In June 2014, Tracey Hancock noticed a small lump in her neck that her doctor initially diagnosed as muscle strain. Tracey followed the advice given to her but when she collapsed in December that year, she demanded to have more tests done. After almost three months of tests, Tracey was diagnosed with nodular sclerosing Hodgkin lymphoma.
Within a week from diagnosis, Tracey was in hospital with a port in her chest and undergoing her first round of chemotherapy.
Tracey had gone from being active outdoors, running a business and competing in the Rotorua half marathon to being so tired she was unable to get out of bed. She says the diagnosis was a relief as it meant she could focus on doing what she needed to finally feel better.
As soon as she was diagnosed, Tracey drew on her professional skills as a life and business coach to take control of her health.
Tracey decided to be what she calls ‘the CEO of her life and health journey’ taking a proactive approach, asking questions and seeking expert advice and not relying on Google for answers.
“I concentrated on managing my thoughts and was always very conscious of the words I used. I chose not to see myself as a victim and instead positioned myself as the leader of my health journey”
After four rounds of chemotherapy, Tracey learnt she had stage two lymphoma that had progressed to her bones and she would need to undergo radiation to treat it.
Tracey says it was big news to come to terms with but she quickly turned her focus to the important task of caring for herself.
“My treatment was my highest priority so I treated it like a full time job. I packed my bag every day for chemotherapy and headed off to the hospital and focused on doing whatever I needed to do to get well,”says Tracey.
Tracey had always been aware of good nutrition but her diagnosis meant she placed a larger importance on her diet to help her through treatment and recovery. She got in touch with a nutritionist to help her understand how to best nourish her body during treatment.
Tracey also created a vision board – a visual reminder that featured pictures of all the positive things in her life that she always kept with her. It had pictures filled with sunshine, her family and friends, her bike and plenty of vegetables.
“Routines were another important part of my life at this time. My daily routine always included mediation, prayer and affirmations,” says Tracey.
“Throughout my journey I had an incredible support team including my partner Ian, Mum and Dad and friends and I was just blown away by their support. I realised early on how important it is to allow each person play to their own strengths, so my Dad, for example, grew me lots of vegetables,” says Tracey.
Tracey said one of the most difficult times when working towards achieving any goal, in her case completing treatment, is the moment after you get there, so she prepared a post-treatment plan.
“You go from being at the hospital almost daily and attending appointments to nothing and wondering what’s next,” says Tracey.
Tracey’s plan was all about acknowledging and celebrating her journey and those who had supported her, as well as setting small daily goals to build her strength.
It was in the months following her last round of treatment, Tracey also connected with Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand’s Waikato Support Services Coordinator, Matthew Eby.
“When I first called Matt we had such a long chat. It was so useful to talk to someone and hear another perspective on everything. He was so positive and encouraging”
Moving forward post-treatment, Tracey has reflected on her health journey and re-set for the next chapter in her life.
“I am more passionate than ever about my work and want to help people live their life fully and use their strengths to their advantage when going through tough times like treatment,” says Tracey.
“I’m feeling stronger each day and continue to be kind and loving towards myself and I am continuing to nurture my health which is a life-long commitment.”