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A personal story of breast cancer - Linda Sole
I screamed at God, Help me - I can't do this on my own!
Linda Sole, 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996, and had two lumpectomy operations and radiotherapy. She was working as a scientist and teaching yoga in her spare time, until cancer made her re-evaluate her life. Now she makes her living teaching yoga and doing aromatherapy and massage. She has a son who’s 24, and a daughter, 26.
It felt as if this huge weight was falling in on me and there was no escape.
The moment I was told I had cancer I felt very calm. I was given a choice about my treatments, and I said, “Look, I’m not making this decision lightly, I’m going to go away and think about it.” When I got home in the evening, the shock hit me. It felt as if this huge weight was falling in on me and there was no escape.
What upset me most was that I couldn’t cry, I felt totally blocked. The only way I could release that was by screaming at God, “You have to help me because I can’t do this on my own.”
Then I did what my yoga training had taught me to do and lay on the bed and focused on my breathing. That helped me relax and see things clearly. The breathing techniques also help you release your emotions, and I found I was able to cry and let go.
From then on, I never looked back; I was on the up road. It was just a question of deciding what I was going to do to help myself alongside the conventional treatment. The doctors do a wonderful job, but I found it empowering to be able to do something for myself, too. Yoga helped me at every stage. I did posture work to complement the exercises the physiotherapist gave me and ease the physical effects of the operations and radiotherapy. The other women on the ward were a bit reluctant to do their physiotherapy exercises, so I’d rally them round and we made a joke of it. Seeing the sunny side helped tremendously, as did watching funny films.
I was very lucky, because I had a lot of supportive people around me – family, friends and helpers at the charity New Approaches to Cancer, who were always there to chat about things. It can be stifling if people are over-concerned for you. One friend gave me just the right sort of support simply by listening to me and empathising with how I was feeling. She wasn’t shocked – she was extremely calm, which was just what I needed.
I haven’t put cancer to the back of my mind. I still bring it up in conversation, because I want people to know they can come to me to talk about it.
I honestly think cancer was a gift for me, because without it I wouldn’t have made the changes that have got me where I am now. It made me reassess my life. I’d always thought I'd follow my dreams when I retired, but after my diagnosis, it was clear that I had to do it now. The fear of not being good enough had always held me back from trying to make a living at teaching yoga, but once I had cancer, I thought, “I’ve got nothing to lose.”
I think people live in fear of cancer nowadays, and while it isn’t a nice thing, it isn’t necessarily a death sentence. It can be the start of a new life.
I’m very content and enjoying life more than ever. I love what I’m doing and it feels right. I think people live in fear of cancer nowadays, and while it isn’t a nice thing, it isn’t necessarily a death sentence. It can be the start of a new life.
As told to Woman's Weekly 13th February 2001
Linda Sole is now one of the Trustees of New Approaches to Cancer