I’ve been writing about my story and my feelings on getting back to work post maternity and more importantly post chemo and a double mastectomy. It’s been reported by Macmillan that a staggering 37% of people feel discriminated against in some way when returning to work after cancer and with it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it suddenly feels like a hot topic.

I’ve been working with the insightful Jackie Arnold from Coach for Executives, founder and creator of The Cancer Coaching Community and Author of hit book Coaching Skills for leaders in the workplace, to highlight some of the issues, with the aim of working out how things might be improved for both employee and employer.
Here’s my own story.

Treatment, tolerance and treasure, that’s what my story is about.
It’s not all Cancer thank you very much and neither should it have the glory of being so. Cancer can ‘go and do one’ and luckily for me, it now has. Or maybe that should be phrased as I’ve got the all clear, but then again that doesn’t quite cut it either, Because you see being cancer free or getting the all clear doesn’t actually make things all that clear, or allow you to feel completely free. It’s there forever, niggling, changing you, warning you, egging you on.
You have to learn to be stronger than strong, all the time and not just you either, everyone else who’s been around you for the process, because for them it’s lurking there too.


I was diagnosed on 1st April 2015. April fools day can you believe, although we were certainly not laughing.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer. The aggressive one.
I had that feeling even before we went in to get our biopsy results. Something in my gut was already telling me that it was going to be bad news and not for the first time either. I had Hodgkins Lymphoma 20 years earlier and as it now turns out it was the treatment given to me back then that was actually the cause of my breast cancer now. Great. See how it never really leaves you!?

Life until that moment was the best it had ever been. I’d given birth to our beautiful baby daughter just two months earlier and she was already turning our world upside down with joy and wonder. An absolute treasure. She instantly breast fed and we both had no problems at all. It felt wonderful and the beginning of what I had hoped would be a fantastic spring/summer enjoying maternity leave with her and enjoying the beginning of our little life together. The brand new family we’d always hoped for. (Took us a while due to my fertility being compromised again partially due to my previous chemo treatment, but we got there with the help of IVF and acupuncture and an absolute belief!)

How things changed. And with each treatment the complications, the missed new mums picnics, the sepsis, the allergic reactions, the guilt at being a tired mum, partner, friend, the double mastectomy, the implant infections, and loss of hair and change in body confidence, my mojo gradually left me and was replaced with exhaustion, a fuzz of sadness and a general mistrust.

So fast forward 10 months and life is supposed to go back to normal…right?
There’s an expectation to go back to work, you’re fine, you’ve been discharged, you’re ok. You can get on with life with a newfound zest, a gratefulness for still being alive. You’ve made it!
But you’re not quite feeling it. The phones has stopped beeping with supportive chemo texts, the friends have stopped dropping round with cake, or pre cooked bolognaise and although you know they are all still there, you’re feeling alone. There’s an eerie sort of quiet of squeaking doors and tumbleweed, an aftermath of the C word.
The pressure seems to be on to get back to normality, to the before, but to be honest you’re not quite sure how to move forward, whether you have even got the energy right now to embrace life.

And what happens when we take it back to work? Of course it’s all sympathetic smiles and sorrowful looks, met with the good old positive (thank god it’s not me) distractions, a scuffling of fuss but more or less, it’s business as usual. Maybe that seems harsh and of course not everyone’s included, but a handful of takers and it’s enough to knock you off your fragile ‘just trying to get back to some sort of normal at work routine’ guard. It’s a them and you, not a we are a team’ anymore. It’s a, hmmm I wonder how she’ll cope now sort of a glance, not a “she’s one of the best, a real lynch pin, we definitely need her on the project” anymore. And even if it’s all in your head, does it really make a difference to how you feel?

It’s your confidence you see, it’s got a slight problem. Not even a huge one, I mean you’re back at work aren’t you? But you’re different, they know it and you know it and it’s about feeling comfortable in your new skin, literally and about finding a new kind of you. It’s about seeing how that new you fit’s back into the old mould. How does it actually feel to find your old self again, only to realise that old self may not be there anymore? And the new self is different, tired, hopeful, enthusiastic, intolerant, seemingly ever so intolerant, a new one on me.


And let’s be truly honest here and know that maybe you don’t even want to fit into the past anymore. Maybe you’re still working out why you did it all in the first place and if you even want to do it all again now. I mean where’s the joy in cramming yourself on a packed tube full of sweaty armpits and bland faces, leaving your new and safe little family behind all in the pursuit of some kind of alternative affirmation of life? The supposed new and improved stronger version of you?

So what is it exactly that you’re trying to get back to? And what do you really want it to be? Is it harder because you feel your preferred reality might not be an option? Do you feel it won’t be supported, accepted or even allowed for at work? Is that what’s really holding you back? I mean how can they possibly understand what you’re feeling? Why would you even want to show your colleagues your vulnerable side after everything you’ve been through. Maybe you really can’t even face talking about it anymore. You just want to be left alone without being prodded and injected and felt sorry for.

