connect with discussing those sorts of sorts of feelings. So I think for me, it was really, it really was about a much deeper dive into the uncomfortable, and then the shadow side. And the darker stuff that goes on in all of our lives that we often push aside or don't share or pretend isn't really happening. And so for me, that was that was a theme that was coming up, coming up a lot. And I also, and, you know, I've spoken about this with a number of people. But I also had a problematic relationship, I think with alcohol over a long period of time that I used alcohol as a way to sort of numb and medicate, when I was going through difficult times. And so I was really also very, I guess, I was very committed to taking that out of my life as well so that I could start to really release all the emotions that had been repressed for a long period of time. And that's what I've noticed in the 18 months since I've stopped drinking and had breast cancer, that it's incredible. What will come up from the past, even 20 3040 years ago, there's still stuff that I had pushed down that that hadn't, I hadn't really I think dealt with in a in a healthy way.
I think what's so fascinating to me is that in my experience of chronic illness, time is something you get, like time gets to be very focused when you're unwell. And even though you're going to medical appointments and you're getting tests and scanned and the anxiety of what your condition is or how you're going to manage. There is also the sense of which time becomes very, very personal. And what I'm curious about in your experience Cath is that you found a lump on the morning, you're going to work. And then my understanding is like a week later, you're in surgery. Is that right?
Unknown Speaker 10:13
A week later I was I was in, in chemotherapy. So basically a week later, yeah, I found a lump on Wednesday. Yeah. The following Thursday, I started chemotherapy. And prior to that I had gone in and had a suit, a port put into my arm. So yeah, it was an extremely quick process from finding the lump to actually being in treatment. And again, that's not everyone's experience in cancer. But for me, it was huge that that most people I talked to it didn't happen, that replay. But for me, that was, that was the decision that I made, and also just how it happened, I guess, as well.
And then you've started chemo, you've suddenly flipped out of the life that was into the uncertainty of who knows what life is literally at this moment, what is their life? And what is it going to be like? I'm wondering if you can share, here, were there any critical decisions you made at that time, like you obviously made the decision to have chemotherapy? And I'm wondering, did you think about what are my options? Were there options? Or was it like, No, this is now?
Unknown Speaker 11:40
Yes, really, was a really difficult time for me. Because part of my I guess, part of the way that I'd been living was very much around being kind of respectful of what I put into my body in terms of food. And I was very, into kind of, you know, meditation and healthy exercise. And so the whole concept of chemotherapy was something that I really did not want to participate in. I felt really uncomfortable with it. And I did explore other options in that week and discussions with a couple of oncologists and and doctors and I even contacted, like, an oncologist in America, who is sort of more into I guess, integrative oncology. And the advice that I was given with the diagnosis that I had was that I would it even Yeah, it would, I would, it would be silly not to have any chemotherapy at all, like chemo therapies. What was I guess? It was, I guess, a vital component of what I was told I should I should participate in in terms of my treatment. And there's also my my father and my brother, adopters. So there was also I guess, I did feel pressure from him as well, because I do have a more liberal approach to health. They're my family, my family, a lot more scientific than than I am from that perspective. Then, yes, so it was an even the first day of going in to chemotherapy was extremely traumatic for me, I, I felt sick, and actually, even trying to get myself to the car to go to that first chemotherapy appointment was really, yeah, that was really tough and very emotional. And I sort of felt like, I felt like I was almost not not selling my soul, but I felt this really awful sense of leaving myself and not not being true to my values and hard. But I in saying that I did manage to reconcile that over the coming weeks with with, I guess, what I thought was an integrative approach. So I decided I'm going to use Western medicine, but then I'm also going to integrate that with a number of other complementary therapies that are going to support my body and mind and spirit alongside the chemotherapy and the other Western sort of treatment, I guess. And so I had a wonderful clinic geologist who really helped me physically and emotionally, I guess, except chemotherapy, and we did a whole lot of work in, targeting it to the area where it was needed. And just, it really helped helped me feel a sense of acceptance, and that it would, it would do the work that it needed to do. And that I would also be able to, if I was looking after myself, that I'd be able to detoxify and get as much out of my of my body in my system, if I was using those other therapies and supplements to help me do that.
