Nina Joy has had a long and successful career in banking and financial services, before branching out on her own as a professional speaker in 2011. This was rudely interrupted in 2012 when, not only was she diagnosed with breast cancer, but as it had spread to her lymph, lungs, liver and bones, it was incurable. Not a women to take ‘no’ for an answer, Nina has spent the past two years using the skills she developed in her career to help her tackle the greatest challenge of her life, whilst providing hope and inspiration to others as the original “Cancer Maverick”.
“…I was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2012. Obviously I was shocked. Devastated in fact. But I found that the skills I had learned and used at work helped me to get through. I knew how to research, how to assess options, and how to make sometimes difficult decisions…”
The right time to do something to make a difference
Due to a restructure, I got the opportunity for voluntary redundancy. I thought that the time was right for me to do something different with the skills and experience I had acquired over the years. Something which would make a difference, something I would enjoy. I had always enjoyed presenting and connecting with groups, and told that I was pretty good at it, so I decided to start my own speaking business.
Freedom to do my thing
I thoroughly enjoyed having the freedom to do my thing, do it my way, and not have to answer to anyone else. There are of course different challenges – in corporate life you have a team to work alongside, and many specialist support functions. I have found ways to fill that gap, for example using a virtual PA, being part of a Mastermind group, and outsourcing where appropriate.
I was just getting established when I was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2012. Obviously I was shocked. Devastated in fact. But I found that the skills I had learned and used at work helped me to get through. I knew how to research, how to assess options, and how to make sometimes difficult decisions.
This helped me to reach one of the most important decisions of my life – to turn down conventional treatment, to say no to chemotherapy. This isn’t because I was ready to die, or to preserve my quality of life. I wanted quality and quantity, and I thought that this was not the option to give me that. My gut instinct told me that was the right decision.
The real experts – cancer survivors
I wanted to learn from the people I consider to be the real experts – cancer survivors. But I didn’t have time on my side. My condition was serious, with a life expectancy of three to twelve months. I knew of a place in Germany, called the 3E Centre. They have studied cancer survivors around the world, to learn what the commonalities are. They offer a five week programme at their Centre near Stuttgart where you can go and experience and learn what to do. I attended that in October 2012, and then came home and incorporated what I had learned into my new lifestyle.
This made me mentally strong, and got my body in a better state. But the cancer was too advanced for such gentle non-toxic measures to work, and my condition deteriorated. I knew that I needed to do something else. But what? Back to the researching drawing board.
Yes to Life
Through a charity called Yes to Life, I found a cancer consultant, Patricia Peat of Cancer Options. She has such a depth of knowledge on cancer treatments, from the cutting edge right through to complementary and alternative therapies. She introduced me to Professor Vogl in Frankfurt, who offers a different way of administering chemotherapy.
Instead of being delivered systemically, throughout the body (with the collateral damage that causes), he administers it through the blood supply, direct to the tumours. This is much more effective, with minimal side effects. I had my first treatment in March 2013, with a further seven treatments in the period up to November 2013. I also continued with all the other lifestyle changes and supplements, and literally sailed through the treatment.
The results have been remarkable. Here I am, two years after diagnosis, and I am well, symptom-free and living my life to the max. I still have cancer, but it seems to be having a bit of a snooze, and long may that continue!
Over the last two years I have spent hours and hours, and literally thousands of pounds to learn what I know now. I want to share what I’ve learned, which as a speaker I am well placed to do.
The Adventures of a Cancer Maverick
I have also blogged throughout my experience (ninajoy.com), and have written a book about my story, “The Adventures of a Cancer Maverick”. My second book, “How to be a Cancer Maverick” will be published shortly – this will provide full details of how I coped with such a diagnosis, and what I have done specifically since then to look after myself.
I have recently buddied up with a fellow breast cancer warrior, Ann Devlin. We have held two “Say No to Cancer” events – both sell-outs – to encourage people to take control of their health, either to prevent cancer, or to stay as well as possible after diagnosis and beyond.
The Cancer Mavericks Club
Our latest venture is to provide the level of support we would have liked to have after diagnosis – this is called (perhaps unsurprisingly) The Cancer Mavericks Club. This will offer a full 12 months support to those with cancer, or those living in dread of it coming back. We are holding an Introductory Day on 15th November for those interested. For more information and to book see http://bit.ly/CMIntroDay
We have been asked to hold events elsewhere in the country, and to look at providing online support, which we are looking into. Who knows where it will lead? I am delighted that from that initial devastating news, so many good things are happening. I want others to know that there is always hope, and always options even after an incurable diagnosis.