Mum-of-two Ruth Naylor who was suddenly told she had cancer at the age of 32 is urging people not to make snap assumptions about others as appearances can be deceptive.
She tells AASMA DAY about her shock diagnosis and why she is determined to beat cancer and be around for her children.
To all external appearances, Ruth Naylor has it all and looking at her, people may assume she has the perfect life.
Smiling ruefully, Ruth says: “To the outsider, I look healthy and well and the same as I have always done.
“I have got two beautiful children, a lovely house and a good career.
“It seems I have a charmed life and some people may think I have it all - but I have cancer and might not live to enjoy it.
“This is why people shouldn’t make assumptions about people.
“But what is on the surface might not be the true story of what is going on in someone’s life.
“In this world of social media perfection, it is important to think about you and not the image you are portraying.”
Ruth, 32, who grew up in Fulwood, Preston, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma out of the blue at the end of the summer.
Ruth, who has children Eva, four and Oscar, two, separated from her husband last year.
She says: “I thought the separation from my husband was the real test.
“But it turned out cancer is the actual real test of my life.”
Ruth, a former banking professional who is now director in a specialist marketing business, began feeling unwell throughout July and August with flu-like symptoms but dismissed it as nothing to worry about.
She explains: “I had flu-like symptoms and a chesty cough and just felt under the weather.
“But I put it all down to the pressure and stress of having had a tough year with the separation and being a very busy mum of two children.”
Ruth decided to go to her doctor thinking she might have a chest infection and hails the GP for saving her life by sending her for blood tests and a chest X-ray. Ruth says: “The doctor said it was just to rule anything out.
“Within 24 hours, the blood tests had come back as abnormal and the X-ray showed what looked like a blood clot on my right lung.
“The following day, I went for a CT scan and that’s when they told me I had a large tumour intertwined between my lung and my heart which they believed was cancer.”
Ruth’s thoughts instantly flashed to the sudden death of her own mother Louise Naylor, who was head of English at the then called Ashton On Ribble High School, to cancer.
Ruth, who went to St Pius School in Preston followed by Kirkham Grammar School, recalls: “My mum died at the age of 47 of liver cancer and went from diagnosis to death in just five weeks.
“So when I heard my own diagnosis, that played out in my mind.
“I lost my mum when I was 21 and nothing positive came from that. It was a horrific ordeal.
“I knew I didn’t want my children to go through that..
“The fear is that they are so young that if I don’t survive, they would probably have no memory of me.
“That thought is scary enough to make me stay determined and fight the cancer.”
Ruth was referred to Manchester’s Christie Hospital for more blood tests and a biopsy and was diagnosed with a rare stage 2 B Hodgkin lymphoma.
Ruth is now eight weeks into eight months of chemotherapy and after that, she will potentially need radiotherapy.
Ruth didn’t want to repeat the story of her diagnosis countless times so decided to use Instagram to communicate with everyone.
She is now sharing her cancer journey and the grim realities of treatment through Instagram.
Ruth says: “I am normally a very private person but I wanted to tell my story to help anyone going through anything similar.
“I have been amazed at the response and have had people reach out to me from all over the world.”
Ruth is hoping that by sharing her experience, she will be able to rally people ino supporting Stand Up To Cancer.
Stand Up To Cancer is a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 which raises cash to help get game-changing new tests and treatments to cancer patients faster.
Ruth wants to highlight the impact of research and galvanise people across the region to raise money to help save lives.
Ruth, who cut off her long blonde hair in preparation for chemo, says: “Hearing the words: ‘it’s cancer’ was the worst shock of my life.
“I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I kept thinking of my children.
“On paper, I have it all. A beautiful home we built ourselves, two gorgeous children and a brilliant career.
“But then instantly you are faced with losing everything and your perspective of everything changes.
“I think we are obsessed with portraying a perfect persona but then there’s reality and you’ve got to get out there and live.
“It’s a tough challenge but I’m up for a fight and if myself, my friends and my family can raise some awareness and funds, then it would be amazing to get something positive out of this experience.
“I know I have a rough ride ahead but I have all my friends fighting for me in my corner.”
Ruth says her former husband has also been very helpful and is very much involved in her life supporting her and being a dad to their children.
Ruth says: “I am young, healthy and have everything you could want.
“But cancer does not discriminate or care that I am any of those things.
“The other thing that has struck me is that I have a very strong support network of friends and family, but there are thousands of people out there who have to go through fighting cancer on their own.
“That is a heartbreaking thought as it is scary enough going through this when I have many people to lean on.
“I am determined to keep a positive mindset and want to fight this.
“I am a firm believer that if you want something hard enough, you can get it.
“I want to get better for my children.
“Dying is not an option and I will stay strong.”
• Follow Ruth’s journey on Instagram: RuthNaylor7