And what's your perspective now, sort of down the track, like you made that decision in the moment, it felt what I'm hearing, it was tough, and it felt out of alignment with your belief system and who you wanted to be, like how you wanted to address health issues. But it also worked. And I'm wondering what your perspective is, now as you look back,
Unknown Speaker 16:05
yes, if I look back, I wouldn't, I wouldn't change or change what I've done, I feel really comfortable with, with the decision that I made in the end or be it I had to grapple with. You know, at the beginning, I had to grapple with a whole lot of stuff that was going on for me. But I think that was all part of the process for me in surrendering, excepting not being able to control everything, and then to be able to focus on the other aspect of my healing and treatment. And feeling that that could kind of bring things back into kind of alignment in a way as well, sort of, I ended up looking at it as a we know, Western medicine is definitely going to help me and particularly with the type of breast cancer that I had, if it was if it was another type of breast cancer, my approach potentially would have been different. So yes, and now that I'm through treatment, 15 months later, and feeling as as well and vital as I've ever felt in my life. Yeah, I think those decisions have led me to where I am now. So I wouldn't change them. Yeah.
And in terms of other people's responses and reactions, I mean, one of the big things when you have serious illness, is the chorus of everybody else's opinions about what you should do what you could do. who's in the room who's not in the room? And you've already talked about how you came from a Western medicine, scientific family, and there were strong views in the room? How did you manage listening to your perspective? And what clouded out your perspective?
Unknown Speaker 18:07
Yeah, so I think I was really strong on my, my perspective on my illness and my diagnosis. That was something I owned from day one, I had this, I guess, I had this horrible reaction that I didn't want people to feel sorry for me or think of me as being a different person to the one that I was. So I was very conscious of owning the communication of what my diagnosis was, how I wanted to manage it, and what I needed from the people around me in my life. And look, I think it helps that I you know, I had a, I guess a career in communications and marketing that that's sort of one of the, you know, one of my strengths, but I have to say that that was so vital in setting the same for how I wanted things to move forward in terms of I didn't want people to, I guess, emotionally collapse or project their fear or their distress onto me.
So how did you do this calf like practically What did you say or do
Unknown Speaker 19:36
So initially, when I got the diagnosis, I drafted a text message to my my closest girlfriends, which I sent to them. I didn't call them, right. Usually, I sent a message to say I had a shot breast cancer diagnosis that it was was that I was going to be okay. I did have to have some significant treatment, but that I was feeling positive about the word ahead and what I needed to do, and that I needed for them to support me by being positive. And yeah, that was that was kind of each and that I wanted to talk about it. And I was happy to have a conversation about it. But I just wanted them to understand how I was feeling before I had to have a conversation and manage other people's emotions, because I was very, and you know, I'm very, I'm very kind of mindful of energy and how energy can really affect the way we we feel. So I didn't want to be taking on other people's distress and energy in what was already quite a traumatic experience for me. So I was trying to manage that. But also being obviously, I guess, openly and genuinely communicate with the people that I loved. And so that worked so well for me, because, in fact, and other people say it worked really well for them, because they had an opportunity to just let it sink in as well and not have that feeling of shock. And the initial reaction which everyone does it, it really hurts them when they find out that type of news. And so, yeah, I think for me that that was that, that was a tool that I've recommended to other people to use, if if they feel that that would work for them. Because I think that is a huge part of a process. When you get a diagnosis, communicating, there are many different groups in your life that you need to communicate with. And that's exhausting in itself. And, yeah, it takes a lot of energy and time in that first few weeks
to did anybody buck the trend or want to be more dramatic than like you're already in the midst of making some pretty fast, hard decisions. right up against mortality, you've sent out a message saying, I mean, this is pretty fast thinking. But I think also for women joining us here, it's, you have a way that you work out how you're going to work with your illness. Now that might take some time and everybody's already in the soup. But did you have people where who didn't follow the line? Or you felt you needed to address in a different way?
Unknown Speaker 22:40
No, I look, I didn't feel that I had anyone who really didn't I think most people were very respectful of my, my wishes in the way that I kind of Yeah, initially came through with the communication. I guess. It's still interesting, though, that even with my openness and the communication, I did find that there were people who found it incredibly difficult to acknowledge or know what to say, or even address, the fact that I had breast cancer or how I was going or just a simple kind of communication, which, again, it was surprising, but it now I look at it, you know, human beings, often, we're not taught how to even communicate in these types of situations. And for some people who aren't overly emotionally connected to themselves or find it difficult, that's actually a really hard thing for them to do. And so, yeah, I look up a really close friend of mine. pulled away really did not know how to communicate with me at all over that period. Like I really felt her absence. And that was that was tough.
