An interview with Lottie Holgate for breast cancer awareness month
by Olivia Rage
What are your pronouns?
How do you describe yourself? e.g. someone who is currently living with cancer, someone who has experienced breast cancer, breast cancer survivor, someone currently in remission from breast cancer?
Breast cancer survivor.
What are some of the most significant sources of support that have helped you during your cancer journey? (Could be relationships, activities, hobbies, resources, anything you could/can rely on or refer to for help)
First and foremost my family and my boyfriend Sam – not forgetting of course my doggo Frankie. In 2021 I trekked in the Scottish Highlands with CoppaFeel! I credit the charity with saving my life – they are the ultimate resource for awareness and support. The trek was sensory overload but in a great way – we walked and talked for hours (literally!) and I made some amazing lifelong friends – we have a great support network. I founded a candle brand during my treatment (Huskke & Co) which was an invaluable distraction. I made it my mission to create a product that encapsulated the meaning of ‘Mindful Luxury’ with natural ingredients and essential oils that I’m thrilled to say it’s thriving today.
Has your experience with breast cancer changed your perspective on self-care and overall well-being?
I would say absolutely, yes. Stress is a big no if you’ve had or have cancer and so I try my best to eliminate it from my life. I made this decision to leave my job as an Interior Designer in London and move to the countryside. I now work for a small studio here and have a much quieter pace of life. I love a routine and get so much joy from the simple things - being with friends and family, cooking and designing. Taking Frankie on grounding walk around the park with a honey ginger tea is a daily essential. I am far more conscious of environmental stressors, my diet and toxins now but I do think it’s important to practice moderation and balance. I now live with a constant reminder of how precious life can be and so I try to remain as positive and happy as I can.
How has your experience with breast cancer changed your relationship with your body?
I remember waking up from surgery, I was 25 and had just had a bilateral mastectomy – everything felt alien. I was put into a medical menopause when I started Chemotherapy and I still live with the side effects and emotions this brings with it today - it is certainly no mean feat. I did/do feel disconnected from my body but I’m healing that in slow time day by day and I have developed a new found love and respect for it – I’m grateful that it fought breast cancer and enabled me to survive and thrive.
If you're comfortable discussing it, what are some things you wish others understood about the cancer experience that they might not be aware of? (I personally found it difficult that immediately after treatment and good news from scans, people assumed I would instantaneously bounce back to full mental and physical health.)
I think the love and support you receive when you’re going through treatment is second to none. I feel the time when you almost need more support is when you finish – people generally consider you ‘cured’ but for me personally this is when my mental health took a deep dive. During treatment you have no choice but to fight on and with everything going on including all the wonderful attention it leaves you little time to think – only after do you begin to process the monumental journey you’ve just been on and it’s a rollercoaster. You’re trying to bounce back but when you’ve had a brush with death it’s going to be hard to silence the scary thoughts.
Can you share any strategies or advice for maintaining a positive outlook or resilience during your cancer treatment and recovery?
I have always said that when you’re diagnosed you become part of a club that no one wants to be a-part of. That being said there is a wonderful community out there of incredible breast cancer warriors and they are waiting to welcome you into the club with open arms. Please don’t suffer in silence –“two heads are better than one” as they say and for me personally being able to talk to others gave me essential strength and resilience. Find your people and they will carry you through.
What has been the most useful thing you have learned during your breast cancer journey?
Is it cliché to say don’t sweat the small stuff? I used to get so worried about trivial things but when your life is threatened it gives you a profound new perspective and for me generally a positive and go get it outlook. No matter what the day holds – I’ve been through worse and I dig deep to memories of being rigged up in my chemo chair to give me motivation.
Have you discovered anything about yourself that you didn't know before your diagnosis?
I found my strength – perhaps it had always been there deep down but for the first time it was challenged to make an appearance and I’m proud of it.
What do you wish people asked you or didn’t ask you about your breast cancer journey?
I know it’s often meant with the best intentions but I have always found it unhelpful when people make comparisons with other cancer experiences. Everyone’s experience with cancer is unique and it’s impossible and often upsetting to compare.
What is something you think folks who know and love someone with cancer should do to support them best?
My family and friends were incredible with me. Friends would message me and say ‘no pressure to reply but just know that I am here for you’ this meant the world. Listen to them without judgement, be a caring and supportive presence and most importantly make sure to support even when treatment is finished – that’s often the time when you need it the most.