I just wanted to introduce myself. I am Mandie Stevenson. I am a 27-year-old and have lived in Falkirk my whole life.
I have a close-knit family – my mum, dad, twin brother, sister, sister-in-law, gran, grandpa and, of course, my puppy Frank. You will hear more about him shortly.
I used to be a pretty normal young lady and lived a life like any typical person of my age, working and spending time with my family and friends. But on September 2, 2015, I got the shock of my life when I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer shortly after my 25th birthday.
The even bigger shock came when it was confirmed it had spread to my liver and bones, especially when I had never felt so healthy.
My life, as you can imagine, has never been the same. Living with terminal cancer has definitely given me and my close family and friends such a different outlook in life.
I was naive and thought I was just getting a harmless lump checked out so was devastated to realise what lay ahead.
I went from being a healthy girl, who was rarely ill, to MRI scans, six rounds of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and five sessions of radiotherapy. It was a shock to my system.
With the treatment I am currently on to control the cancer, the medication has mimicked the menopause and my body and hormones are more like a 50-year-old.
I feel this has matured me greatly.
I remember being told by my oncologist I would be lucky to make my 30th birthday and my younger sister quite seriously saying to me, “Mandie, who wants to be 30 anyway?” She always does know how to cheer me up.
After accepting that this was my new life, I had stay strong and try to maintain normality and structure with the help of my very supportive family and friends.
A memory which sticks in my mind as if it was yesterday was my good friend suggesting I create a bucket list. Together we created my list and she had it framed for me as a gift.
It hangs proudly on my kitchen wall and it reminds me every day of all the good times I have had over the last year and a half.
I try to encourage everyone to have their own bucket list as life is too short and extremely precious and it must be grabbed with both hands.
I love seeing my family and friends enjoying life to the fullest and not taking a minute for granted. We are not here for a long time, we are here for a good time, and that I am having.
My prognosis has opened my eyes to the world and I am very appreciative of life and those around me and I realise how lucky I am.
I am blessed to have had such great experiences, many of which I probably would not have done if I hadn’t been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The highlights of my growing bucket list are: Australia with my best friends, Italy with my family, completing the Edinburgh half marathon, being an ambassador for Breast Cancer Now/Marks & Spencer and, of course, meeting the love of my life – Frank, my pug puppy.
Frank is a delight to have around and is a little ray of sunshine who follows me around. Everyone needs a Frank in their life.
And I am thrilled to be writing a monthly column for the Falkirk Herald.