What it feels like to be a young woman living with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis

My husband and I were talking late into the night. We talked about the “old us”, the us before cancer came into our lives.

We talked about how much we have grown and changed in the last three and a half years, since cancer came to call. And while it’s terrible that the cancer is back and we’re fighting it all over again, we both agreed that we actually like the way cancer has changed us.

June Bank Holiday Weekend 2020

We’re more grateful for everything good in our lives. We’re more thankful for what we do have. We don’t sweat the small stuff anymore (mostly). And cancer has brought us even closer together in our relationship. It has taught us invaluable lessons in life that we may not ever have met otherwise – the real importance of family and friends, that happiness really does come from within and not from material things. It has shown us just how strong and resilient we both can be as individuals and as a team, when our backs are against the wall. It has tested and tested and tested our love and every time, we have won.

We’re in a new chapter now, and we’re not sure where it’s headed. But we’ve been through so much that we know that all we really have is today. Today is all any of us really have.

And we’ve learnt that looking forward or looking back is often the cause of our stress and anxiety. So we work on living in the present, on keeping our mindsets strong and positive, on growing my husband’s business and on the number of proverbial “horses” running in my race back to health.

Having a “stage 4” diagnosis is a strange situation to be in. On my good days I can almost forget about it. On the bad days, it’s like living in a nightmare that you’re never waking up from. Often even just the thought of the label threatens to ruin the special moments in our lives.

I’ve learnt things can change day by day or even hour by hour, and that nothing can be taken for granted.

My mind is full just with keeping on track with all of my medications, supplements and appointments. If I take my eye off the ball for a day or two, there’ll more than likely be a problem as a result, for example, constipation, anxiety, additional pain or exhaustion. So I’m sorry if I seem distracted or I never got back to your message. It’s entirely unintentional.

Friends are reluctant to share their news with me, they feel I have enough on my plate as it is. I miss the connection that comes with sharing life’s ups and downs honestly with others. I’ve been lucky so far not to have lost my hair, so strangers get no clue as to what my life is really about. Sometimes this is great but sometimes it isn’t either.

I wonder what it must be like to be a friend of mine, or someone I worked with at some point. Or just a new person meeting me for the first time. Am I the “mom with cancer” or “that poor woman”… Hell, if I knew me, I don’t think I’d know what to say to me either. (Hint – just treat me the same as you would anyone else.)

While working with Olive on my fundraiser, I half-joked with her that I felt so sorry for this desperate woman we were raising money for – me! I guess if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry, right?

I hate thinking about my life without me in it. I wonder what my home would be like without me here. I wonder how much time I’ve got – is it days, weeks, months, years? I wonder is it normal to wonder these things.

Stage 4 cancer. Is this really happening? Sometimes I can’t quite believe it is. I still feel like me, I haven’t become someone else. Sometimes it feels like this is happening to someone else and I’m watching from the sides.

I want to live so badly. So desperately. I want to see my little boy grow up. I want to be there for all his milestone moments and make sure he has everything he possibly needs from his mom. I want to make all the memories I’ve dreamed of of life with my husband.

I smile ruefully when I think of how much time I spent worrying about the cancer coming back. It’s back. Ironically it’s one less thing to worry about. Now we just have to deal with it and sometimes, crazily, that seems easier than that worry used to be.

I don’t entertain prognoses for a second. I’ve never asked my oncologist how long he thinks I have, nor have I Googled it. I won’t be dying on time for anyone. It is my intention that I’ll be smashing every record and living for a long time yet. I still have dreams for the future and I’m not going to limit them now.

A Happy Magazine reader recently told me she is about to reach 30 years living with cancer. How these words gave me hope. While I know many would say there is no hope for me, that’s not how I choose to do this, most of the time. I tell myself that others in worse situations than mine have found remission, one way or another, and that if it is possible for them, it’s possible for me too. I work on that.

These may be the cards we have been dealt, but we’re playing them and darn it, we’re making it an epic game.

By Happy Magazine Editor, Holly Kennedy.

Are you also a Stage 4 thriver? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below if you would like to share your story on Happy Magazine and we will get in touch. 


  1. Pauline somers
    1 June, 2020 / 9:02 am

    Yes also a stage 4, such a lovely story, that’s how I feel xx

    • Patrick Fitzgerald
      18 June, 2020 / 2:37 am

      Have been an investor in Cytodyn for 8 years. Very exciting time for this tiny company. I say tiny because compared to Merck, Gilead, Glaxo etc. we are a pimple on an elephant but Cytodyn has a mighty drug with Leronmilab. At the most recent investors conference the possible fields of medicine where Leronmilab can help are mind boggling. Know you probably will have your appointment with Dr. Jay Lalezari tomorrow for your first injection. He is a very caring physician but the genius behind Leronmilab is Dr. Bruce Paterson, CEO of Incell DX. If you are bored in your hotel room suggest you search everything he has done with Leronmilab on You Tube and there is another source where us investors go and that is a Facebook page named Cytodyn Shareholders. Of course there is the Cytodyn web page. Leronmilab was developed 15 years ago and has gone through a couple of hands before landing at Cytodyn. It probably would have died on the vine except for the tenacity of it”s CEO Nader Pourhassen. BTW he has written a spiritual book that is available on Amazon.com. Mention this data only because there are forces of good, INMHO, behind this product. There was a young English woman who sadly did not have time to make the trip. Her name was Sarah Graves. Me and my fellow investors felt very badly for her and her family. However, you have a supportive Oncologist whereas Sarah came up against a giant bureaucracy that stood in her way. Of course I am pulling for you but I hope the spirit of Sarah is there with you tomorrow to give you support. God bless and am confident that June 18th. is going to be your new birthday. God bless.