And how regularly as a good friend, would she have been in your life just in ordinary life when she pulled away? Like, what's the difference between presence and absence?
Unknown Speaker 24:13
Look, we we were historically, friends for a very long period of time. We didn't have regular contact, I guess weekly or anything like that, but we would have spoken or had contact every couple of weeks.
Yeah, so that's pretty regular every couple of weeks in the middle of two lives, kids partners. Yeah, everything that that entails.
Unknown Speaker 24:38
Exactly. And yeah, I barely heard really anything from her. Really during the whole 12 months there was she it looked she come to chemotherapy once but it, it was just it was interesting, and I been I brought it up with her and it was, again, she didn't say it that way. So that's okay. But as again, that's another part of going through something like cancer or a serious illness it does it transforms relationships in your life. And that's one of things that I'm just starting to, I guess notice even more now, as I'm settling into, like, I'm still in transition now. And I'm just finding my fate with all of these changes that have happened. Since since the diagnosis.
Yeah, I think one of the things is, for me, it's like, who turns up and who disappears, and in a flail or in a serious process. And I came to that experience by learning that they would people play different roles. So the people that I didn't see very often, even in my ordinary life, some of those were the ones who took me to appointments, and really turned up for the day in day out of a very intense time. And other people who were much closer again, like you're saying, didn't have the capacity to meet the experience that I was having, or wanted to reframe it. And it's curious, many of us sort of go off social media at the time when we're in the middle of serious illness or can't face the world or a very sort of overwhelmed by the experience. So when did you decide to really engage social media? And you know, why that was there as part of your process?
Unknown Speaker 26:42
Well, yes. I, I guess, when I was first diagnosed, I decided that was part of wanting to communicate to people where, how I was and where I was coming from, so that anyone who heard about my diagnosis could see me and see how I was, and what I was feeling, rather than secondhand information being handed down from someone who doesn't know me to someone. So that's why initially, I think, maybe two weeks after I was diagnosed, I'd had one round of chemotherapy, I decided to post just on my personal personal Instagram account, just to say that I'd had a shot, no breast cancer diagnosis, but also to thank people for the love and support that had been shown my way. And just to say that, you know, I'm doing I've got quite a lot of treatment to get through, but my prognosis is pretty positive, and I'm feeling healthy and positive and, and that sort of that felt really good. And then the support that came back to me just through comments, and, and I just felt these kind of beautiful love come through the airwaves. And I thought, this is really, this is special. And then I thought to myself, I wanted to document
the process. And the
Unknown Speaker 28:15
process, not only for no friends, family, even No, not really close people, people who wanted to see what it was like to go through breast cancer. I wanted to do it for myself.
This is really profound to me. I mean, I find this, not only did you do that, but you actually code your account my healing. I called it healing breast cancer healing breast cancer, which is so fascinating, because when if I saw that, I would think whoo, whoo, meditation, you know, this is the perfect way to miraculously cure a cancer diagnosis. But that's actually not what your journey was. So that messaging was really fascinating. Can you speak a little more about this all lines up with the way that you went into the experience and chose a relationship with yourself? Which actually seems to come from you were looking for more intimacy, you were looking to be more real. Hello. Turns out this process really landed you in that? Yes,
Unknown Speaker 29:30
exactly. So I wouldn't change anything about the process, even if I could, I would still go through the process of having breast cancer because of, of, of that of what you've just spoken about. It really has been so transformational in my sacred relationship with self that is The greatest gift that I have got, it makes me emotional to talk about it, but just yeah, the the deep love with myself, it, it, it connected me with, with living and life in a way that I didn't. I didn't have that before. And open every day I wake up and I still feel that deep connection even now I'm not living with cancer anymore as a disease, I still am living with the cancer diagnosis and the lessons that it's taught me. And they are so profound. And for me, they, they have changed my DNA, my energy on a cellular level. So that for me is so powerful because it's like her, it's like my body, I guess, you think about a fingerprint. It's like my body fingerprint has completely changed. And so the way that I I view and my perspective on life and relationships is completely different. And something that I am so, so very privileged and grateful for I just feel every day when I wake up. I just Yeah, I feel so I guess there's there's a lot of a lot of joy, but just a lot of a lot of presence in, in this body as a as an incredible vessel of life in this life. And yeah, I feel it's such a deep appreciation and connection within my body to and listening, listening into my body, a lot more listening and a feeling. So there's so that there's this Yeah. Which started when I found the lump, that
a nail is the first moment of truly listening in a long time.
