Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer at twenty four years old is something I had not anticipated in my five year plan.
Travel, furthering my career as a Medical Scientist and maybe a bit of love was as far as the eye could see. So as my world crashed down in a doctor’s outpatient clinic in July I just wanted someone to pinch me and tell me it was all a cruel joke.
I will always remember the lead up to my diagnosis like it was yesterday. I showed no obvious symptoms and no complaints which would point towards my shocking diagnosis. I put everything down to my hectic lifestyle. I worked long hours and was extremely active; if I wasn’t playing camogie I was shaking my booty at Zumba. I would suffer back pain and occasional symptoms of a urinary tract infection, no different than any other woman in her middle twenties trying to keep up with a busy professional and social life.
I’ll always remember playing a camogie match the night before my admission to A&E, apologising to my team mates if I play crap and popping two pain killers to ease the looming ‘kidney infection’. Second thing I’ll always remember is how grateful I am towards my work colleagues for urging me to get my symptoms checked out. I was due to attend a work course in Liverpool the following week and I was urged to get my infection sorted before I was stuck in a different country in pain and with hospital bills. What a nuisance!
Sarah in the hairdressers at the start of her treatment
I attended A&E on a Friday evening and had a sizable tumour removed on the Saturday evening. It all happened in the blink of any eye but still believed that I would be on that plane to Liverpool. As I was being wheeled into surgery I slowly realised my reality and gave up on the idea of Liverpool. It’s amazing how your mind can focus on the small little things, unwilling to come to terms with what was happening.
It took a couple of weeks to come up with a further treatment plan, with a strong aggressive form of chemotherapy being the chosen choice. Could you imagine I felt a little excited when I waiting to start my first cycle? It meant I was finally starting to do something to beat this thing and get back to normal. The feeling of excitement was very quickly replaced by nausea, dizziness and a general lack of independence. I had been quickly transformed from a Camogie Full Back to a weakling incapable of cooking my own food. This is where the support of my family came into play. Being the youngest of eleven children, I will admit I am well used to being the spoilt child. Nine sisters and one brother, I am genuinely supported in every way. They have been there at every step, keeping the wheels churning and everything upbeat.
The finished product
My Mammy, lord knows she will kill me for even mentioning her has been amazing. She has shown undeniable strength in a typical Irish Mammy way. Instead of being all emotional when I lost my hair, she spent the time laughing at me telling me I looked like my brother and asking me to sing ‘Nothing compares to you’. I have just completed my third round of chemotherapy and am getting used to it. Each round knocks me down a little but I regain most of my strength after about ten days of administration. Trust me I take advantage of this time, my blog Survival With Style mainly being my main preoccupation.
Before my treatment began, I was educated of the side effects of chemotherapy, apart from the obvious hair loss I would get dry itchy skin, brittle dry nails and nausea among many other horrible things. I began to research the personal care products that would suit my pending dry skin etc. and in one night a whole new world was opened up. I couldn’t believe that it took twenty four years and getting ill in order to become aware of the chemicals in products we put on our bodies every single day. Sixty percent of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream and it had been shown that a woman applies at least twelve products every morning. TWELVE! In these products are ingredients that are now slowly being linked to health problems such as reproductive and birth defects, respiratory problems, cancer, endocrine disruptors and allergens just to name a few.
How could I spend my life being so blissfully ignorant to all this? I mean, being from a scientific background I was disappointed in myself that I never even questioned what I was putting onto my body. I felt other women should be made aware of what I was quickly learning in order to make their own educated decisions. Researching I found no blogs in Ireland focused on products free from harsh chemicals, all featured products with big brand names and bigger marketing strategies. This idea led me to create my very own blog Survival With Style. It is a blog mainly directed at beauty products and cosmetics free from harsh chemicals where both women undergoing chemotherapy and those just wanting to go more natural can both benefit from the blog.
Sarah blogs to educate women on chemical free makeup products
I started this project as a beauty blog but it has since evolved into something so much more. Each cycle I endure brings more and more conundrums and experiences and I love to share my tips and tricks that help me get through it all. This can be anything from nutrition tips, style ideas to plain random chemo- hacks that I have found help ease this experience.
I have always been a ‘take the bull by the horns’ person. When diagnosed with cancer I knew I could never let it consume me. When life gives you lemons, you build a lemonade stand! I firmly believe that this blog has given me the positive outlet I needed to turn this experience around in my favour. Instead of the concerns that can drown my mind at this time, my focus has become something of an exhilarating nature. It has been a massively personal journey, unlocking and facing fears I never thought I would encounter. I have found many pluses in this, becoming closer with family and friends, finding an interest in writing and would you believe my skin is better than ever.
So what is my new five year goal you ask? It is to reach as many people as possible in the hope of ensuring them that they are not alone and that they can absolutely do this. I firmly believe you do not have to give up what makes you ‘you’ even though it may seem everything is stacked up against you. I would love if Survival With Style was to become an avenue for women to seek information and get perhaps get an ounce of hope and a laugh out of it at the same time. . I like to keep the blogs witty and real, just a fun read without the depressing elements you can usually find when reading up on treatment. There will only be laughter at Survival With Style because how could it be any other way.
Follow Sarah’s blog HERE
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