Ellie Holmes Cancer

The lopsided Christmas tree was aglow in the hospital corridor. In her office, the doctor had cards on her filing cabinet – ‘Season’s Greetings’, ‘Yuletide Joy’.

And then, she said cancer. Well, she didn’t actually say cancer. She said Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I’d never heard of Hodgkin’s or his lymphoma. Feeling foolish, I had to ask what it was and then, she said cancer.

It’s funny how, when someone says you have cancer, your hearing is the first thing to go. Nothing went in after that. Run-down, tired, anaemic, I’d gone to the hospital alone to get routine blood test results. A few iron tablets and I’d be back at work in a jiffy or so I thought. Turned out I had a tumour the size of an orange in my chest.

In a daze, I rang my mum to deliver the bad news and stumbled back to the office. I was working as a legal secretary at the time. I grabbed a medical dictionary and looked up Hodgkin’s. It told me there was an ‘87% chance of being alive after five years’.

Despite what I’d read, I still thought I was going to die. Not instantly, of course. But I wasn’t going to make it out of my thirties for sure. The next day, my dad, my hero, did die. He’d been in poor health for a long time and I, along with mum, were his carers. He didn’t know about my cancer. Mum and I kept the news from him. Bright smiles and positive vibes, we’d hidden our tears.

As Shakespeare said: ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions’.

The hospital was trying to schedule a biopsy. I was trying to schedule a funeral. The first date clashed. Being practically minded, as I was planning the service for my dad, I wrote my own. Cancer does that to you.

For six months, I underwent chemotherapy. I stopped being a person and became a statistic. It takes an inordinate amount of courage to walk through those hospital doors every two weeks and put yourself through treatment when all you want to do is run in the opposite direction as fast as you can.

I lost my hair and got what I came to think of as ‘the cancer look’. Never one to miss an opportunity to go shopping, I bought a series of hats and stopped looking in mirrors. Cancer batters you mentally, physically and emotionally. On the good days, it’s one of those things. On the bad days, it’s all three.

The chemo made me physically sick to the extent I was throwing up whilst still connected to the machine dripping the drugs into my system. It was then a nurse suggested I try hypnotherapy. Desperate for some relief, I decided to give it a go.

My hypnotherapist was a middle-aged lady who lived in a lovely cottage with uneven floors and wooden beams in the Essex countryside. I’d go to see her before each chemo session.

On my first visit, she showed me into her lounge. I sat in a comfy chair with a foot rest. She covered me with a blanket saying I’d be sitting still for half an hour and she didn’t want me to get cold. I told her I was strong-minded and wasn't sure how effective hypnotherapy would be.

She laughed, saying strong-minded people were the easiest to hypnotise!

I was concerned because the only experience I had of hypnosis was off the telly where people are made to do stupid things. I had visions of her having me crawling around on all fours barking like a dog but it wasn't like that at all.

We did some breathing exercises then she counted back from ten to one. It was an astonishing experience. I never lost awareness of where I was. I could hear the birdsong and the postman delivering the post. Meanwhile, she continued to talk in a soothing voice, taking me on a journey in my mind through visualisation. I had freewill throughout. I could move if I wanted to but I was so utterly relaxed moving would have been too much effort. After twenty minutes, she gently brought me back by counting from one to ten.

My reasons for going were twofold, the sickness was debilitating and I had two exams to sit. I’d started night-school doing a GCSE in psychology because, as a writer, I thought it’d help with my fiction. I was determined not to give up when the cancer hit. The hypnotherapy was transformative. It got me through the last cycles of treatment and my exams.

After a PET scan, I got my all clear in the summer of 2007 and secured an A* in Psychology.

EllieHolmes 

Here I am, ten years on, still cancer free. I have a new lease on life. I’m an author now of commercial women’s fiction with four books to my name. The latest of which, White Lies, has just been released.

What did I learn? That we’re all stronger than we think and life is precious. It took cancer to thrust me out of my comfort zone to follow my dream to be a writer. Don’t let that be you. Don’t wait for the worst to happen before you become the best you can be. There’s a whole world waiting for you.

Grab it and give yourself permission to fly.

{module comment link}