Unknown Speaker 32:06
Yeah, I really feel it was and then I developed a really beautiful connection with with my breast lamp as well, it became something of a, you know, as I started talking to it, massaging it really connecting in with, with my body and not being fearful of it knowing that these cells had whatever they had created a lump here, for whatever reason, it was still part of who I was. And that the power in our words, I mean, I I truly believe that our words in the way we speak to our body into us self is so important. So for me, there was a lot of a lot of positive affirmation in the belief that my body could and would heal. And that I that I needed to there was a trust as well, this cake, you know, I guess there was an eye someone said to me, how did you lose trust in your body? And I said, funnily enough, I gained more trust in my body during this experience than I had. I know, that's not everyone's experience. But may I gained a deeper sense of trust in my body.
So can we talk about you know, and I really hear the emotional process that's still in you about what the experience has brought to you. And it wasn't just a miraculous, oh, I've got breast cancer. So all my relationships have now transformed. It wasn't sort of A and then B. What was the actual process view? Like? What did it challenge? What did it bring up? Which relationships when you talk now about the gratitude for what is I'm really curious about what was and then what was that journey really look like? In you know, the raw authentic process of it?
Unknown Speaker 34:08
Yeah, I think it it started with that deeper question of why are we here? What is the meaning of our life when I guess mortality becomes this kind of real question in your life when you think maybe I won't have as long to leave as I thought I would. Or I'm thinking about death my own death really seriously for the first time. And in that space, always question questions and thoughts start coming up into your, into your consciousness. And for me, I started to not only I guess, started to look back at all, a lot of different I guess, relationships and phases of my life and phases of me, I guess the the, I guess there was the teenager and the, the young, the young girl. And then there was the the young woman pray children and the woman who had young babies. So I started looking back at all of those. Yeah, phases of my life. And I felt that I hadn't appreciated them, I felt like life was that I've just been on this treadmill, jumping, jumping, jumping, always wanting to get the next thing. And that actually, I'd had so many beautifully significant incredible experiences and relationships and it travelled and things that I've not forgotten about. But I just don't think I'd save it enough for really appreciate it. So I sort of felt like I wanted to go back and just connect with some of what made me, mate because all of these experiences were part of was, you know, part of who I guess I am. And I was. So I think that was a really emotional and quite difficult process that happened whilst I was going through chemo, and I was really, I guess, quite vulnerable. But it was just, I couldn't stop myself. It just was like this huge horror that I looked at. So I was going back I had, because I'm someone who keeps a lot of old diaries and photo ads and letters. And so I just had boxes and boxes of stuff. And I, it was a bit manic, I guess, and old photos and things. But it was it was really cathartic because it really connected me in with parts of myself. And it also helps centre me as well make me think, wow, I've I've got so much in my in my life as well, it made me realise that. And it also, it also made me realise as well, that there were things that I wanted to change and things that weren't going so well, or just dysfunctional patterns that I had allowed to happen, or just participating over years. And so that these things started just coming up. And I was thinking, I'm going to have to change things as these things are all of a sudden, I could just feel so much emotion growing up, and so much wanting to change. Things that had I guess, just been, I've been coasting along
in life. Can you share with us to the level that you're willing to? What those things are, because I think, for me, and for other women, who have a different experience the new way we might long for the life that we thought might have been possible. And then you've had the life that was possible for you. And this very late moment, and there was still a sense of grief that rose, even though what I'm hearing is you've done a lot of things. But there was change there was changing you and there was change on the horizon in your life as it was even with the fullness of working and children and husband and travel. The Wellness experience will be face to face with change. Now.
