Janet Higgins has faced more setbacks than most, but her attitude to life is inspiring. We can all learn something from the way she sees her obstacles as opportunities. Read Janet’s blog to hear her roller coaster journey from scoliosis at thirteen to her breast cancer diagnosis in 2020, and everything in between.
‘Hi, my name’s Janet, aka fit Jan, mum of 4 grown up babies aged 18, 21, 27, 28 and married for 28 years to Mike, aka my rock.
Although I was loving life even during lockdown, I was suddenly diagnosed on October 26th 2020 with aggressive grade 3 invasive HER2 breast cancer that had spread to two of my lymph nodes. My world came crashing down, paralysed with fear, it was the first time I had ever felt that there was no future.
Once a treatment plan was rolled out, I was inspired and motivated to play my part alongside the multidisciplinary team at Bolton and The Christie. I trusted in the plan. Chemotherapy then surgery, a mastectomy, a full axillary clearance and then radiotherapy to the chest wall. Depending on what they see in the mastectomy tissue, I may need a further 18 cycles of chemo.
I started chemo on December 2nd 2020… HOORAY!
I decided to create that iron man mindset (even though I have never done a triathlon) and see my treatment as 3 parts, like a triathlon. I researched exercise as I was mindful to not overdo it. I was amazed to see the outstanding benefits of exercise during and beyond breast cancer. Although due to chemo I have to pace and read my body.
I have built up resilience through overcoming many setbacks in my life so, I KNOW I CAN DO THIS! DREAM, BELIEVE, ACHIEVE.
SETBACKS BEFORE DIAGNOSIS:
Aged 13, I had Scoliosis and had to wear a body brace 24/7 for 4 years. This was followed by 2 operations to fuse most of vertebrate 18-21. I loved exercise but had to give it up, save for an occasional swim.
Following this, aged 28, I had 2 prolapsed discs. This put me in constant pain for ten years, which lead to depression, as nothing could be done. I had to give up work as a speech therapist and rest most of time. The only thing keeping me sane was a short swim and the support of my family.
The birth of my daughter, Isabel. She had severe congenital developmental disorder with severe learning difficulties and severe autism. It was heart-breaking to see her struggle and the impact it has on you as a family. She needs 24 hour, one on one care. When she turned 19, a place came available for her to go into independent supported living and life got easier.
I retrained as a counsellor, CBT therapist, hypnotherapist and homeopath. I absolutely love helping others. I set up my own private practice and had a few proper swimming lessons to learn freestyle. I started to work out more, joined the gym and loved spinning. I always struggled to run as I was susceptible to tendinitis. I began open water swimming and eventually ventured out onto the bike after a trapeziectomy, which is the removal of thumb bone for arthritis. I started to think about triathlons, so I took on a Windermere one way swim in 2017 and 2018, which is 17km. I had a torn rotator cuff eighteen months later and opted for a repair in February 2020. Then Covid-19 came along, followed quickly by my mum’s death and me finding several lumps in my left breast.
NOW, THE RACE FOR LIFE:
Exercise is my go-to, as is seeing friends and having fun. I thrive on challenges and I know I’m seen as very competitive, but most of the time I love helping others. So, I am using this crisis in my life as an opportunity to inspire others to move, especially when you are struggling and feel down and especially during cancer treatment. I am taking on various sporting challenges throughout my treatment. I’m kicking it off with a Santa dash, cycling virtual Lands End to John O’Groats, and walking Hadrian’s wall virtually.