Introduction to Lauren:
Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31 and truly has turned this hand that she was dealt with into everything that she could create a community that she didn’t see that was available to her, a story that is so real and so relatable to so many of us, she launched a brand girl versus cancer. She hosts an award winning podcast that’s now picked up by BBC, she’s absolutely incredible and I’m so honoured that she gave us the time to be on this podcast, this conversation is raw, is very, very real. It’s very open, so I asked you to really take your time listening to this, to connect with Lauren. She is one of the strongest women that I know and I am so humbled to have her as my guest, so welcome it to the podcast, Lauren, how are you today.
Lauren “Hello darling, I am. Alright I am currently on day nine or day 10 is my last day of isolation COVID So, I have been better, and I’m just grateful that I feel like the end is in sight now so yeah I’m doing all right, darling. I don’t do these by halves, apparently. So yeah, do I have a quiet major jaw surgery, I think, in my head I kind of had to box off how, how big the surgery was, I had jaw advancements and my top jaw came forward eight millimetres so I’ve got some nice titanium plates in my face right now. So it’s been a six weeks post operative recovery, and in week four of the post operative recovery, I went and contracted COVID So, it’s been going on. But yeah hopefully now on the side of it. Good vibes.
I’m a born and raised, London, as I’m sure you can tell by my dulcet tones. I’d say I’m a cancer campaigner an activist in some way. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 So we’re coming up to my five year anniversary this year so far which is mental. I was diagnosed with 31. The boobs I have now with a boobs that had been very small. I didn’t think you’d get breast cancer with small boobs. Spoiler alert. Yeah Can it yeah it was like a tonne of breakthrough came in such a shock, and I, as you do. When you, something happens in life that is something that isn’t the norm, and you don’t usually for people who’ve experienced what you have to be for what you have to take guidance and get empowerment and find some companionship, because it can feel quite scary and lonely. I really struggled to find women like me there were a lot of women talking about breast cancer but they were all in an elderly life stage or a more advanced life stage as I like to say, there were women who have had their children and like I think about retiring soon and have a very different like lifestyle than me. And I just wanted to find girls like me, someone that I could imagine sitting down in the pub with have a pint and go, What the fuck is going on, so I really struggled to find it but also. Not only that, it became really apparent to me very quickly as soon as the word gout and I started telling people and the perception of what cancer looks like was actually really damaging to my mental health, it was people treating me in certain ways and people were, you know, looking at me like I was literally about to drop that in front of them and I thought you know what I’m not having this like this isn’t my perception of what I’m going through my head.
This is something I’ve got to get there treatment is something I’ve got to get through to live, so I’m not seeing it as an end of road thing I’m seeing it as a bump in the road thing, So, I didn’t want people to treat me any differently and I wanted to take control of that treatment and perception of me and my experience so I started talking about my experience online, under the hashtag girl versus cancer started selling a few T shirts to raise money for charity and five years down the line it’s, It is its own amazing thing it’s a supportive Cancer Network that does campaigns around the lesser known talked about things of the cancer experience, whether that be like impact on sex finances, we talk about like bowel cancer and getting literally into the nitty gritty in the dirt of cancer and not being afraid to be really open about what that looks like but doing it in a way that isn’t scaremongering that’s very real. We’ve raised money for charity. I say we, it’s me. Yeah. And we’re on the precipice now of a rebrand and a whole relaunch and I’m really excited about that. Now when I say we, there is more help now which is good. And so that’s what I’ve done for the last five years, but also I have a podcast in the BBC, You, Me and The Big C, which is about cancer we talk about it, you don’t have to have cancer, or have had cancer to listen to it, there’s so many types of heartaches for life really in there, and loads of reliable stuff, but and also I’m a person on the internet who is a bit of a gobshite I talk about. I always love talking about things that matter to me, like, you know, women’s health and women’s rights and social justice issues that matter to me, as well as clothes and food and all the other things we love music so yeah that’s a nice summary.”
