Not the year you had planned

Throughout our lives we all face challenges. One of these could be cancer. Meet Cathy McCarthy a brave woman diagnosed with breast cancer who not only fought this challenge head on, but decided to write a book to help other sufferers of the disease. Not the Year You Had Planned, is a book which stemmed from Cathy’s own private struggle against the illness. Upon being diagnosed with the disease, Cathy discovered that while there was so much useful information available, it was fragmented and often difficult to find.
“It’s a book for the practical side of cancer, for the emotional side and also for the spiritual side, how to live your life the best you can and to be happy,” says Cathy, “I would never have thought I could write a book,” she laughs.
“Its amazing – cancer gave me the opportunity to write a book, which I never, ever thought in my wildest dreams I’d be able to do and now hopefully I’ll be able to help other people face cancer with a positive feeling,” she adds.
The married mother of three, now 52 and cancer-free, believes that what is initially perceived as an overwhelming journey can somehow unearth strength and courage within us that we never knew we had.
“I never thought ‘why me?’ I thought, ‘why not me?’ – everyone is touched by something,” she says philosophically.
“There were good days and bad days but what I’m trying to show people is that your attitude is so important. You have to focus on the positives and take it one day at a time.”
But the Westmeath born author says she was as shocked as anyone to find out in 2007 that she had the disease.
“My dad died of bowel cancer but nobody in my family ever got breast cancer. “Being diagnosed is devastating – your life changes in an instant.”
From start to finish Cathy’s treatment took a year, with six cycles of chemotherapy in total. 
“After I discovered the lump I went to my doctor and they sent me on to the assessment centre in St Vincent’s Hospital,Dublin. “Chemo can be daunting as you don’t know how your body is going to react to the drugs, but I was very fit thankfully, that really helped me to get better.”
Cathy also explains how she felt lucky to have her friends and family, especially her husband Billy, and three children – David, 26, Emma, 23, and Jack, 17. “I was so lucky to have so many family and friends around me though – some people don’t have that,” she says. “For me especially it was lovely to get texts from friends saying thinking of you,” she adds.
Cathy’s book also explores the sides to cancer which are less discussed – like for instance how things will be when you’ve beat the disease. “No one ever tells you that after it all finishes you’re going to feel rotten. You’re told you have cancer, it’s a life changing event and you get very frightened.
“After it’s all over you stop to think about it then and you think, this is really serious – I could have died.
“I went for counselling and I really found it very beneficial. Those services are there for people if they need them.” She also has some tips for sufferers battling cancer. “Your attitude is really important, how you see it. If you get good news really build on that – take it one step at a time and try and get through each step.
“The year I had cancer I had a fantastic year. I went to loads of different places and at the end of every treatment I decided to go somewhere or do something different. You need to have something to look forward to.
“Cancer taught me to live life, appreciate what you have and not to be always moaning! I’d love to go on and bring this positive message to help cancer sufferers.”

Not the Year You Had Planned is available for order at www.ashfieldpress.ie  for €12.99 Cathy is donating all proceeds from the book to cancer support centres around Ireland.

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