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Deborah’s Story

In 2018 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Along with 150 other women that day, like every day in the UK.

But, if I’m honest, it hit me for six.

I wasn’t expecting it to happen to me, and I was so sure that nothing was wrong that I didn’t even take anyone with me to get my results. Wowzer!

Life had been pretty usual to that point. As a single mum of two amazing teenagers with all of the activity, guidance, fun and responsibility that brings. A great social circle and living in beautiful Marlow, nestled between Windsor and Henley-on-Thames. I loved walking my two dogs and visiting the Royal Opera House to see The Royal Ballet. Lovely!

After my diagnosis, my life tipped upside down. I didn’t know what to say, what to think, how to act. What also quickly became clear is that my family and friends didn’t either. That only got worse as my initial diagnosis became an aggressive diagnosis, and I had to hunker down for the long haul.

Don’t get me wrong, my friends and family were astonishing – my house quickly turned into a florist, with 42 bouquets arriving in the first year, and those dear to me always did their best to cheer me up and help me through it.

But despite all the love I felt, what was evident is that people didn’t know how to act around me. What they should say, do, or how to avoid putting their foot in it.

I became pretty insular. I was living in my cotton wool head of a bubble and smiling at those around me but almost watching my life play out on a TV screen. It always felt like people were walking on eggshells around me, and one remarkably frank friend told me this was exactly how she felt.

I clawed my way through treatment, and as I came out of the other side, I decided I needed to do something to help people who were going through what I went through.

I wanted to help the family and friends of sufferers, who desperately wanted to help but didn’t know the right thing to say or the right thing to send. And I wanted to help the patients, those with breast cancer, who desperately need support, encouragement and inspiration to help them keep going.

That’s when I came up with 365 Days of Breast Cancer – a year-long service that sends a daily message to someone dealing with breast cancer to help them and encourage them through their journey.

I have crafted every message, and my experience has informed each one while going through my own winding journey, reflecting the most helpful thoughts, ideas and wisdom that got me through it.

There were times when I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, and it’s in those moments that words really can do so much to help.

I know that because I’ve come through it, and now I want to do what I can to make a difference for fellow cancer sufferers.

I know just how emotional a time this is, not just for those suffering from the disease, but for everyone supporting them, and it’s so easy to move to a default position of not saying anything at all because you’re scared of getting it wrong.

That’s the gap that 365 Days Of Breast Cancer is there to plug, the problem it can solve.

A far cry from my ‘other life’ pre my diagnosis. I had my own business for 26 years supplying celebrities and inspirational speakers to the corporate market. You are far more likely to see me speaking these days than sitting behind the desk!

What I wasn’t prepared for just how much these messages resonated with others.

I started out feeling that if I could help just one other person through their journey, I’d be happy. But over the last few months, I’ve received a steady stream of lovely messages from people for whom my messages have been a lifeline. And let me tell you, that’s rewarding.

As time has gone on, the 365 Days concept has expanded – we now have messages for brighter thinking, nutrition and other types of cancer, each service designed to do some good in the world and help people through their own journeys.

Cancer has taught me that – whoever you are – you’re not fighting a disease, your oncology team will do that for you, but you are fighting that voice in your head. The biggest and loudest player in this life is a mental one, no matter what trauma you might be dealing with. And the more help and encouragement you can get to quieten that, the better.

It’s a privilege to play a role in helping people to do that, to get up each day and rise to meet the challenges ahead, and it’s one I’ll continue to relish, day after day after day, for as long as I am allowed.

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