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27 November 2014
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Film maker:
Hilary Jones

Length: 1.23 mins
Date: April 2005
Subject: The battle to survive cancer
 
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Title: Surviving Cancer

As well as telling her story on this page, the message Hilary wants to get across in her Video Nation short is that you can fight cancer and hopefully survive it. You can fight it with sheer determination, but also with lots of support. Hilary is eternally grateful for the support of her friends and family and, in particular, her daughter Lynsey, whose support was, and still is, unwavering.

Hilary's story

Hilary was taken by surprise when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, because she didn't think she was a "suitable candidate". She didn't smoke, she ate a healthy diet, she didn't do too many late nights, she wasn't a heavy drinker and generally she looked after herself.

However, when she was diagnosed, purely by accident after going to the hospital about something else, she was told she had a very big and very aggressive tumour and might only live for three months.

Hilary Jones
Hilary lost her hair during treatment for cancer

Hilary was diagnosed in the week between Christmas and the Millennium. Her treatment was started almost immediately, because it needed to for her to have a chance of survival. She was told that within a week she would lose her hair and she did.

Some days she felt so awful she wondered if she'd made the right decision to have treatment, describing her battle to survive as like climbing a mountain with nothing but your fingers to pull you up.

Chemo

Hilary says there's a saying amongst people who've experienced chemotherapy: the first treatment isn't so bad, the second isn't so good and after that you make your own arrangements. Sometimes Hilary felt so ill, she couldn't get downstairs; other times she could get down, but couldn't get back up again. One of the worst things, which might come as a surprise to some people, was the smell. Hilary describes a feeling of being burned from the inside and being able to smell the burning on her whole body. The only solution was to use lots of citrus oils in the bath and totally submerge herself to escape the smell.

After five month's treatment Hilary's tumour shrank and she had a mastecomy. She still looked and felt terrible, not least because she still had no hair. She should have had six more treatments, but the effects of the treatment that far had been so devastating that she and her oncologist decided that she wouldn't have them and would "wing it". It was at this point that Hilary's anthem became "Flying without wings" by Westlife, because that's how she felt.

Hilary says that her experiences have taught her just how important research is. As she says, treatment for cancer is getting better every day and is turning "the big C" into a little c.

Survival goals

Hilary blowing out the candles on her birthday cake
Hilary blowing out the candles on her cake

Hilary accepted any help she could get from the practical to people praying for her. She used conventional and alternative therapies and just never gave up. She set herself short term survival goals: the next day, the next week, her birthday and then Christmas. When she reached her birthday, Hilary's friends threw her a surprise party at which she had a Westlife cake!

A year after her mastectomy, Hilary was able to have reconstructive surgery. Although she now describes her body as looking like a jigsaw, because of all the operations she's had, it gave her back her shape and her confidence. She could wear what she wanted and to all intents and purposes, life could be the same again. However, Hilary feels quite strongly that life after cancer can't and shouldn't just go back to the way it was before.

New life

Hilary, as with other sufferers, fought a huge battle to survive cancer and that battle took away a large chunk of her life. Hilary describes her journey through cancer as a rollercoaster ride, from absolutely terrifying to the elation of feeling she might beat it.

However, as well as taking away part of her life, Hilary sees her experience of cancer as giving her the chance of a new life. Life after cancer has provided her with some fantastic experiences and opportunities, including starting a new relationship. She feels that she learned who her friends are (ie. those who stuck by her as opposed to those who took a step back) and how to get the most out of life. She's now very choosy about how she spends her time and with whom.

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