Frances Collins - My Story

Frances Collins - My Story


Confirming a diagnosis of breast cancer in 1995 is memorable for a number of reasons, not least the language that was used. Certain phrases like ‘so sorry’ and ‘ I’m afraid it's bad news’ rang out like a chorus among verses of grade 3, nasty cell type, mastectomy, chemotherapy, Tamoxifen, radiotherapy, 5 years and 10 years that felt like spinning into a car crash. All that I knew left me and I knew that straight from that hospital. I needed to find space to fall apart. Information overload from strangers in a small clinical space was replaced by a beach where I could scream. Looking back, that was one of the best things I could have done. That beach became a safe place where heart and mind were soothed by ocean waves that reminded me that everything changes. I thought of my two daughters and instinctively got in touch with the drive to survive. Little by little, the intention to heal produced phrases like, I can survive and, my body knows how to heal. This provided an anchor and evolved into the practice of writing a daily diary that included affirmations and gratitudes. 


I did not make a decision straight away about treatment. I needed to do my own research and consider my options. I found, in the third surgeon that I consulted with, one who listened to my logic for a lumpectomy followed by radiotherapy. This was important for me to be involved in the decision about my treatment. I chose to refuse chemotherapy and Tamoxifen and to follow up with homoeopathically prescribed Mistletoe extract for five years instead.


Healing takes time. I knew that something in this life was sick, out of balance. Reflecting on my whole life, there had been significant crises. Unmet needs from childhood had taken me into psychotherapy a few years earlier. Psychological work provided an understanding of how trauma becomes stored in the physical body and presents as illness. Difficulties, betrayals, loss, trauma, grief and depression all needed to be revisited. Spending quality time with my family presented a mixture of challenges and blessings. Viewing cancer as a condition impacting everyone, we chose to enter into family therapy. This clarified that my relationship was something that had to go.


I needed to change my whole life, find safety and stability, a refuge to heal and grow. When I turned toward the disease as a sign of something in my life being out of balance, where the tumours were symptom rather than the disease itself, I knew what to do. Meditation became a refuge where I could investigate life and death in every breath. This has resulted in sustaining a committed meditation practice to this day. Finding my tribe was part of supporting what was right for me, not what others expected from me. Creating a healing space brought yoga, Reiki and Reflexology into my life. Changing to an organic vegan diet was supported by a Naturopath and Wirral Holistic Cancer Centre. The experience changed everything including the work that I do. Writing continues to be healing and as I write I have now had 24 years cancer free.



This poem was written after waiting for results of a biopsy of suspected recurrence





Sitting in a hospital waiting area ….waiting

Forget-me-nots on a poster in front of me

Don't let cancer win, it says….

My whole life flashes before me

The receptionist tells me there’s just 20 minutes to wait …..

The nurse informs me that I’m lucky - these are the days of progress and rapid diagnosis

Just 20 minutes ….

9 months after treatment for 3 little tumours


Just 20 more minutes.…

Time seems meaningless

Cancer changes lives–it's an opportunity to change… Isn't it?

Make the change and have faith!

Where has all the positive speak gone?


Just 20 minutes… My old friend fear returns

I think of my choices– of modern technological anatomical warfare that I’m supposed to feel lucky for

Who wins? Who loses?

My stomach churns


How will I be remembered?


Someone who could have been

A life interrupted - a level of being not yet reached


20 minutes is up

I hear the word benign

And I can breathe again …..


Walking outside everything has changed

I wonder did I always feel so light when I walked?

Was I always aware of my heart in my chest ….beating?

Was the air that I breathe always so precious?

Did the sun shining always make me glad to be in my skin? 

Is this the taste of life on my tongue?

Is this a beginning of a new life!




Frances x



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