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Imagine being told you have breast cancer, there’s a global pandemic coming, and your wedding celebrations have to be cancelled.
That’s what happened to Sunshine Coast woman, Cindy Scott when she received her second breast cancer diagnosis in February 2020.
Extremely rare to carry two mutated genes
With a history of cancer in her family, Cindy discovered through genetic testing that she’s one of only 400 women with breast cancer in Australia, who carries not one mutated gene, but two.
“My geneticists and medical team have never met anyone who carries both,” Cindy tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 are genes that help protect against cancer, but when they are mutated, they pose an increased risk for not only breast cancer but also ovarian and fallopian tube cancer.”
COVID increased the isolation of breast cancer treatment
Cindy described navigating breast cancer treatment during a pandemic as “an isolating and lonely experience.”
“Not only did I go from being an independent, self-employed woman to someone who was housebound and dependent on others, but my treatment and support was also affected by the pandemic," she says.
“During chemotherapy, I wasn’t allowed to bring support people to my appointments, and friends couldn’t even visit me at home. As a naturally extroverted person, this was an immensely challenging time.”
Over the next one and a half year journey, Cindy went through multiple chemotherapy infusions and treatments, including a double mastectomy in July 2021.
She remembers how harrowing it was to watch her body changing: “Seeing my body deteriorate and my eyelashes and eyebrows fall out was so difficult. I felt out of control of my body.”
Having worked as a qualified and highly-experienced master executive coach for over 10 years, to help get her through, Cindy sought to empower herself by finding out what she did have control over.
Which is where journaling came in.
Journaling was a saviour throughout treatment
Cindy’s focus shifted from feeling out of control, to prioritising bringing calm to her overloaded immune system, exploring and changing her beliefs and healing toxic emotions as she believed these were just as important as removing rogue cancer cells from her body in order to heal fully.
“The cancer journey is just as challenging psychologically and emotionally as it is physically but our mindset and emotional landscape are rarely given the attention they deserve during treatment," she says.
Cindy found support for her emotional self through telephone counselling, online art therapy, and journalling.
“Journalling was a saviour, helping me to make sense of what was going on and giving me a space to express myself.”
Creating a resource for others navigating cancer
Upon suggestion from a friend, Cindy realised her journal entries might help others going through a similar experience. Her book, The Healing Journal, is a collection of journal entries, self-coaching questions, and mindfulness activities to support those navigating cancer.
“It’s the book I wish I had received when I was diagnosed – it’s like a big hug when you need it most,” says Cindy.
“Receiving a diagnosis and facing the journey ahead is like walking down a dark corridor, not knowing where you’re going or how long it will last. It’s a terrifying time and one that left me feeling really disempowered, uncertain and alone. The Healing Journal aims to provide support during the psycho-emotional upheaval a cancer diagnosis brings and help the reader to take back control of their treatment journey.”
Cindy hopes more women can feel empowered to be in the driver’s seat of their healing and encourages others not to "be afraid to meet with two or three doctors and read books, listen to podcasts…make sure you’re making an informed decision on what is right for you and your body".
“At the end of the day, you’re the one left in your body and it’s important that you have the information you need to make the choices that are right for you.”
Since her double mastectomy in July 2021, Cindy has been given a clear bill of health and will continue to have six-monthly scans to make sure the cancer has not returned.
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