Our Breast Cancer Story: Jo & Chris - Two Years On...

It has been two years since Jo Holmes, wife of Chris, Photo Frames & Art’s founder, received her diagnosis of cancer.

Since then, both Jo and her family have embarked upon a journey that has changed their lives.

To provide some much-needed support, advice and words of wisdom to those affected by breast cancer this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we thought we’d revisit Jo’s story and check in on her healing journey two years on...

I’d be lying if I said I was flying...

I began my chemotherapy journey in October 2020, and as I mentioned before, undergoing such treatment is one of the most taxing experiences of my life.

I had four rounds of ‘the red devil chemotherapy, as we call it, along with 12 rounds of Paclitaxel,  lumpectomy, 20 sessions of radiotherapy and I’ll now be on Tamoxifen for the next 5 years.

I have just recently had a mammogram, and I'm waiting for the results. The waiting is the worst part, it’s that anxiety of reoccurrence, but I count my blessings for the amazing support I’ve been receiving from charities such as Macmillan and Future Dreams, as well as from my wonderful family and friends who have shown up for me no matter what.

“Appreciate what you’ve got, because an hour can change your life.” - Jo

What are the important things?

I think, for me, this experience has taught me to appreciate the simplest things in life. Simply taking the dog out on a walk and getting some fresh air, or connecting with friends and family, is all I need to remind me that life is beautiful. 

“I wake up and count my blessings every day.” - Jo

How has your life changed since your diagnosis?

It felt like I had been in a car crash and didn’t know which way to turn or which path to turn down - it took me a while to get my breath back.

To be fair, there have been a lot of positives that came out of it – my diagnosis made me assess my life and figure out what was important, what I needed and what I didn’t need.

For example, I used to be a yes person, doing everything for everyone but now, I say no.

I gave up full-time work, but I volunteer for food banks and help out at my friend's shop, and I also just applied for a part time job to keep me a little bit busy.

How did your family & friends react?

Chris was absolutely fantastic. He didn’t hesitate to do anything and everything I needed and to give me the love and support I required.

It’s very easy for friends and family to feel a sense of denial, especially when they see me getting up and doing bits and pieces, which makes everything seem normal.

Of course this is fine – everyone deals with things so differently in these situations, so you can’t judge how people choose to process their loved ones going through such an experience.

My family were great – I got so much support from my in-laws, brothers and parents, and my friends, in particular, rallied around so much for me, making smoothies and doing the ironing... I'm very blessed to have such a wonderful support network to keep me going through even the most trying of times.  

What’s your advice to those supporting friends or relatives who have cancer?

Don’t be afraid to ask if someone is okay... I know people can feel awkward about this, and don’t know whether to ask, or how to ask, but from personal experience, I really appreciated being checked in on every now and then.

Also, the best form of help is offering to take on the practical tasks during treatment. Whether it’s doing some batch cooking or helping with housework, this can really reduce the stresses of everyday life for someone undergoing treatments.

What are some final words of advice you’d give?

Try and reduce those everyday little life stresses as much as you can, especially when you’re having treatment.

Yoga and meditation can really help you to switch off the mind and relax in what is, of course, an already stressful time. Those little moments of mindfulness can be just what you need amongst the chaos.

Also, you don’t have to wait for something bad to happen to start looking after yourself. Always remember to take the time out to put yourself and your health first, because at the end of the day, this will always be the most important thing.

And remember, just take it one day at a time – you'll get there.

You can read more about Jo’s story here.

To raise money for breast cancer this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Photo Frames & Art have teamed up with the artist Jo Baker to raise money for Future Dreams Breast Cancer Charity. A raffle will launch on the 1st October, giving you the chance to win a beautiful piece of original artwork, while all funds generated going to the Future Dreams charity.

Kayleigh Jordan

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