Philomena on taking back control

A close up of Philomena's hands while she is knitting. On her left hand are three rings and a watch.

Philomena began knitting, listening to music and writing a novel after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Keeping herself busy and spending time with her family helped her take back control.

'Every day we have on earth is a bonus and you just have to get up and be determined to fill that day well.'

You can only stay positive for so long. I needed something to do with my hands. My granddaughter Meghan got a whole new wardrobe because I started knitting again. That sort of got me through, I’d say, from March up to June.

I have friends who write their own music at the Sacred Heart House of Prayer down in Cookstown, and I put on some of their music one day and just felt this lovely peace and calmness came down over me.

The joy that I got from this music was sort of healing my soul. It gives you that strength to cope with it.

All those little things that I planned to do, I’m now doing them. A few years back I started writing a few chapters of a novel. And I thought, you might never publish it, but at least finish it and your children will have it. So I finished my novel.

So now whenever I feel that sort of blackness, almost like form a depression, I know I can pick up a poetry book or I can put on some music and that I will snap out of it.

'The joy that I got from this music was sort of healing my soul.'

Now I feel I can do whatever I want to do. I mean, if I get up this morning and decide I just feel like lying around in my PJs all day and watching TV – I do it. And if I get up and say I’m going to Dublin today, I may get on the train and go to Dublin just to buy a pint of milk and come home again. But I do it.

I remember reading a great book many, many years ago called Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway. And that was the motto I adopted. It was a great form of therapy.

In a sense the cancer was almost like a gift because you can easily get caught up in this materialistic world. You know, you want a nice house and holidays and new clothes. It’s as if the cancer went, whoa, step back now and look at your life.

Here in Northern Ireland we say, ‘Your health’s your wealth.’

Every day we have on earth is a bonus and I think you just have to get up in the mornings and be determined to fill that day well. It’s gotten to the stage now that sometimes I even forget I have cancer.

As one door closes, another door opens. The new door for me is that I’m getting a chance in life to tell my family how much I love them and how proud I am of them.