“My one piece of advice to women would be to listen to your body. The warning signs are always there. Your body is working on your behalf so don’t ignore the inklings that you get. And ask for help when you need it.”
In 2016, Celine was working in a job she had loved and life appeared great on the surface, but it wasn’t the case anymore. Struggling and feeling burnt out, one morning, while reading in bed she felt a lump in her breast.
Celine says that cancer was the furthest thing from her mind, so she pushed it aside. Just a few weeks later, while travelling with work, Celine confided in a colleague who tried to reassure her and suggested that it was more than likely just a cyst.
“I knew deep down it wasn’t a cyst; but I just wasn’t able to process it at the time. I hadn’t felt right for a long time before I was diagnosed. I was feeling empty and without purpose. The only way I can describe it is, things felt off.”
Forty-seven at the time, Celine listened to her body and went to see her doctor the next day. She was then referred to BreastCheck in Galway, where a week later she was diagnosed with stage two oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer.
“It’s almost funny looking back now, but I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch after my appointment, not thinking for a second it would come to anything, but after the mammogram when I was sent for a biopsy I could feel the tears coming. I remember thinking ‘they wouldn’t be doing this if something wasn’t very wrong, and I was right.”
The consultant told her that she would need to wait for the official biopsy results, but he could say that it was almost certainly breast cancer. “I got the news faster than I could process it, which in hindsight was probably a good thing.”
Her consultant told her that her prognosis was very good and that it would “just be a year out of her life” but that was not the case, and is not the case for many women diagnosed with breast cancer. “The treatment might take a year but recovery and transitioning back into life takes a lot longer.”
Like many who go through a breast cancer journey, Celine found one of the most difficult parts of her experience was the loss of support when treatment ends.
“It’s unnerving because you’re not in the “cancer world” of active treatment anymore but you’re not really well either. I think it’s difficult to understand unless you have gone through it, but it’s definitely not a “pink” experience. I suffered from severe fatigue and felt like I had no reserves left, even just after a chat with a friend. It was a far cry from who I had been before.”
Celine was fortunate to have the support services of Cancer Care West in Galway as she adjusted to the realities of life after cancer. She attended a creativity course called “The Artist’s Way” where she was able to connect with other like-minded women and explore her passion for all things holistic. She also enrolled on a writing course that eventually led to a whole new path opening up.
Four years on from breast cancer treatment, Celine says that she is not the same person she was before she became ill.
“I know some people may bounce back and slip right back into their old roles but that just isn’t me. I look back at the person I was, and that person simply isn’t here anymore. It could have been a story with a very different ending so it’s not something I take for granted. While it was very difficult, it caused me to re-evaluate my life and transform it in a meaningful way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”
“It really did take breast cancer to finally stop me in my tracks and wake me up. I wouldn’t change a moment of my journey. Don’t misunderstand, it was really hard and I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but now, I’m finally living my life for me and that’s something I can never regret.”
“I choose the colour green to describe my cancer journey.
I pick green because to me it is a colour that symbolises growth, health and renewal.
It sums up my experience which was one of personal growth and healing.
It is the colour of nature and I feel like cancer brought me back to my true nature. It has changed me and only for the better.”
Celine is in the process of publishing her second book, “How cancer brought me back to life”. It takes the reader on her journey of self-discovery after her cancer diagnosis. She also shares a practical toolkit for living. To learn more about Celine and her upcoming book, check out …….