breast cancer and happiness

What it really feels like three years on from diagnosis day

I remember it like it was yesterday. 

I remember the quiet waiting room. I remember half reading Bridget Jones Diary and wondering whether I'd be back at work in time to make a meeting. I remember the face of the nurse who called me in. I remember the face of the young consultant before and after she broke the news. I remember struggling to get a mobile signal. I remember weeping down the phone to my parents hundreds of miles away on their way to a funeral. I remember the blur of a mammogram. I remember the stunned silence from my partner and a good friend. I remember the kind nurse who made me tea and let me sit in her office to escape the faces looking at me as I broke before their eyes. 

I remember. 

I will never forget. 

But, three years on from that day, I am not the person who sat in that chair wondering whether she would live to see another Christmas or ever walk down the aisle. 

Diagnosis day is quite unlike any other day I will ever experience. It wasn't the day that changed me. But it was, in many ways, the day that saved me. It saved me from an early death before I'd even got started.

It saved me from a life of just doing and never really seeing or living. 

It was the day I realised just how fragile life is and how easily that life can be taken away. 

Three years on, however, I don't dwell on what did happen, but on the life I was gifted back as a result of that diagnosis – a life filled with sunshine, friendship, charity, kindness and gratitude. And, most importantly, a life filled with hope.

It is only by nearly losing my life that I realised I have everything to live for. 

So today, I reflect, but I am not sad. 

I am grateful. Grateful for the people who bring light into my days and my years. Grateful for the sunsets I never thought I'd see. Grateful for a body that is stronger than I ever imagined it could be. Grateful for a brilliant family who will do anything to support me. Grateful for the fact, I can get up, run along the Thames listening to podcasts and inch closer to our marathon wedding charity fundraiser. 

I am grateful for what is rather than what could be.

So, make any milestone days in your life, days when you reflect on the bits that make you smile. The bits that you will be able to cling onto when you're lying in a hospital bed wondering when it was that time slipped away.

Bank happiness and you'll always be able to make a withdrawal.

Why I've decided to live from 'This Day Forward'

When my boyfriend Duncan proposed to me after 13 years together, I never thought I'd have to run 26.2miles to pick up the wedding ring. 

But then, being diagnosed with breast cancer at 32 wasn't exactly part of the life plan either.

Back in 2013, I was a girlfriend who wanted to be fiancée and start ticking off those landmark events that life tells us will make us happy. I thought life's big events were designed to balance out the many meaningless days and blur of busy to which we all are subjected.

Big events, however, do not a life make. When you're bald, weak and trapped in a chemo chair with toxic drugs coursing through your veins, you can't dream about one day in the future. You dream about the small things you can control - the smile that made you smile; the scent of a candle you'd saved for best; the sunshine on your face. 

Memories are for making every day, not once in a while.

Throughout treatment, I never feared death. What I feared was that I would rush back to my old ways and forget to live. 

If I was to remember the little things, I needed to make sure I was reminded of them every day. This Day Forward covers the stories and the strategies for success that have helped - and continue to help - me see all that is beautiful in the world. I hope that by sharing the things that make me smile, you'll find a way to add a bit of happiness to your day. 

This Day Forward is a name that works for me on two levels. Today is the only day you know you have. It's the only one you can control. It's the only one that matters. You have 24 hours to make it meaningful. You have 24 hours to bank a bit of happiness to carry with you for those moments that will try to knock you off course.

It's never too late to get started. You just have to start. 

And then, of course, there's the wedding that's been on hold for three years (and that famous vow: 'from this day forward'). When you try to make every day special, it's hard to look too far ahead. So, we have decided to get married in a way that celebrates the moments we find meaningful. That's why we're getting married at 7.30am on the famous Cutty Sark, before running the London Marathon (Duncan loves running and I started during chemo, which for someone with a hip full of metal from previous surgeries is no mean feat). That's why we're having a thank you party back onboard the ship to remind all our loved ones to make time for adventures and to live a life with purpose. And that's why we're trekking a part of the Great Wall of China for our honeymoon.

Charity, health, happiness, kindness, achievement, love and friendship - each and every day, not once in a while. That's what matters, and that's what This Day Forward is all about. 

In my 20s, I thought I'd be married with children by 30. Now, in my 30s, I see happiness in every page of my gratitude diary, in every smile from friends and family, in every moment that reminds me of all that is good in the world. 

Happiness is hard won... but rarely forgotten.