It was the last thing I expected even though I had been called back after having a mammogram. I’m extremely health conscious, eating and exercising as I should. Nothing in my family. But there it was: breast cancer. A huge shock.

I was very lucky in that my local NHS hospital, a fairly standard hospital in a provincial town, was one of six in the country to be able to offer a revolutionary treatment whereby radiotherapy is given at the same time as surgery (IORT, intraoperative radiotherapy), and nothing more is required. Also lucky that I could be given hormone treatment and didn’t require chemotherapy, so I was in for surgery and radiotherapy on Thursday afternoon and back at work on Monday. In those circumstances, it’s hard to take it in, for it to make a dent on your consciousness.

Not long afterwards, someone asked me, ‘What did you learn from your experience?’ and I looked at him blankly. Despite being very keen on learning, it hadn’t occurred to me that this was an opportunity to learn anything. However, the question stayed with me and some weeks later, I realised that having got the diagnosis, it didn’t make me question what I was doing with my life as what I was doing and how I was living was exactly what I wanted. It didn’t make me question or want to change anything.

Having spoken to others in the same position, I’m aware that not everyone has this reaction. For many people, it’s a wake-up call, perhaps to live more healthily or even more, to question whether they are really living the life they love, doing what matters and is significant. For them, it’s an opportunity to consider how to write the next chapter of their lives.

What if you got a wake-up call like this?

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