So how on earth do these worlds come back together? How do you go from losing your hair, despite gruelling cold pack treatment to getting back to sitting, striving, positively, upright across a boardroom with complete focus on the tasks ahead, all the while giving off a certainty, a knowledge, your confidence, knowing that you can even outdo what’s being asked and expected of you? And why does it have to be from being given the all clear, to immediately back to being 100%? From zero to hero in less than 30 seconds? Why not at least 30 days as a minimum to help you re-evaluate your role, your position and your career, to discus this with what your company needs or even allow you to change your career path altogether?

Let’s say you felt supported to be allowed a ‘transitional phase’ of getting back into the work swing? An opportunity to design a plan to give you the balance you want and need? And how would that look both for you and your workplace? How can you get your company to listen your concerns and back to work scheme ideas, without seeming incapable, a burden, or for them to lose confidence in your ability? What’s already in place to allow this to be a return to work phase that’s mutually beneficial? Is there any support already on offer from them and what additional help is out there to make the process as smooth as it can be with the right goals in mind?

It’s a daunting thought, you’re already tired and intolerant and you know that approaching this the wrong way with the wrong person could seriously throw you over the edge and make you want to literally slam the towel at them.

It’s time to use that survivor mode and just go for it. We all know its f#ck cancer, so why not f#ck worrying about not being 100% ready or needing some return to work or career help? Why should you be ashamed?

image2For me, well I’m gradually getting there. I’m getting to know my body again and enjoying time feeling like I’m coming back to life, giving more back to my family and to myself.  I’ve been lucky, my treatment is over and I can now make choices as to how my future will look, to see my beautiful daughter grow up with an amazing family and network of supportive friends all around me. I’m giving myself time working freelance and planning my future career. One that allows me a better balance, let’s me do my dream job of producing, writing, styling and vlogging (coming soon) and of course spending more time with my amazing, amazing daughter Lux. That right there is my absolute treasure!

Oh and as for my intolerance? Well I think I kinda like it. It’s a good way to help you get on with it and maybe something I always needed a little more of. A new spark to live life, I mean really live it and love what I do.

My 5 tips for getting back to work post treatment.


1 – What is it you want?
First decide what you want, what you really, really want. Really explore this and don’t be afraid of what you find. It might be working less, going bigger, actually making your dream job a reality, or changing your old role for one that fits your time and skills better. Whatever it is, embrace it. You’ve earned it and you’ve got this!

2 – Don’t go back too soon
Make sure you pick the right time for you and your employer. Be realistic and give yourself time to understand your limits but also make use of any new skills. Then just go for it. Once you get going you’ll realise that all your knowledge, performance and wisdom hasn’t actually deserted you after all.

3 – Be prepared
Talk through with your work before you begin and build in a return to work strategy period so that both your company, colleagues and you don’t expect everything to be exactly how it was and for everything to run like clock work from the beginning. Find out what systems your employer already has in place and how you can make that work for you both.

4 – Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There is no need to be embarrassed by what you have been through and that you are not 100% back to ‘normal’, or full strength. Give yourself a break and just be honest so everyone knows where they stand and you can remove some of the pressure.
Don’t expect too much of yourself. You have been through a major change both physically and mentally.
Find out what else is out there to help you outside of the workplace be it counselling, coaching, support groups, alternative therapies, even new courses and of course regular exercise will help enormously too.

5 – Add in you time
Set up a plan for if it all feels too much. What would you do if you had to leave work for your sick child? Make the plan for yourself too, for if you need more time out even than planned. Book regular sessions to keep you going, exercise, counselling, coaching, whatever you feel you need.

Let’s face it flexible working isn’t a new thing these days, it’s the norm, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. You could reduce your daily hours or delay your start time to allow you to build in these sessions as part of your working day.

For a copy of Jackie Arnold’s book Coaching Skills for leaders in the workplace, click HERE.


BOdeBO is a playful, contemporary, french, kids clothing brand. If you like a polka dots then this brand will send you dotty. (Get it) Seriously though, I absolutely love the bright colours and easy to wear designs.

The company was launched by the designer herself Ana Ramirez in 2005 who as a mum herself, was sparked into action when she couldn’t find the clothing style she wanted for her own kids.

BOdeBO is made 100% by hand in France. Forget convention, this is a brand that has fun and adventure written all over it.
I can’t wait to order something for Lux!
bode1 bode-2 bodebo-fr-kids-style-monmum-blog

It’s six days later….


Lux screamed her head off again and I nearly gave up and was truly so close to grabbing her and going home.
But she started to calm down in my arms and had actually completely stopped by the time I was in the car. Phew! It’s so bloody heart wrenching when she’s clinging on for what seems to really feel like life!! I’m praying that it will get better in a few weeks time. Fingers crossed!

So here I am again, I’m back in the gym.. I thought about ditching it both during Lux’s screaming session and well since the moment I woke up today in all honesty. I had the perfect excuse not to bother because I truly feel totally broken….again.
Lux woke up at 4am and we were up till 6:30 faffing about with toys and books and milk and then AJ got up for work, so that was that. (more or less)  With that explanation, no tired parent would have expected me to gym it, even if we did 
manage an extra little snooze until 8, because as we all rightly know, any ‘extra’ it’s not the same when you don’t sleep through.

