My first thought in 2013, when I was sat opposite the doctor who told me I had breast cancer was that I needed to get back to work. I needed to make sure that if I died my family would be OK. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed in the middle of a family holiday, so I drove back to the family (husband and two pre -teen girls) and put on a brave face.
The next (and last) day of the holiday I had booked a luxury spa treatment just for me. I remember telling the staff at the spa that I had just been diagnosed with cancer (telling people was my way of processing it). I sat down in their “peaceful area” alone and tried to be upset, because I knew I was supposed to be. After about 5 minutes of trying to find the tears that just were not there, I left and decided to get to work. I was now on a mission.
I had a different business then, a scientific conference company. I set this up when I was pregnant with my first daughter, so that I could work flexibly and be there for the family. My husband worked for this company also. It became our family business and we were always there for the children when they needed us.
After my cancer diagnosis I changed the way I ran the business and did things I was too scared of doing before. I now had nothing to lose. I took on more staff, quickly expanded the company and sold it in 2016.
Meanwhile, I was going through numerous tests and procedures. In the few years after diagnosis I had breast surgery, a hysterectomy, ovaries removed, colonoscopies, radiotherapy, many bone scans and numerous drug changes. My cancer did not spread, the doctors told me they had cut it all out, the radiotherapy had worked and in May 2018 I will stop my drugs and hopefully be told I am cancer free.
In these years between diagnosis and selling the old company, I was also setting up Cancer Care Parcel. I feel that there was a need for a service which takes into consideration the practical requirements of all those affected by cancer.
Cancer Care Parcel now provides information to family, friends and carers of people with cancer, as well as cancer patients and survivors. We also supply appropriate gifts for people affected by cancer and we donate parcels and some profit to cancer charities.
People who hear my story use the words brave and strong. I am none of these. I let the medical profession do their job so that I could do mine. I kept saying to both myself and my family not to worry until we are told to. This is how we all dealt with it, one step at a time. Yes, I worried about the results of each test, but these were just hurdles to get passed and I worried about my families future.
The Two Things I Have Learnt From This Are That
- when people tell you “no-one wishes they had worked harder when they are on their death bed” – this isn’t true. Being faced with my mortality spurred me on to work harder and smarter than I have worked before.
- it helps to tell people what is going on. By telling everyone that I had cancer meant I could get on with the everyday tasks of living.
Another assumption that people make of me is that I made millions on the sale of my company. I did not. I am still fighting the fight to make sure my family is secure, but I now have longer to do this than I thought a few years ago.
I am still taking cancer medication, and now have two teenage daughters, two cats and a husband to look after. If I die tomorrow, I will be happy in the knowledge that I tried my best for them. But I don’t indent to die for a very long time. I still have a lot to do.
About The Author
After her cancer diagnosis, Dr Shara Cohen sold her company to provide information to all people affected by cancer, including friends, family and carers. Her new business Cancer Care Parcel, www.cancerCareparcel.co.uk provides articles and resources for people affected by cancer. The site is funded by its sale of appropriate gifts for people with cancer (which have been created by an expert advisory board).