“I’m not sure I’d even recognise the ‘old me’ now.”
You could never call cancer a blessing in disguise but for Holly Kennedy, getting sick inspired a positive new chapter in her life – and a new business.
Holly, a graphic designer from Lucan in Dublin, was 32 and had just become a mum when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.
“I was breastfeeding and found a lump,” she told Her.
“When I was diagnosed I felt like the bottom fell out of my world.
“I felt like my life was over and that I could never be happy again.”Holly and her husband Derek.
She went straight into treatment, including 20 weeks of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy surgery and 4 weeks of radiotherapy, plus a new drug to help prevent a recurrence of cancer.
Holly finally finished her treatment this January but her illness has had a profound effect on her life.
“It seems crazy, but it’s changed it for the better. I’m not sure I’d even recognise the ‘old me’ now.
“I don’t sweat the ‘small stuff’ anymore.”
She hadn’t given food much thought beforehand but that’s all changed.
“I wasn’t overweight nor did I drink a lot, but looking back now, I think the ‘normal’ diet I had wasn’t exactly a healthy one, compared to what I do now.
“I try to eat mainly whole food meals made from scratch at home with fresh produce. I drink two litres of water a day, take a variety of vitamins and supplements and have a golden rule about exercise – minimum 30 minutes every single day.”
Holly is also a much happier person since getting sick, she says.
“Having cancer made me reevaluate everything – from relationships with certain friends to my career and my priorities in life.
“I feel I don’t sweat the ‘small stuff’ anymore – when you receive a life-changing diagnosis, a lot of things you thought were important before suddenly aren’t anymore!
She now puts her time into looking after her son, who’s almost two, and herself.Derek, Holly and their son.
“I have time now to go for walks, tidy my kitchen, read a book. Before I got cancer… I didn’t have a lot of spare time to look after myself or really watch what I was eating, or to exercise.
“Now I really know that your health is your wealth – and that you can’t keep taking it for granted when you don’t really look after it.
She’s also put her energy into a new venture – her website, the aptly-named HappyMagazine.ie.
“Normal women’s magazines didn’t seem to include me anymore with my ‘new life’ with cancer.”
The idea of a magazine for people going through cancer came to her during a chemo session at St James’s when she realised there was nothing to read.
“I have always enjoyed print magazines and at the time, I felt really depressed and alone with my diagnosis.
“Normal women’s magazines didn’t seem to include me anymore with my ‘new life’ with cancer and I longed for a cancer support resource that was positive and uplifting and full of helpful information about how to still be happy after hearing the words ‘you have cancer’.
“I had the skills to do it and I felt like perhaps this was a job or project that was always meant for me.
“So I decided to start it and just to run with it and see what would happen.”
Now, less than a year after starting the site, Holly has built a small but loyal audience and gets as much from it as her readers do.
“It is that resource I longed for and still long for, that tool to tell me how to be happy after a cancer diagnosis.
“A constant source of helpful information to keep me strong, healthy and positive, to help me live my best life. It’s a focus for me, a way to look and find the positive in every day.”
Holly’s goal is to make HappyMagazine a full-time, paying job.
Her first step? Create a print edition and distribute it around Ireland.
“I plan to fund this through advertising and sponsorship from relevant brands and organisations.
“I would love to hear if any of your readers would like to be involved or who may work for a business/organisation that would like to be involved in this project.”
You can check out HappyMagazine.ie here.