Illustration by: Isabel Castillo Guijarro

A breast cancer survivor reveals how she learnt to thrive after the illness

Thrive.

11 Oct 2018

To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Alison Porter, the author of Stronger Than Before: Take Control of Your Healing To Survive & Thrive with Breast Cancer – a practical handbook for every stage of the illness, from diagnosis to treatment choices and life beyond cancer - has shared her top tips for thriving after breast cancer.

"You may not realise it yet, but your dance with breast cancer has given you all the skills you need to rebuild your life from the ground up. You know what’s important to you now, you’ve awakened a fierce will to live purposefully, and you’re dedicated to spending your time on what really counts.

"Life after cancer is the perfect opportunity to reboot how you live. There’s never been a better time to get clear on how you want to use what the poet Mary Oliver calls your ‘one wild and precious life’. Follow these tips to supercharge your wellbeing and let this experience transform you so you can emerge stronger than before."

Maintain a cancer-protective lifestyle

Keep up the good work with a healthy diet and supportive therapies like acupuncture or oncology massage, choose toxin-free body and household products, exercise regularly, reduce stress and make sure you have plenty of emotional support.

Don’t rebuild your house on sand

This is your opportunity to stand firm on creating a life you really love, so avoid falling into old habits of people-pleasing, overwork, or overburdening yourself with responsibilities. Make life-affirming choices that support your values, your purpose and your health.

Embrace your body as it is

Learn to look kindly on a body that’s been changed by treatment, knowing that your scars will fade and that it deserves to be treated gently. Keep an eye on your energy levels and don’t overcommit yourself, as fatigue can persist for some time after treatment.

Shake off the identity of a patient

There comes a time when you need to leave your identity as a patient behind. You can’t build a new life looking back. Redecorate the room where you recuperated, give yourself a makeover, or donate your cancer books to charity. Get rid of anything that reminds you of being ill, even a favourite scarf or jumper.

Vote with your feet

If something doesn’t work for you, step away. You’ve been through the fire, you understand yourself much better and you don’t need to tolerate anyone who doesn’t respect that. It will wear you down again if you continue to stay in situations that aren’t good for you and that will have a knock-on effect on your health.

Keep your circle tight, but let it grow

The deep friendships that made it through difficult times are the foundation of your new life. Those supportive friends will delight in seeing you well, but it can also help to welcome in new friends who have never known you as a cancer patient. Open the door to fresh relationships that can widen your horizons.

Only look back to see how far you’ve come

A thriving post-cancer mindset is focused on enjoying each moment as it passes and looking forward to the future with enthusiasm. Let the past go and only revisit it to remind you what you’ve learned about yourself, how resilient you’ve become, and how much you have yet to give.