My goal for 2024 is 7%

Bryony Thomas
5 min readJan 1, 2024

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In my work, I’m a business growth strategist and so it wouldn’t be surprising for me to be talking about revenue growth, profit margins or market share. But, it’s none of those things.

My goal for this year is to be in the 7% of people with my diagnosis to survive 5 years.

In December 2019, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was told that I had a likely life expectancy of just 12 weeks, but that there might be a slim chance of surgery. Two weeks later, having had what I truly thought would be my last Christmas, I underwent a 14-hour Whipple Procedure, and then six months of aggressive chemotherapy. So far, and very much against the odds, this has served to be curative.

So, 2020 was a doubly surreal year in the Thomas household. I lost three stone in weight, and the sensation in my fingertips and soles of my feet (unlikely to ever return).

We also decided to move. And, so, chemo pump attached, I viewed houses with my husband. A day shy of a year from my diagnosis, we arrived at our new home in the Cotswolds after 26 years in central Bristol.

Having finished chemo in August, I’d started planning my return to work from around September. I set up a members’ club, and literally holed myself up in a little box room for about a fortnight after arrival making membership content.

I’d also done a speaking event in November, and filled my one year programme for 2021. So, I came back strong. I was determined, and convinced that I would steadily feel better over time. I was on a tight schedule of monthly programme production to stay ahead of my cohort of participants. In this time, we also secured planning permission for a complete renovation of our house — which, at the time, was a characterless sixties box on a hill.

In the year that followed, I recruited a business partner (but that didn’t work out) and took on my biggest consulting engagement to date. In May of that year I had a weird three day experience in which I felt like I’d taken hallucinogenic drugs. I was also having intrusive thoughts that would induce a panic. With several neurological scans and tests done, nothing sinister was found. In August that year, I was bitten by ticks and came down with a weird liver complaint, cancer was ruled out and I was empirically diagnosed with Lymes disease. My post chemo fatigue had never really lifted, but at this point it really got worse. I had brought my long term business associate, Rachael, into the business full time and she stepped up into an MD role as my capacity reduced. I was sleeping 14–16 hours per day.

In January 2023, we had a fabulous party to celebrate 10 years since launching my book, and I was energised by that. In April 2023, we were 7 months into living in a caravan in our garden as building work progressed — Grand Designs style. I had a 12 hour pain attack and was again hospitalised with liver results awry — but thankfully still cancer free. From this point, I was almost unable to work. I had to stop all speaking gigs, and I was down to less than an hour per day of clarity. My liver issues were coming in bouts, which would debilitate me with no warning for 7–10 days at a time. In August 2023, we had a wonderful party to celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary, and I managed to stay awake and sociable for 6 whole hours — and then slept for about 7 days straight.

20th Wedding Anniversary | Thomas Family

With my regular intake of digestive enzymes and nutritional supplements at a count of around 75 tablets per day, this year has seen a few more additions as the source of my liver issues has been thoroughly investigated and found to be incidents of bacterial cholangitis in my biliary tree due to a kink in my intestines. Meds have been improving this and giving me longer between episodes, but surgery may again be on the horizon. That, and a chemo induced menopause providing me a hormonal cliff edge.

So, here we are, at the the dawn of 2024. If I make it to December of this year cancer free, I will be in 7% of people with my diagnosis still going at that time. I’m alive. More than that, I am living.

We’ve moved back into our house, which is beautiful. Our daughter has successfully transitioned to secondary school. And, the business has made progress (albeit in a bit of a two steps forwards, one step back, kind of a way).

We have plans in place for a good business year. This will include the energy of a new sales person to replace some of what I’m no longer able to consistently commit to. It will also almost certainly include the injection of energy and funding from a new ownership structure as I find a balance between the determination I had in 2021, and the reality that I won’t be returning to my pre-cancer self.

It will be a year of having the wisdom to accept that things I cannot change, and the strength to make the changes needed to allow me to thrive. Coming to terms with the permanent physical changes my body has had to make, and to stop expecting it to ‘recover’ any time soon. Then there’s understanding and embracing the mix of thoughts and emotions that come with it. These are my real challenges for the year ahead.

HRT is one of my new building blocks. The others will take more work. Handling the grief for the person I was, and thought I’d be. Tackling the envy I feel surge through me when others do things that I long to, but can’t. Living with the daily fear that the disease is back. And, simply keeping on top of the medications and practices that keep me going.

On the work front, my goal is to get to a level of equilibrium. Not trying to pack everything in between episodes of pain in an (ironic) yo-yo. But, to do little and often to stay well. I want to work. My psyche craves it. I think this is about rhythm and rest. If I’m able to find what works for me, I will then make space for the #clueintheloo charity that I’ve already seen make ripples with the small steps I’ve taken so far.

So, here’s to being in the 7%. Not just alive but living!

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Bryony Thomas

Pancreatic cancer survivor. Good enough Mum. Sometimes fun wife and friend. Founder of Watertight Marketing.