After overcoming bone cancer at the age of 14, Allie Morgan knew that the end of treatment could be a really difficult time for a lot of cancer patients and wanted to offer support for those finding it tough to get back into ‘normal’ life. She became a confidence coach, working with cancer survivors and those with chronic illnesses.
Here, Allie reflects on her cancer journey and shares some of her confidence-building tips:
It started with growing pains. Or what I thought were growing pains. My leg ached all the time, to the point where it was keeping me up at night. Then the swelling started.
We went back and forth to the doctors for months, being told it was arthritis, then ligament damage. At 14, I knew my body well enough to know that something wasn’t adding up. It was only when I was sent for an x-ray (which was meant to put our minds at rest) that they found a 10cm tumour in my femur. It had become so big that it had broken the bone.
I was rushed into hospital immediately, to an assessment unit in Cardiff and then a week or so later, to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham to have a biopsy. From that point on, the hospital became my second home as I had to undergo nine months of chemotherapy, with surgery in between to replace the bone in my leg with a titanium joint. I was very lucky that I managed to keep my leg at all and put every effort into learning to walk again so I could start living independently. Going through cancer treatment was tough, not just for me but for my family and friends who were always by my side.
Once I had officially finished my IV chemo treatment on New Years Eve, I was ready to start 2009 with a whole new lease of life. I was ready to sit some of my GCSE’s, start socialising and start being a teenager again. But what I found was that my confidence after cancer had taken a dive.
I was left with scars on my body and my hair was just starting to grow back. I walked with a slight limp and I knew I’d never be able to run or dance the way I used to. If I did a lot of walking one day, I knew the next I would be laid up with an aching leg. I worried about what boys must think of me - this awkward person who had cropped hair and a bit of a limp. I’d always try and forewarn people before we got too involved that life with me wouldn’t always be easy - I still had check-ups to go to, my heart was damaged and I didn’t know if I would be able to have kids. I always thought myself lucky if someone just took an interest in me.
That was twelve years ago and since then, I’ve really worked on my self-confidence so that I longer doubt myself and my cancer experience doesn’t hold me back. Instead, I’ve learned to embrace it and see it as something to push me forward. Having experienced life after cancer, I know it can be tough and I’ve recently set up my own confidence coaching business - What Comes Next Coaching - to help cancer survivors get their confidence back after treatment.
If your self-confidence is suffering after cancer, here are my three top tips to help you build yourself back up again:
- Don’t try to get back to the life you had before. Cancer is a life-changing experience and the truth is that you come out of it a completely different person. So don’t try to go back to the old ways you used to do things. Get to know the new you & see this as a fresh start.
- Spend some time alone. I know it can be tough because then you have to deal with everything that’s been going on in your head but spending time alone after you finish cancer treatment can be crucial. After all, for so long, you’ve had family, friends, doctors and nurses buzzing around you for months on end. Take some time out for you & concentrate on your own self-care.
- Learn to love your body again. It will inevitably have changed during cancer treatment, whether you’ve lost your hair, gained weight or had major surgery. But nourishing your body is so important right now - after all, it’s got you through so much.
Allie is a confidence coach, working with cancer survivors and those with chronic illnesses. Through her use of confidence-building techniques, Allie helps to make those who have suffered from serious or chronic illness feel empowered, and able to write the next chapter of their life. You can find out more at www.whatcomesnextcoaching.com