A new definition of 'just Emma'

Wow, it has been a month since I published a blog! I understand why… this month has been chaotic! Possibly a little too chaotic!

It has only been in the last few weeks that I have felt on top of things again. The ups and downs of my health the last few months really took its toll both physically and emotionally and saw me need to disengage from many of the activities that keep me sane and feeling like ‘just Emma’, not Emma with cancer.

Almost a year ago I was really struggling with finding ‘just Emma’ (you can read about it here). Terminal cancer had been part of my life for over a year. I hadn’t worked for a year. My friends were all moving forward with their lives. My sisters were both mums. I was avoiding social outings because I didn’t want to be in the position where people enquired on what I had been up to.

This feeling was a little odd, because I had been keeping really busy throwing myself into the blog, advocacy work, raising awareness for melanoma and fundraising. I loved doing this work, but it didn’t change the fact that I was stuck in a bit of a rut.

I wrote last year that ‘I need to learn to balance time as Emma, cancer patient and advocate, with the Emma that has been here the past 23 years.’

Part of this balance was the decision to start working one day a week at my favourite gift shop. The idea was that for one day a week I would be in a space where I was not ‘Emma with cancer’ and enjoy that. There was a sense of anonymity, something that I had somewhat lost with having a blog that was widely read, definitely by my local community. This was not as successful as I thought with quite a few customers greeting me with, ‘are you Emma from Dear Melanoma?!’

To be honest, except for this one point I have failed epically at creating a balance in my life. My attitude has changed a lot in the last 12 months. Although I still make an effort (try, anyway) to not let melanoma define me and take over every element of my life, I have come to terms with the fact that it is my life and I can’t ignore it.

Over the last 12 months, Dear Melanoma has turned from a blog into something much bigger. Dear Melanoma is my job.

Twelve months ago I would not have felt comfortable calling myself an author or speaker. My weeks are filled with meetings, speaking engagements, planning and writing. I love it. And I think the main reason I love it is because I came to terms with the fact that my career and experience prior to melanoma actually qualifies me to do this ‘job’ successfully. I am not just doing this because I have cancer; I am doing this because I have the skills.

Realising this was a huge step for me and gave me the push to take Dear Melanoma further.

Part of this ‘push’ was deciding to start my own business, ‘Love, Emma’.

This was a huge decision. I was confident in the concept of the business – an online shop selling care packages for life’s hardest moments – but I had one big concern…


Some people actually asked me this. Some people assumed that with the hiccup over Christmas that I would abandon this plan. But, in true Emma fashion I just kept on plodding along with it.

Last week I launched ‘Love, Emma’ and I am super excited and also very proud of myself. Although it is intrinsically linked to the fact I have cancer, it allows me to challenge myself and feel like I do have a ‘legitimate’ job and a real sense of independence.

I have written oh so many times about the ever-painful feeling of living in limbo, it truly is the hardest part of terminal cancer. You are forever considering what your ‘time frame’ may be when you are planning for the immediate and long-term future. I have gone from not wanting to buy winter clothes because I wouldn’t be alive to wear them, to buying an apartment with Serge, and now starting a business!

I have definitely seen a change in my mindset, but there is no doubt that it is an ongoing struggle. 

Twelve months ago I sought a life where there was clear division between life as a cancer patient and life as ‘just Emma’. Now, I accept that melanoma has become an integral part of my life and that isn’t a bad thing. My definition of ‘just Emma’ has changed – ‘just Emma’ to me means that I can be the healthy and active person that does not let cancer get in the way and slow me down. I am ‘Emma with cancer’ and I am using this pretty shit card that I have been dealt in the best way I can. I am using my experience and my over achieving tenacity of my early 20s in a new way – a way that suits my new reality.

This year my goal is to ‘just go with it’. I want to embrace where Dear Melanoma is going. I want to embrace that I am more than just a cancer patient. I want to embrace my new found confidence in my role as an author, speaker, advocate and business owner. I want to live life as a ‘normal’ person that sees the importance of self growth and challenging oneself.

Most importantly there is to be no more putting things on hold because of terminal cancer. Who knows how long I have left in me? I am not going to sit around for years waiting to die. Now is the time to live.