Do Or Die: Interview With Breast Cancer Survivor
Today it is my great pleasure to interview Cath Filby, author of a soon-to-be-released memoir Do or Die. I recently met Cath on Twitter and discovered we share the surname Ennis and that we are both on extended stays in Australia from our respective homes in Ireland and the UK. Of course the other thing we have in common is a shared history of breast cancer, so I was curious to learn more about what led Cath to write this book.
Marie: Cath, congratulations on the publication of your memoir Do or Die. Many of us who have had cancer will remember how confusing and overwhelming the start of this journey was. There’s so much new information to take in, and critical decisions to make while you are in a state of shock and disbelief. What was your first reaction when you were told you had cancer seven years ago?
Cath: Thank-you. It was so gracious of you to interview me. I will try to answer the questions as candidly as I can. To be diagnosed with breast cancer is extremely frightening and carries with it many, many emotions and fears. I have listed some of the main ones below and they are not in order of priority:
- fear of disfigurement
- fear of pain
- fear of making the wrong decisions
- fear it will return
- fear of dying
An excerpt from book describes how I felt at the time:
“I felt that I was entering a tunnel and, as with most tunnels, there had to be a light at the end of it and it wasn’t going to be a celestial one either!….There had to be another way towards the light that I knew was at the end of the tunnel and it was up to me to make the journey to reach this goal. Do or Die was how I felt.”
Marie: So right from the outset you were determined to take control. What steps did you take to find the information and the resources you would need for the journey? What helped or hindered you in doing this?
Cath: I knew that there was only one way and that was forward, and to combat my fears was my main priority. I could only do this by helping myself to get better. I owed that to my family. So I took the bull by the horns and used a variety of methods of approach to discover the answers to the many questions I had:
I compiled lists of questions to ask the consultants, oncologists and anyone who would listen to me. If I wasn’t given straight and comprehensive answers I consulted the many, often complex reference books I had purchased and, of course, I surfed the internet. Sometimes, I would contact cancer support groups.
The wealth of information available on the subject of breast cancer turned out to be quite a paradox as, although the quantity was readily accessible, this was often a hindrance as I became very confused by the vast amounts of information on the subject. There seemed to be no way of knowing where to find the most reliable source of information and how to access it quickly. The jargon often proved a problem too. I quickly realised I needed to sift out irrelevant subject matter and focus on what would help me in my quest to get better.
Marie: Complementary therapy was an important part of your healing journey. In what ways did this help you deal with cancer treatment and its effect on your body and mind?
Cath: Psychologically, to be able to discover a way of helping myself by using treatments that I believed would alleviate the side effects of the orthodox breast cancer medication was extremely empowering. I believe it helped to strengthen my resolve to fight the cancer and recovery. Physically, I felt strong, positive and had a lot of energy. The motivation I experienced as I travelled my cancer journey became stronger and stronger as I felt my body fight the disease. Yes, there were days when I felt weak and poorly but I closely monitored these times and I soon discovered they coincided with me not following closely my health regime.
Marie: This book is the first part of your two-part Do or Die series. What can readers expect in Part 2?
Cath: Part 2 is a self-help health book and is a user-friendly guide written in a concise, largely non-technical, jargon-free format outlining a self-help approach to taking control of your health at a time when the body is about to reach its lowest ebb.
The suggestions and guidelines are presented in pro-formas, spreadsheets, flow charts, checklists and a cross-reference system which conveys concisely the subjects outlined in the table of contents part 2.
The uniqueness of part 2 incorporates each of the 13 sections on to stand-alone removable information cards similar to a ‘slip-card’ format. Each card is easily accessible and the facility to remove the cards enables the reader to transport the subject matter with them – e.g. for shopping, if they need to have a reminder of what healthy body-restoring foodstuffs they need to buy or if they wish to carry out any of the other recommendations and do not want to transport a text-book with them. There will be a facility to down-load the sections.
Marie: You write about the death of your son in a car accident in 1990 and are candid about how you have grown through this tragedy and the experience of breast cancer. Can you tell us a little more about this?
Cath: I have tried to reflect on how I have changed and grown as a result of my experience with breast cancer and I have listed below the many benefits I gained as a person on my journey:
- I overcame the fear of having cancer;
- I really, really, really value life, loved ones and health;
- It created an opportunity to change negative thoughts and actions into positive ones through self-empowerment; to understand how, through supplying the body and mind with the correct ingredients, you can improve your health;
- to understand the importance of taking control of one’s health, you can improve the quality of one’s life.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff!
Marie: Good advice indeed Cath. So, finally would you share one piece of advice you had been given, or wish you had been given at the start of your cancer journey and which you would like readers to know?
Cath: I would have liked more information and advice on my orthodox protocol and the effects of chemotherapy on the body from the oncologist and details of how much time I had before I needed to make the decision to go ahead with the recommended treatment. The advice I would like to share is what I learned: We are all owners of an amazing body and mind and we need to take very seriously personal responsibility for the care of it. The body has the ability to heal itself, given the right ingredients. By helping take care of our health, we are not only helping to ensure we don’t become sick but we are also helping to take the strain off the already over-burdened public healthcare system (if we are fortunate enough to live in a country that has one).
About the author
Cath Filby was born in Newport, Wales in 1954. She trained and worked in banking when she left school and then, married with three children, changed career and worked in vocational training. Later, Cath with her husband of 41 years, ran a highly successful national training organisation for twelve years. Following the death of her son in 1990, Cath and her husband took early retirement in 1998, and went to live in Southern Spain, where they enjoyed an idyllic existence until her life was shattered by the diagnosis of Breast Cancer in 2007. The experiences she encountered on her journey through cancer inspired her to write her memoirs, ‘Do or Die – A Journey through Breast Cancer, Part 1, and design a self-help health book, Do or Die – A Journey through Breast Cancer, Part 2, which she hopes will inspire others to take control of their lives during their journeys through cancer. When they are not busy writing and travelling, Cath and her husband spend quality family time with their children and grandchildren in Qatar and Australia.
About the book
Do or Die is being launched by Britain’s Next Bestseller. In order to secure a publishing deal with her publisher, Live It Publishing, Cath needs 250 pre-orders before the second week in July (if you place a pre-order, no money is taken from your account until the book is published). You can find out more about the book or pre-order by clicking on this link,
Thanks for sharing Cath’s story – I really admire her for how she has grown through adversity. I wish her luck with her book publishing deal.
Cath comes across as such a nice lady in the video. Writing two books shows a real commitment to helping others.
Cath sure has been through a lot – I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of losing your child. She is an inspiration to all who experience tragedy in their lives
good luck with your book. i too just published an e-book about my experiences. have a look:
Life Unexpected: A Trauma Psychologist Journeys Through Breast Cancer
It sounds like we are on the same wavelength!
Hi Naomi, thanks for sharing the information about your book. I will certainly check it out.
Fear of making the wrong decision. That point really sticks with me, and it’s one we don’t hear much about in the discussion of our disease. Thank you for bringing this to light.
That’s so true Nancy and those decisions we need to make are literally life altering and need to be made in a heightened emotional state of anxiety and fear – not exactly the best conditions to make any decision in!
Thank you so much, everyone, for your kind and truthful comments. Marie, you have highlighted one of the biggest issues of all, making the decisions in a highly charged, emotional state – a very difficult position to be in when you are feeling so vulnerable.
Good luck, Naomi with your book. Writing my book and now revisiting my journey through organising the book campaign, 7 years later, with my husband, has been very cathartic.
Thank you, Marie, for sharing my story. Have a lovely weekend, everyone.