They say there’s a book in all of us, but it took a diagnosis of breast cancer for me to write mine. It wasn’t a lack of material that had stopped me – growing up in the 1960s, working through the 70s and 80s, juggling a career in TV and radio while bringing up three children and surviving two divorces had given me plenty – but this devious disease opened up a whole new chapter in my life. I was now that one woman in eight; my future the only thing I suddenlywasn’tcertain of. Having wanted breasts ever since I knew what a bra was, I lost both of mine in addition to temporarily losing my hair, my fingernails and many more things that I believed made me a woman. However, I saved a fortune on epilation, discovered pineapple is great for mouth ulcers and realised that alongside chemo and radiotherapy, laughter is genuinely the best medicine.
In my book I’ve attempted to normalise an often technical and highly confusing medical journey, believing that if you take away the mystery you can take away a great deal of the fear. Using personal anecdotes and private photographs I’m moving cancer from the consultants, the specialists and the scientific journals and setting it where it needs to be, in day-to-day life. Cancer doesn’t just belong to the medical professionals, the hospitals or the patient, it is part of the very fabric of our lives – whether we love someone who is living with it, or have lost someone to it. The ripple effect of this disease is far reaching and touches everyone in so many different ways, but I know that cancer is only one of the many harrowing and heart-breaking things that can hurt us. Through my blog and the comments of those who make up my support network ‘Ali’s Army’, I’ve realised that sharing those experiences helps us to feel less isolated. It has been humbling and often inspirational to learn how others have coped when faced with the unimaginable, and has helped me to put into perspective my own feelings of loss.
But most importantly to me, I want those who read this book to realise it’s not just about cancer, but how to deal with life when crap happens. I want to say to those who are facing their own diagnosis that they are not alone, and to hopefully answer what they are desperate to ask; and that goes for those who love and support them too. I want to say it’s okay to be afraid and angry, but that it’s also okay to seek out and see the funny side of situations too – because I’ve found there is always something you can laugh at rather than cry over. I would love for this book to be a source of comfort for those who are struggling, and to help them realise that there are no rules, and whatever works for you needs no justification. No one can do this for you; you just have to get your head down and get on with it. The only thing you are not allowed to do is to give up. You hang on, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of those who love you. This book isn’t just about cancer, it’s about my life, the people I love who supported me, and how all the bits in between coloured the way I coped when my world tilted in 2011. And that’s what the book is all about. Finding your New Kind of Normal, and never giving up hope.
I’m delighted to tell you that the Kindle version of my book 'A New Kind of Normal' is now available on Amazon, and you can order it by clicking here.