Unknown Speaker 39:27
Yeah, I may not. My belief is that my breast cancer diagnosis was extremely traumatic, because it was shock and it was a trauma. And I feel like in any trauma, it can sometimes bring up or highlight dysfunction that may already be existing and kind of be allowed to play out under a normal set of circumstances. But once that changes, it can then it almost morphs into a different Brent, yeah, it's a different life, but it's also people start behaving in a different way. And I know in particular, in my relationship with with my husband, we we'd had, you know, I guess we'd been together when I was diagnosed, been together for 18 years. And we've had some really, I guess, some really strong ease and some really, really difficult challenges in our marriage. And we, I think we'd reached a point where we were functioning were very low functioning in that we weren't addressing, neither of us were really addressing what was going on underneath the surface, which was, I think we both were ignoring the fact that we had become disconnected. Right. And we're probably both using alcohol to find a way to connect. And then when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was my husband, just, you know, he really didn't cope very well. And so he started using alcohol a lot more. I wasn't drinking at all them. And so it kind of it, it really challenged us to the point that I, you know, I was prepared for our marriage not to continue, and I was to leave our marriage. And I hadn't been in that I wouldn't have made that decision before. Because I had myself in this, I guess, I think I'd put this set of conditions on myself that I thought that I needed to have a family that was together that was narrow all of these things that once I'd been through, I never thought I'd have a breast cancer. Of course, I'd be going through chemotherapy, I thought, Life is so unpredictable. There are no conditions anymore. I'm not putting conditions on myself. I am I Yeah. And so that's when I saw that I could live a life not in this marriage, I could live my life any way that I chose to. Because the fact was, I was so fucking grateful to have my life. I wanted to be happy, as in I'm not mean happy, happy. But I wanted to be living that in the best way possible, to my heart and to my truth. And so that was what emerged. I didn't want to continue to live. No half, half in half out, I guess. And so that the transformation that happened from that perspective was us. My husband, and I started having some really difficult, difficult, deep conversations about our relationship, where we're at, personally what we wanted for our future for our kids. And it was it was huge. And we went through counselling, marriage counselling together, my husband, his own counselling, I did my own counselling. It was a long process. And it wasn't easy. It was very painful and challenging, and some of the most uncomfortable periods I've ever had in my life. But we worked our way down into the depths of
Yeah, what was real, like what was actually going on in the relationship
Unknown Speaker 43:48
and on and as I mean, I'm a big believer that in the depths of the darkness, you actually find the most incredible connection. And that's what we found. We found that down there in the dark and comfortable place where sometimes couples people are prepared to go and I am and that people sometimes don't go there. But we know Hats off to him. He wanted to go there. And I guess that was the one thing I always had. I get I had a belief that there was a deep loyalty and connection between us. It was always there. But it had just got clouded over by so many other things and that we had to deep dive down into all of that murky darkness to come back to create recreate a new relationship rebirth, whatever It feels like that. And now in you know, January 2021, we were in the best, most. It's a, I mean, it's a work in progress still call. So we are connected, we are true, we are real, we are genuinely communicating. And I feel a deep you know, and really a real deep sense of, of love for him. And an ability to share what's happening for me as well, like on a deep level, which I don't think I was able to do before I opened up that that channel as well. And so that's been a miraculous, part of the experience for me is this renewed connection with my husband really has
an all in the process while you're having treatment, like while he is suddenly the partner, of a wife with breast cancer unexpectedly, and you're raising children. And the other thing I want to bring contextually, for everyone is that you're in Melbourne, Australia. So all of this went through 2020 In terms of a long part of this journey that you've been in, at a time when we were not allowed out of our house, when we were all locked in. So it could have gone one or two ways, you're either going to do it and dive deep, or it's really going to be fragile. And I feel like you don't know that until you go through the process which way that's going to go like it must have felt for you like this is a questioning time. It wasn't like you absolutely knew how this was gonna land.
Unknown Speaker 46:49
No, absolutely not. And that is the theme. I think the one of the lessons I've learned is we don't know. And so it's just about being present in the experience at the time and not having too much control over the outcome. So that for me was another beautiful lesson of, of breast cancer was to be present in the day each day, rather than thinking to when treatment had finished or when I was cancer free. I needed to be present in the experience, which is true of any relationship and any any experience that we have in life. So I found that for me, that's why I do feel a lot more content, because I am more present in just the day and not the forward always thinking about what is happening next, or what is that going to get me. So yeah, I think definitely acceptance and surrender for me were two big things because I was a bit of a probably a bit of a control freak in many ways before I was diagnosed, trying to control outcomes or hoping our cause. And yeah.
