Are you making the most from your opportunities?
Having the confidence to try something new doesn’t come easy to all of us. Taking a risk can be both scary and exciting.
The beginning - Moving to France and writing
Shortly after moving to France in 2000, I had the opportunity to write a weekly column in Bella Magazine. It was a dream come true and I grabbed it with both hands. Was I scared? I was terrified! For over a year, each week I would write my life-style column and I loved every moment.
As well as my email inbox filling up, handwritten letters started to arrive from readers; many feeling they knew me personally. Sometimes they would phone asking about my family by name, it was a little weird, but thankfully they weren’t a daily occurrence.
Then a new editor arrived, and my column was sadly caught up in her clean sweep.
Life in France continued to be full of new adventures and busy, busy. Although I missed my Bella column it wasn’t at the top of my priorities.
The Middle – Health is everything
One day, out of the blue, something happened that turned my safe little family world upside down. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I knew my life was never going to be the same again.
Thankfully I’d been lucky and was given a good prognosis if I completed all my treatments. I found the surgery easy to cope with. Next up was chemo. That was a different story, it was an absolute nightmare for me, but I’m a wimp at the best of times!
Radiotherapy followed, and like the surgery, I found it a breeze. The next step was hormone therapy that I would have to take for the next five years. There were the horrible hot flashes plus some aches and pains but nothing that I couldn’t easily deal with.
Most of us have heard of the ‘new normal’ life we must deal with. My ‘new normal’ was certainly different. The fear of it coming back as, as I’m sure it is with everyone, is at the forefront of your mind each time you get a twinge or if someone suggests booking something for more than a few months in advance. But a different story began to emerge.
I was diagnosed with permanent hair loss from my chemotherapyregime. I’ll describe it as male pattern baldness because that’s exactly what it looks like. Bad enough for a man, but a woman?! As women our hair defines us. My mental health took a nosedive and I struggled terribly.
About a year after my oncologist told me it was permanent, I co-founded a support group. It soon became a thriving global community. There was nowhere else for us to go, we were outcasts, we were freaks.
Seven years later, I finally accepted my disfigurement. I wanted to share my experience, reach out to others and continue to help raise awareness so what better way to do this than write a memoir.I self-published Naked in the Wind – Chemo Hair Loss and Deceit in 2014, and I’ll tell you, it was terrifying hitting that ‘publish’ button!
I’ve lost count of the emails I’ve received from readers who have either bought the book for themselves or for family members, pouring their hearts out to me as they relate to my story. I’m so glad I took the risk of pressing that button.
It wasn’t a joy to write Naked in the Wind as I had to revisit those times of being in denial plus, I had to make sure everything, including stats, was totally accurate. However, it did give me the writing bug and so two short travelogues followed.
Out of the blue I received a podcast interview invitation to discuss the permanent hair loss side-effect. Yikes, I was terrified! But what did I have to lose? After a couple of sleepless nights, I found myself accepting. PODCAST INTERVIEW
More podcast Invites followed. Then requests came in for me to write articles for websites.
I tried to come to grips with Twitter, and I think I’m finally getting there. Twitter users have taught me that there is a big black hole, where there should be mental health support for ‘life after cancer’. Doctor’s do their job of treating your cancer and if you are one of the lucky ones, they will tell you go away and live your life. Survivors will tell you it’s just not that easy. In fact, it’s a struggle. It’s real.
The Future – Living a full life
I’ve discovered blogging and loving it! I’ve two beautiful granddaughters and I wake up to sunshine, most days. We have bought a camper/van and go off for weekends exploring the incredible French countryside or go fishing in Spain.
I’m going to carry on with my new interest of blogging on my website and I’m working on a new short travel eBook. I’ve started writing the first in a series of amusing camper/van memories. Well, I think they’re amusing, so I’m hoping readers will as well!
My biggest inspiration must be my dad. He had this amazing ability to enjoy everything in his life, even the simplest things we take for granted. He taught me create opportunities, grab them with both hands and don’t let the fear of trying something new, stop you from giving it your best shot!
Shirley Ledlie is an internationally known columnist and author. She and her husband of thirty-two years reside in France. They have two adult children and two gorgeous granddaughters.
Shirley spends most of her days writing or gardening, practicing yoga and meditation, working as a patient information reviewer, and having the odd lunch or two with her friends. Many hours each day she spends raising awareness about a little known side effect from a drug called Taxotere. After Shirley suffered permanent alopecia from this chemotherapy drug, she didn't want another woman to be denied information enabling her to decide for herself. She believes very strongly in addressing the mental health of patients after cancer. Every Wednesday morning she can be found at her local commune's l'epicerie sociale helping the Red Cross.
You can reach out to Shirley at the links below.