It’s a crushing blow that would leave most of us devastated.
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But after being told she had cancer, mum-of-two Jo Bayles, 43, says she is glad she got the disease, and has never felt healthier.
Here, she reveals why she wouldn’t change her diagnosis...
Never in a million years could I have imagined that one day I’d be glad I had cancer . Yet three-and-a-half years after my shock diagnosis, here I am confessing that having a life-threatening illness made me happier than I was before.
When I first felt my right breast was uncomfortable to touch I saw my GP but was sent away twice after being told it was probably a cyst and nothing to worry about.
Back at home I was lying in bed when I felt a dull ache in my armpit, so I returned to the surgery for a third time and asked to be referred.
After many mammograms and biopsies, I had to wait an excruciating three weeks for the results.
In January 2015, I heard the devastating news – I had stage 3 breast cancer and it had spread to my lymph nodes.
The words shook me to the core.
I was sure I was going to die and leave my partner Hadleigh and our two sons Stan, nine, and Mack, seven, behind. I was desperate to spend more time with them – with everyone.
I went home to bed in shock and completely wiped out. But a week later I came around, looked in the mirror and thought: “Come on then cancer. I’m going to take you on.” Six rounds of chemotherapy followed, then a mastectomy to remove my right breast, and radiotherapy.
Alongside my conventional treatment I decided to change my outlook on health and fitness.
I tried a host of complementary treatments, including oncology acupuncture, massage, reiki, aromatherapy, crystals and meditation. I hired a life coach and focused on sleep, exercise, nutrition and positivity. I also used Neuro Linguistic Programming to make my sub-conscious fight the cancer too.
As I made the changes, I couldn’t believe I’d reached 40 without looking after myself. I was stressed, lethargic, and running on empty – yet I’d waited until I was really poorly to take stock of my life.
I gave my diet an overhaul too, and cut out dairy, sugar, gluten, caffeine and alcohol. Then I found a cancer-specific personal trainer and began working out. Just three months later I was back in a mainstream gym, which rebuilt my confidence and gave me focus.
I chose the natural route with beauty products too, including deodorant without aluminium which some claim is a possible risk factor for breast cancer.
It felt amazing to be making changes to remove stress and toxins from my body.
Though I kept telling myself the cancer had been caught early and that it was treatable, I still had wobbles.
That’s when I relied the most on my support network Team Bayles – Hadleigh and the boys, my close family and friends.
By November 2015, mammograms and ultrasounds showed the cancer had gone and my oncologist was confident I was “cured” and told me I was being “released into the wild”.
Finally I was in remission and my close family and raised glasses of bubbly to celebrate.
Just looking at them knowing I could carry on living my life with them meant everything. Even better, I was fitter, stronger and healthier than before.
Now me – and my family – have completely changed the way we live, and I say yes to a whole lot more.
I still use natural therapies and have decided I don’t want a reconstruction, preferring to see the scar I’ve named Warrior – a reminder of the battle I’ve won.
I’m enjoying being a full-time mum to the boys and we love messing about on the beach and going on long family walks near our home in Ferring, West Sussex.
I’ve become an ambassador for Tropic Skincare, a completely natural range, I volunteer as a cancer mentor and I’m writing a book about how breast cancer made me stronger.
It talks about my approach – medical and complementary – and how it worked for me.
It’s upbeat, honest and hopefully funny. I know I’m one of the lucky ones and I stand by the fact that I wouldn’t change my diagnosis, even if I could.
It may sound crazy but it’s true. I’m glad I had cancer.
- For information and advice on living with cancer visit cancerresearchuk.org