And the other part of this process that I'd like to move us into is that you then made some choices about your employment. So as you mentioned, you were in PR for quite a corporate PR role. It was a very fast paced environment to lots of clients. And you had, of course, long term colleagues that you were in relationship with. So I'm wondering if you can just share with us. What do you think was some of the best decisions you made about working or not working in that time? And where did you end up once you went through this process?
Unknown Speaker 48:56
Yes. So I did, I worked for part of my treatment part of my chemotherapy. I was only working I was working part time at the time. So three days and I had a very look, I had a I was so lucky with my with my employment that my boss was a good friend of mine. And she was extremely flexible with what I chose to do. It was pretty much I could do what I wanted, I could either work or I didn't have to I could work a few hours. Or I could work around when my treatment was. So I guess that that felt instantly. It took a whole I guess weight off my shoulders that I didn't have to worry about work from that perspective. But I guess from because I'd made a decision that I wanted to learn and go through the process of breast cancer as an opportunity to kind of, I guess, heal emotionally spiritually and physically, I didn't say work as part, I didn't want to be putting time huge amount of time into my employment during that process. It didn't feel intrinsically right for me. And that, I guess that I felt that early on. And so I had a discussion with with Lara, who was my boss. And I explained to her that that was how I felt. And she took it really well. I said, Look, I'm, I'm going to need to take some extended time off. It's just it feels like what I wanted to do. When I wasn't in treatment, I wanted to be out in nature, walking, or spending time with family or friends, or just doing things that actually made my being feel feel good and wasn't being in an office in the city, managing clients.
And we need to be really clear about this, that you had that financial capacity to make that choice as well, like, you came in a context where you weren't paying the rent and had just this that was actually vital to economic security.
Unknown Speaker 51:13
Exactly. So again, I was very privileged and very lucky. And I also, I was lucky that I had income protection insurance as well, that I, you know, taken out through my super probably 20 years ago. And so, again, that was, for me, that was such a fantastic, I guess, it was fantastic to be able to access that either the time when I was going through through treatment, and I know not everyone has that opportunity. So I do feel really lucky that I was able to take time off and just dedicate that to what I was going through and know to rest and recuperate when I wanted to and to fight Yeah, cuz I was really I was trying so much reading I just yeah, the hot I got not consumed by the whole thing. But it was something that I just was so thirsty for knowledge for. So for me, it was all about knowledge is power. So I was always reading with so many books about different was in general, it was positive stuff, I wanted to be filled with positive stories or ways that I could help my body heal itself more quickly. And so that was how I chose to, to make myself stay in a positive mind as well listening to podcasts and all sorts of things. And obviously, my my Instagram account, too. Yes. So yeah, I feel like and so then the decision to go back to work, I mean, that sort of with COVID, it was sort of a really strange time, because then obviously COVID came, came to town. And everyone was working from home, the the business that I was the PR business that I was working for sort of track change structure as well. But look, I had sort of already come to a decision that I didn't want to continue working in PR and that I wanted to do something, something else. And through the breast cancer experience, I, you know, came up with a new business idea. And then also through stopping drinking as well. I'm going to start doing some, you know, some coaching in that area too. So even the the experience of breast cancer has been instrumental in sort of changing my, my career and how I'm deciding to, to spend my time.
And so do you want to share with us then what your vision is and what's important for you now, and I think it would be helpful in that. In terms of are there any ongoing physical symptoms that you get to still get fatigue? Where are you at physically, while also creating something new?
Unknown Speaker 54:14
Yeah, so look, physically, I feel I feel the best I've ever felt. Honestly. I don't have any symptoms at the moment from the treatment or surgery. I feel really well.
