Article first published on the Huffington Post

This month is a huge day for our family.

This time 8 years’ ago, our son was nearing his 4th birthday and had spent much of the previous 8 months in Bristol Children’s Hospital, The Royal Marsden and CLIC House in Bristol.

He’d been diagnosed with the big-C in May 2008 and had just finished his final chemo for a very rare and aggressive cancer called Parameningeal Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma.

8 years’ ago. Was it really that long ago …?


Gives me goosebumps writing that.

I talk quite freely about how our son’s cancer affected every one of us. My husband and I very much dealt with things differently. I asked loads of questions of the oncologists (and I mean loads!)

My husband, on the other hand, felt he didn’t need to know everything that could happen. He only needed to know what he needed to know, at that moment in time.

In the two years after Leo finished treatment, my life stalled somewhat.

I waited, every single day, for ‘the Cancer’ to return.

My husband went back to work nearly straight after all the chemo finished.

As we edged closer to a new normality for us all as a family, I started to realise I could sit and wait for the Cancer to claim our entire lives, or I could use the experience for good.

Fundraising for different charities which had helped was a good way of channelling this new felt yearning for life. But also, I returned to meaningful work. I had to start using my brain and my talents again, if only to keep me from worrying about the next scan or the next Xray and blood tests.

Plenty of freelance recruitment projects for corporate clients kept me busy.

And eventually, I had a new found confidence that our new post-cancer life could thrive and we could really live.

And so here comes my big ‘why’.

It’s thanks to cancer that we now live as we do.

2016 – Helen Sanders, Mum (and MD of Your People Partners) together with her son, Leo (aged 11)

We say ‘why not’ now, and not ‘why’.

We say ‘hell yes’ plenty more than we’ve ever done.

Once I found my confidence again, as an individual and not just a ‘cancer mum’, I went about using my brain. I worked, not just for cash, but to ensure I could use my talents and skills, and fill my brain with other people’s problems. Doing that meant I could not possibly keep allowing cancer to consume my thoughts.

Recruitment had been what I knew pre-C and so I returned to it post, and it gives me a huge amount of satisfaction knowing that what I do professionally helps people in their everyday lives. After all, we spend more time working than we do at home, and so it’s a real privilege to help and guide job seekers and hiring managers every single day.

I know that if I do my job properly, then everyone I work with wins, including me. Many recruiters I’ve worked with, are in it for themselves and the earning opportunities that the industry presents.

The work I do as a recruiter, helping fellow business owners to grow their companies, gives me a huge kick. And whilst I always loved what I did before Leo was so ill, I love it more so now.

This is my (business) why.

If I can help a sales manager spend more time at home with his newborn baby, by helping him to secure a new job closer to home, then that is a huge win.

When I can help the entrepreneur increase her bottom line by growing her marketing team, then I want to do this forever.

It has made me a better recruiter.

Cancer makes me feel this way.

And for that I am thankful.

And if I wasn’t thankful, then all the chemo, radiotherapy, general anaesthetics, steroids, antibiotics, blood transfusions, medical support and now all the late effects such as cataracts, pan-hypo-pit problems, mobility issues, fatigue, growth hormone, learning disabilities and so on, it would all be for nothing. My son didn’t go through all that stuff for me to then idly watch life pass us by.

We needed to grab life by the balls and run like our live’s depend on it … because it does!

There are also families, too many of them, who have not got the chance to have outcome we have. I, therefore, am bound to them to ensure it’s not all for nought.

My (personal) why is an easy one.

Make Leo’s life the best it can possibly be. Full of awesome memories and experiences.

It’s made me a better mother too, that much I know.