I’ve got that all over too hot feeling as if I’ve been out drinking the night before and your legs do that thing where they just haven’t got anything to give you or your body. I haven’t been drinking though and yet I’m still bearing the brunt.
I could have not bothered so easily but I put on my gym kit before leaving the house so I was ready in order to lessen my instinct to sack it off. I know I would look and feel pretty stupid if I was just in the old gym gear for show. That would be weird right!?

So I’m pedalling and my knees are, post chemo cracking again and clicking away in rhythm, but let’s carry on and see what happens. I’ve planed 15 mins on the bike until I move over to some of the boxology strength exercises. What I consider my warm up… Only 10 more minutes to go.

At just under 5 minutes on the cycling clock the boredom is setting in. The very fit woman I just took the plunge and smiled at did NOT smile back. (Bitch) The interval setting is tiring me out already and I’m getting annoyed that there are über fitties in the quiet zone. What are you doing here? Get out, out, out!

This saddle is so frikking uncomfortable! 3 minutes and counting.

There’s 22 minutes left on the clock before I need to leave and I really need a wee. I could just wee and go, nobody would have to know. I mean I’ve done 50 minutes which is more than I was doing two weeks ago, so surely that will do?

The wee can’t wait so I grab my bag and head for the toilets, the skiving guilt already setting in before I’ve even locked the door. The next thing I know I’m in the what I like to call  ‘the man’ or ‘pump it up’ zone’ and  for some miraculous reason I’m there gripping the trx, albeit slightly self consciously as three guys stand around chatting fitness., but what a surprising turn up for the books. There I thought I was heading for the early door, when I’ve actually mastered not just staying, but upping the gym game to a new level altogether.

So I’m doing the few exercises I know I can pull off and with every squat and lunge I’m starting to not give less of a shit about all my gym insecurities and uncomfortable emotions and just do what I’m there to do. Woaah did I not skive after all? That’s so unlike me! I’m the first to quit the gym or make up some lame (everyone knows it and I know it) excuse!

So I’m sweating and I’ve actually worked out until just over the 22 minutes that were left and I now need to rush out the door to go and get Lux. A result!

Go go go post chemo fitness more determined me, gooooooo! x

trainers-picOr at least for me they have…
Post treatment it’s time to make a change. I want to feel more me, look more me and live life better!

So it’s a day of firsts (or actually for Lux her second)  She’s at pre school and I (shock face) am at the gym.
I’m hating it, everything about it. The musty purple and blue carpets, the sticky floors and the sweaty stench that hangs in the air and lays quietly across all the apparatus.

New years ResolutionsHow I got here is a miracle after hearing Lux screaming and writhing behind me as I drive off in the car.
I’m doing a warm up on the bike, watching others warily as they look around too. Some of us feeling unsure, while others look like it’s their second home.

I want to run, that’s all I keep thinking… Go on… run… run back to Lux and let her run away from school too. The two of us together on the run, on the lose, doing whatever we want, like Thelma and a mini Louise, except without the headscarves and highways, and more with suncream, (it’s warm today) a cheeky juice for Lux and an iced coffee for me… (totes rock and roll)

run-2But I stay, peddling on, looking down at my phone for the next exercise which AJ has kindly given me. Well when I say AJ, I actually mean his über cool Boxing Trainer from his über posh Marylebone Gym, Greg at Boxology Academy He’s given AJ a full on exercise regime and I’ve nicked the ‘doable’ exercises on a scaled down setting… and so here I am, set by set, rep by rep. It’s helping to have this on two levels.  One, I know what to do next instead of feeling like a complete imbecile, gym-dumb novice and two, I can keep looking down at my phone instead of having to look out… at the gym.. at the other gymmers…

My hands are getting too hot and are already thick with grimy gym feel.. Time to move over the mats.
I grab two 3kg Dumbbells and I start sit ups, pushing the bells forward. I want to cry. It’s not the exercise itself that’s causing the pain, but every time I exercise, it feels like I’m going to let the flood out.
That’s why I’m here in the first place I guess, to help rid me of any pent up emotion from the past year, that and obviously wanting to feel better, have more energy and of course look better too, it all goes hand in hand. But the dam could crack at any moment and I really, really don’t want that to happen here. Working out at home though and I’m too lazy… half hearted… Aargh I hate this…

As time ticks by, the lady on the mat next to me who looks super fit, flashes me a smile and I start to get into a sort of groove. I haven’t run I’ve stayed, because Lux is staying too and so were in this together. I can pick her up in less than an hour, so I keep pulling down on the lateral arm exercise and hope it’s doing me some good. I try to focus on how I’ll feel next time, in a month, in three months and if Lux will have settled into it too.

I feel calmer. I’ve heard nothing from the school to my missed call and text, so I’m praying she’s ok, that she’s calmer too. We’re helping each other her and me, doing something new.

After an hour and ten minutes of non lazy and actually truly sticking to the boxology routine, I’ve warmed down and I’m leaving the gym. I sort of feel a bit better and not just because I’m leaving, but also because I can feel I’ve done my body some good. Enough of a something to hold on to and to spur me on for the next time anyway.
But for now I’m jumping in the car and racing to see my girl.