Unknown Speaker 54:41
Yeah, emotionally. I think emotionally I'm I'm fragile, not not fragile as in. It's fragile in the I'm integrating everything still. And there's still so much that's coming up. So I get quite I get taken by surprise sometimes at how am I? Like just, I've, I feel things a lot more than I used to. And I just, yeah, I think even I was walking with my husband earlier in the week and I walk and started crying. And I just said, I just just wish people could be more open sometimes or just want to connect more deeply. Like I've, I've had a couple of experiences lately that have just been, I guess hurt for with some friendships and I'm grappling with, have I changed? Have they changed? Am I too much for people now? Do they not want to be friends with me because I'm not. There's this whole thing going on. So it feels I still feel like I'm really I am in transition, I haven't, I'm still kind of working out who i Who i who I am. And where I've been in here in this world at the moment, this new world, this new kind of post breast cancer world. And then some parts of life are so incredible. As I said before, and I am living my best life at the moment, in many ways, I feel so happy with the time that I have and how I'm choosing to spend it that I that is what I love is that I have that, that choice. And I think I'm making really conscious, much more conscious choices of how I spend my time, then I would have in the past because I appreciate the time that I have more than I ever have. Because when I thought that some of these time could be taken from me. And now in a way I feel like I've had it given back. Yeah. It I don't Yeah, I I'm just choosing to spend it. It's more precious. It's like a more precious commodity to me. So I really value it. And it's, it kind of feel that's why I feel it just just having the time feels like this amazing gift. And that's why every day I do feel this, your sense of joy to be to be here, even in the really shitty days or the hard days. It's sort of it's still pretty great. And I yeah, I can I, I see that in myself. And that's the other thing. I caught up with a friend who I hadn't seen for a while a couple of weeks ago. And she said to me, oh my gosh, you said you look so something in you your spirit or something feels so good and amazing. Can I have some of what you have.
Without the breast cancer diagnosis, and chemo and treatment. That sounds like a gorgeous way to bring our time together to a close cap. I'm wondering if there's anything that for anybody who's a deepen that struggle and deepen the darkness that you talked about in the grid. We've talked a lot about the outcomes of that process. But right in the middle of that grit and that vulnerability, and that tenacity that you have to have to face things that are not shiny and sunny on the day that you're having them and wondering if there's anything you would like to share that helped you with that time that is brought you to this moment, even if it's a commitment you made to yourself
Unknown Speaker 59:03
i i made a commitment to myself in those really, really dark and challenging times to just take it one minute at a time it was so important to just stay there and know that that pain in that challenge and that that dark I guess experience was actually connecting me deeper with the part of myself that would then there that in connecting with the darkness there then becomes this. I think growth and flourishing at a point in time it comes afterwards. But my belief in life is that everything comes from that everything comes from the darkness, the darkness is so important. And sometimes we get thrown in there without wanting to be there. And I mean, I don't know if anyone really wants to be there. But I think it enables us to connect more on a human, a human and a sacred level with ourselves and with other people. And if one piece of advice I would offer is that, if you can share that, if you can reach out and talk to someone about that, what you're going through. That's, that's a beautiful thing to be able to do. It feels just feels like that human connection is a much more a much more emotional kind of level. And I think, as humans, we sometimes we've forgotten that. And if we can, yeah, if we can meet each other in the darkness, it's, yeah, I think there's a real beauty there an absolute beauty. There's beauty in the darkness, I found a lot of it there.
Thank you so much for taking your time to share with us. I really appreciate the vulnerability and the wall truth that you've shone through in this discussion. We'll make sure that cats Instagram handles and socials and all the things she's launching this year are accessible in the shownotes. And we look forward to you joining us again, as our audience in the next interview, take. Isn't she great? I really love Kathy, we become such good friends. And one of the things I want to share with you about her is that she's just released these beautiful body lotions and body washes in her new product, my best friend. So we'll put all that in the show notes. So many of you have been asking me about how do I get great boundaries? How do I have these difficult conversations? And how do I access these resources, in my own way, at my own time, at my own pace. So I'm thrilled to share with you. This week we are releasing mag magnificence. It's a series of five master classes in a beautiful collection that I have curated for you. It comes with workbooks, it comes with the videos, it also comes with audio versions. So if screentime is not great for you, don't worry, I completely get it screentime is not great for me. So every master class is also produced as an audio. I take you through how to change your story of illness, how to have great badass boundaries, how to be your own best advocate with clinicians, how to harness what I think of as the five powers of chronic illness to make great decisions, plus a bonus masterclass with the incredible Sarah Ramey and a sacred freedom bonus meditation and ritual. So all in the link, it's all on the website, pop over there. And don't forget I share heaps of resources and tips on my Instagram account at Michelle Irving official. So great to have you with me this week. And I look forward to talking together again next time
Transcribed by https://otter.ai