Mindset Coping Mechanisms:
Lauren: “I found my people obviously the internet, like, straight away, I went on to forums, don’t do that. Don’t do that, because as human nature. People don’t go on forums to talk about successes or things that have gone well, or, you know, if something hasn’t bothered you, you get on with your day. So what I found was forums were full of the worst case scenarios are someone who’s about to go through some pretty gnarly treatment. That isn’t a place I wanted to be in. So I very quickly had to remove myself from the forums. Also, my sister was incredible. When I first got diagnosed and literally took to every single breast cancer website she could find Googled every single thing and said if you’ve got a question asked me in all search for you, because she just knows the rabbit hole of the incident and where I end up which I’m so grateful for because I’m sure it put the fear of God into her a lot of that stuff, but she became my filter my Instagram filter almost my internet filter. She’s an amazing woman. And then the incident, I think it was the moment that the moment that I said out loud that I had breast cancer. This influx of support not only from my Instagram community and the influencers and people that I know online and brands and stuff but also the cancer community found me that way. So there were a few women who have been through a journey I have you messaged me straight away. One of them is called Alice my Perkis and I talk about all the time. Hello Alice, and she was honestly a godsend to me, and reached out right away so what you’ve just done is very brave. I did the same thing, and know that you’re held anything you want to ask, I’ve got you and she became a really close confidant for me during my cancer treatment, and it’s someone I still close a friend. And one of my favourite internet friends actually. And then also, not luckily for me, that sounds really horrible but I actually had a friend who had had cancer like four years prior, bowel cancer, not the same cancer but they were in their 30s When they got diagnosed early phase, and I actually wrote about my personal blog at the time. So when, when I got diagnosed, I shout out to her, and I actually credit her for being the reason Girl VS Cancer exists I thought if I didn’t know you, who would I go to. Absolutely. So, yeah, so that’s kind of the first places that I went to. And, but also I’m kind of glad that I didn’t find many people right away because I felt like, then I didn’t have to perform my cancer a certain way like authentically how I wanted to talk about my cancer, not how I felt I should.
Even though I’m getting further away from that moment of cancer and the experience of it, you know, initially the act of treatment and all that stuff is stuff that never leaves you and you know, my wonderful friend Brad Goodger who runs a incredible app called a like to connect the cancer community it’s phenomenal. It’s game changing. He once said to me, and it stuck with me and I do reference him a lot. He said that cancer is like the Hotel California you can check out but you can never leave, and it’s so poignant because it’s the same as anything in life like once it was originally a you can never be a virgin, again, ever not know what it’s like to take a deck. Whatever you’d like whatever you do, once you have had your first cigarette or once you’ve had a drink once you’ve had a baby, once you’ve had your heart broken. There’s all things in life that you will experience that are now, something that you can never not experience. Cancer is very much the same. So once you’ve been through that experience of hearing those words. Once you’ve sat down in a chair and had drugs pumped into once you’ve seen your hair fall from your body once you know you’ve had all those moments of having to tell friends and stuff like that, that’s trauma that is embedded. And that never leaves, and even though I don’t live in it every day, and I do feel like five years down the line cancer is a secondary, I don’t think about my cancer experience every day. I do in terms of my work but I don’t sit there and think, oh my god, wake up and go, Oh my god, cancer, and I think that’s good too and a bit years for that to go away, it does go away for anyone that’s been who’s gone through it or going through it for me is about the two and a half year mark two year where I didn’t wake up every day, go into cancer. But for me, it’s that I work in the community, and I love the community, and there’s a big part of me that wants to run away from it a lot. It’s a big part of me that started, I don’t want to do this anymore, because it hurts because you build bonds, and you see news that you can’t help but internalise and the triggers and you think that could be me, you’re only ever one scan away from not being alright you know what I mean. And having to constantly live in your, your now in your truth and have to bring yourself back to this is not my story,
But it’s those moments, there’s two things really that come up, there’s that those moments of not thinking that it’s too much and will I ever not be cancer go live. I’m constantly in cancer. Yeah and that’s quite hard because I want, I’m feeling the pull, especially now five years of diagnosis next year when I get my clear scan and I say when because I will. When I get my clear scan, I will officially be in remission and I’ve made a decision to myself after that point, ya know, so amazing to get to that point and I feel so lucky that I’m even looking down that barrel. But I still got a way to get down I know my doctors are like, Oh my God wherever Lauren like you’re going to be fine but I just, I’d never thought I’d get cancer. So, yeah, um, I, I’ve made a decision to myself that when I get to that point, I don’t want Girl VS Cancer to be my be all and end all.
