Friendship and humour have helped Jo and Alex navigate their way through their breast cancer – together.

They’re a feisty pair, all giggles and smiles but with a strength that seems to shine through the humour. Jo, a fashion designer, and Alex, a music journalist and comedian, first met on chilly autumn evening after a group tennis lesson. Hiding from the cold after the lesson with some of the other players in the local pub, they immediately hit it off, sharing jokes and stories. And it was the candid way that Jo spoke about her recent breast cancer diagnosis that particularly struck Alex; Jo’s strength and honesty were an inspiration. Little did they know that their stories would be so similar and that an even closer friendship would grow from their adversity.

A year later Alex was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. She may have had an unpleasant journey of appointments, hospital visits, hair loss and treatment ahead of her, but she had one invaluable advantage: Jo, who had navigated her own exhausting process through breast cancer and was there for Alex every step of the way.

“Being American and having most of my family in the States, it’s been my friends in the UK that have been my main support. So many people have been amazing but Jo has supported me in a way that nobody else could – I felt stronger and less vulnerable around Jo”.

It’s not hard to see how close Alex and Jo are when you see them together. Both are full of positivity and humour, cracking jokes about their successive diagnoses:

“You copied me!” laughs Jo.

“I know, I know. It’s what I do. I’m such a copycat”.

As soon as Jo received her diagnosis, she claimed what control of her health she could by researching “everything about everything”. She asked friends who work in the medical industry, read books and surfed the internet to make sure she didn’t feel in the dark about any of her treatment options and felt confident in her decisions.

Jo’s resilience and positivity were always an inspiration to Alex, and it was that strength and humour that she channelled when she found herself facing her own treatment. “I’m still kind of in the middle of it, but so long as I always focus on my next step, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. I like the fact that I can make a joke about it because in the end I’m going to be okay and there’s no point in worrying about it all the time”.

The Breast Cancer Haven was the well from which Jo drew her strength, a sense of peace and wellbeing seemed to emanate from the very walls. “This place stopped me from falling apart,” Jo admits. Alex – who discovered the Haven thanks to Jo’s recommendation – agrees. “It’s somewhere peaceful where I could go to escape from the chaos of the hospitals. Coming in and experiencing the treatments such as acupuncture and massage were so helpful and meant a lot to me personally. Going to Breast Cancer Haven made breast cancer feel normal and less terrifying. You realise how scarily common it is”.

With help from one another, Alex and Jo have made it through the worst. Despite the tricky turnstiles along the way, neither have allowed having breast cancer to disrupt the flow of their life and in fact view the experience as having changed them for the better.

Jo reflects: “After speaking with other people that have breast cancer, it seems that everyone is desperately fighting to get back to their normal way of life. But I think something like a breast cancer diagnosis changes you without you even realising and you become a different person. I’m a lot healthier and more active now and can see that life is more important than work and routine. You need to have more fun in life and be aware of things that are important to you. I think after breast cancer you become a better version of yourself”.

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