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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
on this film