12 Things I’ve Learned Since Starting Chemo

WORDS: Corrine Barraclough PHOTOGRAPHY Corrine Barraclough

I could probably list 1000 to be quite honest, but let’s start with these… 

  1. There is always something to be grateful for– even on bad days when your whole body aches, there is a tiny little ray of sunshine, a friend messages something that lifts your spirits, or there’s a cracker of a sunrise. Positivity is a choice. Your outlook on your life is a decision. Choose wisely.

    Gold Coast sunrises were stunning this week.

  2. Chemo is a friend not an enemy– this has been a big one for me. As you sit in the chair in your chemo pod and watch the drugs flow into your body through IV drips, I’ve found it really important to make peace that stream. It’s not poison running into your body; it’s magic flooding in to heal you. When your hair falls out, it’s a sign that the drugs are working and fast dividing cells are being stopped in their tracks.

    This is not the “Red Devil” this is healing energy.

  3. Life without hair is SO much easier– quick showers, no bad hair days, zero fretting about rain. There really are benefits!

    My beautiful friend Bianca Dye gifted me this gorgeous red velvet turban.

  4. Your journey is your own–like many things in your life, plenty of people are going to rock up with an opinion or judgement on how you’re handling things and decisions you are making. F**k ‘em! No one knows your body or soul like you do, be your own advocate, stand strong in your own power. Just because you’re sick doesn’t make you weak.

    Yes, I have cancer. Yes, I’m having dose dense chemo. No, I don’t have to be miserable!

  5. The AA program prepared me for this. When I had a meltdown a few days before I started chemo, it was a real glimpse into what it would be like trying to do this journey if I was still drinking. Hint: it was not pretty. I’m so thankful that the tools I’ve learned in AA can be applied to this journey too. I know that picking up a drink isn’t going to make anything better and I know to take it one day at a time.

    My journey is my own. I choose to make it cheerful, colourful and filled with serenity!

  6. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. At the beginning of my journey, I wasted minutes of my life that I’ll never get back trying to explain to well-meaning but irritating people why I didn’t think that rubbing kale on my eyeballs at 2am wasn’t going to cure me. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but you don’t have to explain to anyone why you don’t want their advice, simply tell them you trust your team of medical experts and oncologists and get on with your day.
  7. Your body needs you. In the weeks before my breast cancer diagnosis, I was working out six days a week at a boot camp. I’d finally cracked my sugar cravings and was enjoying taking back control of my weight. That’s all out of the window now – and so what? For this chapter in my life, my body needs me to feed it, to help it stay strong and fight through treatment. If it wants sugar, I’ll eat it. If it wants a green smoothie, I’ll drink that too. Balance yes, but I can deal with any extra kilos at the other side of treatment.
  8. It’s common to gain weight not lose it. As a woman who has been a yo-yo dieter since her teens, I was resistant to steroids and hated the thought that I was going to gain weight on chemo. It’s common, it’s part of the process and I need to be really strict with that devil on one shoulder trying to put pressure on me to be thin.
  9. Good friends are like magic. Some friends in your circle will step up after your diagnosis in an awesome, mind-blowing and soul shivering way. I’ve had one pop round with a hat box filled with headwear for me to chose from, another’s reaction to my freshly shaved head flooded me with confidence, flowers have lifted my spirits, a headscarf made me feel like a princess, custom made socks with my little doggo on arrived from the UK, cards have made me smile, I’ve thoroughly cherished laughing, and feeling understood has made me feel supported and held (thank you to each and every one of you who have played a part in this, I can’t tell you how much it means).

    My amazing friend Saff had these socks with Baylee on them made – love!

  10. Pets are the best. My little rescue dog, Baylee, knew something was going on when I first got my diagnosis. He could sense that something was up and he was disturbed. Taking him for little walks has got me out of the house on days when I could otherwise have stayed in bed. He’s made me laugh on days I wanted to curl up and cry. I’m forever grateful that I adopted him.

    He’s the goodest boy – look at that smile!

  11. Some people don’t know what to say– let it go. Don’t expect everyone to be a shining star in dealing with challenges facing you. I’ve had some shocking responses and comments since my diagnosis and that’s ok. Granted, it’s not excellent, but some folk just don’t get it, don’t know what to say and you’re best focusing your energy on the ones who do.
  12. Life is a gift. We all know this, deep down. But the best thing about feeling utterly horrendous on some days is appreciating the gift of life when you can breath deeply again, see colours in all their glory, smell the roses (literally), taste what you eat, hug magical friends, smile at your dog and know there is a Higher Power looking after you 24/7.

More next week!

Corrine x