I think, I’m never going to get past unless I give myself the space so that’s one mindset shift that I’ve had and made a commitment to and the other is general imposter syndrome stuff. I feel like I am not someone who anyone in the family from businesses, I’m not someone who ever thought I’d be running my own, especially off the back of a cancer diagnosis, working for yourself constantly raises those things, I’m sure you can agree kind of see where you’re like, What am I doing, what am I doing. Absolutely, yeah, all the time, isn’t it, and it’s great that you’re doing what you’re doing. It was a Lionsgate portal one and they were talking about the heart opening up and open up to the sky and I was like no, I don’t want to do that. I thought I really needed to be inward, so I just stopped the meditation, took a few breaths, and I just imagined all of the negative voices that I’ve been getting louder and louder all week. Literally sinking out of my body and into the water around me, calming off me. Get off makes washing away, and then I pulled the plug. And as the plug was being pulled I imagined it all going down the plug I just imagined everything going down by CLA piece off now. Don’t you be see you’re not doing this anymore. I just imagined it coming off of my body and then I had crystals around my bar. So I just imagine the light from them shining above me and then melting down on top of me and taking in that new, refreshed renewed energy for a new start rid of these voices, ready to take on this next phase and almost see the COVID stuff as an ascension on to the next phase rather than seeing it as something that’s held me back there’s nothing I can do now about anything that’s happened before. All I have control over is what’s going to happen now. So if I sit there and beat myself up, what has not done. Oh my god, what a waste of energy and time. So I’ve read, that’s probably one positive that’s come out of this time, being poorly is, I’ve really been able to catch that mindset shift, and it wasn’t a good one. So be able to pull it back so I’m putting practical steps in place for me to maintain that as well, which is really good.”
Lauren: “I really do hold on to and keep coming back to especially because I’ve been as close as I ever want to be at this age to my immortality. Life is way too short to be at war with yourself is way too short to be at war with yourself. So Charlie Nicholas, who has the app Cheney said something in a meditation, a few weeks ago, and it’s a new thing but it’s really relevant “Life’s too short to be aware of yourself thing, and to be aware of yourself even. And she says, That’s imagine your life is your soulmate. So, see your life is your soulmate. Really ruminating still not imagine your life is your soulmate. If you see your life as your soulmate, you stop seeing, is it something that’s against you, you stop seeing it as someone that’s working against you. That’s not fair, that’s mean That’s cruel that’s evil, all the things that go on in the world. See your life is your soulmate. The minute you start seeing that you start to see that your life wants the best for you. Your life loves you unconditionally. Your life takes you as you are, and just wants you to do well and be happy.” The minute I started to do that every time I have a thought where I feel overwhelmed or like the world is a bad place or this is never going to get better, I go, realise your soulmate, your life what was best for you. You’re right. And if you think your life is your soulmate. What would you want to give back to your soulmate. What, how would you treat it, you treat your site with trust. I trust that you will what’s best for me. I will kind of I will give you patience, I will give you my love and my time and, and, and just soak it in care, love and I think we get down this rabbit hole, sometimes of thinking life’s really bad and nice really unfair, especially when you go for something like cancer, course, and I think just to remember that whatever shape that takes your life is your soulmate. It’s not always going to be roses, but just trusting that it was what’s best for you. And I think that helps me to manage my mindset a lot, because he’s talking about a war with myself.”
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