  2. Claire Shearer
    1 June, 2020 / 9:12 am

    So proud to know you even if it’s only virtually.
    Keep strong and safe.
    Keeping everything crossed. Xx

  3. Kathleen
    1 June, 2020 / 9:24 am

    God Bless you Holly never give up hope never. I am praying for you. Xx

  4. Patricia hart
    1 June, 2020 / 10:54 am

    I am so proud of you my beautiful and most precious niece. I am totally at peace with you because I know in my heart that you will make it! Just keep doing what you are doing daily, and reject in your body, soul and mind anything less. Live your life to the full, and don’t forget to laugh (a lot), enjoy your husband and son, and leave all those worries behind you. Flush them down the toilet, and giggle as you are doing it! It’s spring where you are, life rejuvenates, there’s fresh new growth everywhere, and lots of adventures and discoveries to be found. And refuse to be left out of any of it. And lucky you going to San Francisco! Don’t miss out on the absolutely divine Clam chowder at the waterfront, and their chocolates…….😋 take lots home with you! Can’t wait to hear all about your trip! ❤️🌹🙏😁💃

    • Julie Owen
      2 June, 2020 / 6:14 am

      My sister is on her own journey and I try to be with her as best I can. We the family or friends can only try our best and sometimes we get it wrong but we just need to love and hope. You have been my inspiration. Thankyou

  5. Agnes
    1 June, 2020 / 11:35 am

    Hi i am also stage 4 cancer breaks my heart

  6. Laura Murphy
    1 June, 2020 / 11:54 am

    Beautifully written, I can identify w/ a lot of your emotions. Your strength is inspiring. We have no choice fhan to keep going. X

    PS Can’t wait for my journal to arrive!

  7. John
    1 June, 2020 / 3:42 pm

    What a lovely honest post, Holly. You are such an inspiration to us all xx

  8. Fidelma O'Brien
    1 June, 2020 / 4:33 pm

    Also living with metastatic breast cancer, exactly how I feel.

  9. Anne Brown
    1 June, 2020 / 7:48 pm

    I had lung cancer Aug 17 got all clear Aug 18 went aug 19 stage 4 brain cancer 5 tumours.
    Now spread to right kidney liver and back in lung.
    Take it a day at a time.
    1m 47 with husband 30 yr old and 25yr old.
    3 gorgeous grandkids.
    It breaks my heart daily that I cant do what i want when i want.
    Then to top it off ended up in hosp 3 wks ago.
    Home after 3 days and now I’ve a blood clot on my right leg in the vein.

    • Anne
      2 June, 2020 / 9:20 am

      Oh Anne, you must be terrified and exhausted. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. I too had lung cancer recently and hearing your journey realise I have nothing to complain about. Take care xx

  10. Yan Fu
    1 June, 2020 / 10:34 pm

    You’re amazing Holly! Stay strong. There’s alway hope.

  11. Avril
    2 June, 2020 / 9:31 am

    What a beautifully written and real article. Thank you for your honesty and openness. I salute you Holly and wish you all the love and light there is out there xx

    • 2 June, 2020 / 8:20 pm

      Hi Holly , i also have triple negative metastatic breast cancer. I can relate alot of what you described here. I have an 8 year old and a 6 year old. I try to live by the expression “don’t count the days, make the day count”
      Best of luck to you and all the people living with cancer.

      • Holly
        4 June, 2020 / 8:51 am

        That’s the way, thank you for sharing Annette, indeed that is what life is all about.

  12. Hillary Collins
    2 June, 2020 / 11:43 am

    Inspiring Holly x

  13. Carole
    2 June, 2020 / 11:59 am

    Your the gorgeous girl I worked with, a beautiful voice and always around for camera advice 🥰 x

  14. Nicola Dowling
    2 June, 2020 / 12:44 pm

    Holly, you are so inspiring and so incredible. Staying with the positivity as always. You are an amazing woman, keep smashing it. Love Nic x

  15. Orla Dowling
    2 June, 2020 / 1:05 pm

    Hi holy I too am on my stage 4 journey but from the moment I found your happy magazine and positive thoughts and your inspiring messages you have kept me going and giving everyone hope you have got this xxx

  16. Sonya
    4 June, 2020 / 8:37 am

    Gorgeous writing Holly you hit the nail on the head with all the emotions we go through and yes with all the crap we need to soak up any goodness that comes out of it.Realy looking forward to your beautiful journal.Would love to chat to you by mail if you have time love your magazine

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