ONE WARRIOR with Laura Shaw
This is the very first blog in the One Warrior series. I’ve always wanted Bravery to reflect all types of cancer experiences, and all types of cancer warriors, so it’s time you heard another warrior’s story.
(I also have a feeling you guys are probably sick of hearing about my story!😆)
I want these blogs to comfort those who might be riding the C-train and cover things that are not discussed during doctor’s appointments. I want cancer warriors to come to the Bravery site to feel like someone else totally ‘gets it’ and that you’re not in the cancer shit show alone.
Equally as important, I’d love this series to provide insights to all the cancer warrior support crews out there. I hope these stories make the whole cancer world seem less foreign and equip you with the language and knowledge to have the cancer chat with your mates.
You might recognise the beautiful Laura from our Bravery photos. We met about 2 years ago after hitting it off over some funny Instagram banter and later agreeing to meet up in a café in London. We chatted like we were old friends and now I treasure our friendship. She’s very quick witted, incredibly down to earth, and has a heart of gold.
She’s also a super talented photographer (check out her work @laurashawphotography).
With Mother’s Day coming up, it also is the perfect time to tell Laura’s story. She’s mum to Leena and Ethan and, for her, motherhood is deeply intertwined into her own cancer story.
Name: Laura Shaw
Cancer: Invasive ductal carcinoma grade 3 breast cancer - stage 1
What was happening in your world at the time?
In January 2016 I noticed a slight pain in my breast, close to my rib cage. My bra underwire used to irritate it. At first I thought it was a muscle injury as I weight trained regularly. I asked my fiancé if he could feel a lump and he said he couldn’t. I was distracted planning our wedding in St Lucia and didn’t investigate until 7 months later. I remember asking my (now) hubby again if he could feel a lump and he said he could. This prompted me to have it checked immediately, though I wasn’t unduly worried. An ultrasound and a biopsy confirmed the presence of cancer cells.
Cancer in 3 words.
Devastating. Polarising. Awakening
What helped you get through?
PERSON: My husband, Andrew. My twin sister, Lisa and my friend, Sarah who had been through it before
SUPPORT GROUP: The Olive Tree Cancer Support Charity
SOCIAL MEDIA: Braveryco, Nalie Agustin Susan Sheffield
FOOD: Everything! The only time I didn’t feel nauseas was when I was eating.
LIFESTYLE THING: Microblading your brows before chemo 💁🏻♀️
EXERCISE: Weight training and yoga
BOOK: Mindfulness book
PRODUCT: Heated blanket
DRUG/MEDICINE: Domperidone anti sickness meds 🙌🏽
QUOTE : Fuck cancer - always seemed appropriate
PIECE OF ADVICE: Avoid chat forums. Avoid comparing your story/situation to someone else’s. See a counsellor to help you and your family cope through this difficult time. Many local charities offer this for a reduced price or free. Research alternative medicines.
RITUAL: Chemo dates at the hospital with my hubby. We used to get lunch together, download Netflix and make my infusions a little more fun. He always made me laugh.
Golden tip for the friend and family of a cancer warrior.
Try and avoid calling people with cancer ‘inspirational’. There is nothing inspirational about having to fight for your life. I didn’t choose to get cancer. Also, I really don’t want to hear about the person you know with the same cancer type as me... who died... honestly.
The worst part of cancer?
For me, the worst part was discovering I was pregnant 4 days after my diagnosis. We had started trying for a baby a month before. The timing was horrible. We saw a specialist at the Royal Marsden to see if I could continue my much wanted pregnancy alongside chemo. My oncologist advised against this as the 2nd chemo drug I was scheduled to have - taxol - could cause deformities in unborn babies. I was grateful to have a clear choice, but terminating that pregnancy was the worse day of my life.
The best part of cancer?
The best part of cancer for me was strengthening my relationships and realising how strong and resilient I am.
How has the whole cancer ride changed you and your life?
My life has been split in two, life before cancer and life after. Laura pre cancer and Laura post cancer.
That’s the only way I think of it now and I hear it’s the same for other people too. So much changes, your outlook, your happiness, your worst fears. Everything has a different perspective. It’s tough adjusting to be this new person, but I see it as a form of personal growth.
My sister and I were discussing our life goals a few months ago. She told me how she wants to open a 2nd hand furniture store and begin a travel magazine. She asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted to see my 60th birthday.
What has it taught you?
Life is a gift. Don’t waste it with people who are not worthy of you or doing anything that you don’t enjoy. Dream big then go get it!
Cancer theories: Do you think you were destined to get cancer? Or did something happen along the way?
I am undecided on this as I used the Mirena coil for 5 years prior to my diagnosis. The side effects state 1 in 4,000 women will get breast cancer.
I also had unresolved childhood trauma that I hadn’t dealt with. Since having cancer, I have had multiple therapies to overcome these old traumas and feel emotionally more balanced and happier in myself. Some believe that harbouring these traumas can manifest into cancer.
Golden tip for new warriors.
Remember that the doctors only know about western medicine. Advice on anything else is purely their opinion.
Any other nuggets worth sharing?