07/10/2016

Choose a job you love & you'll never have to work a day in your life

If you were to rank all the jobs in the world that make a difference to people's lives, I'm pretty sure journalist would be quite low down.

You'd obviously get doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, teachers, the armed forces, scientists, health researchers, charity workers, and probably hundreds more listed way ahead of journalists.  And rightly so.

When people think of journalists many think 'hacks' who dig into people's backgrounds, reveal their deepest, darkest secrets and go out of their way to find scandal or ruin people's lives.  That's maybe true for a really tiny proportion, but not for the rest of us.  And certainly not for me and the other local and regional journalists who were at the O2 Media Awards last night.

Earlier this week I spent the morning with a man who lost his wife to secondary breast cancer just four weeks ago.  I didn't know this man before I went out to meet him and I didn't know his wife.  I sat there for over an hour with him as he told me all about how she was diagnosed with breast cancer and beat the disease, only for it to return in a more aggressive form.  He told me about her fight, her struggles and the pain that they both went through as they watched cancer take hold of her.  It was truly heartbreaking to hear.

I listened to him and comforted him where I could, telling him how brave he was to be able to speak out about it.  Not only to talk about it so soon after her passing, but to a complete stranger as well.  He trusted me enough to share his heartbreaking story with me, and trusted me to tell it to our readers (I was going to say the world, but I know that would be over-egging the pudding somewhat!) on his behalf.

That's when I realised that, while we may not be doctors or teachers, we do good in different ways. And listening to all the amazing work that other journalists have done made me feel so humbled.

The last few weeks I've been working on a huge feature for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Each week will feature a different story and a different person's experience with the disease.

I've mainly spoken to friends who have/have had breast cancer which, in some ways, is more daunting than speaking to complete strangers.  There's an added pressure to get everything perfect when it's someone you know.  But when this gentleman contacted me earlier this week about his wife's recent passing, I knew it would be tough.

He was still grieving and was still struggling to talk about it - of course he was, it was only four weeks ago he lost her.  I'm not sure I could speak about it so openly, and to someone I didn't know, so soon after.

But hopefully by me sharing his experience, and the experiences of the other ladies I have spoken to, it will do some good.  It will encourage at least one person to check their boobies for changes or lumps.  Or it will encourage someone to go for that screening that they've been putting off since they got the letter six months ago.  If sharing experiences of others can help raise more awareness and encourage more people to look out for the signs, then I have done some good.

I've written some terribly sad and heartbreaking stories in my two and a bit years as a reporter.  From infant loss to stillbirths to childhood cancers to adult cancers to sudden deaths and obituaries.  It makes me feel incredibly proud of the work I do when people I don't know trust me to tell the story about the hardest, darkest, most difficult time in their life.  I'm not sure I could have the strength if I was in their shoes to be so open with a complete stranger about something so personal.

It all seems worthwhile when someone gets in touch afterwards to say thank you, and I know I did their story justice.  The biggest thing for me was after I shared the heartbreaking story of Emma Fisk, who died aged just 25 from cervical cancer.  After I wrote that, I had loads of women get in touch saying they'd booked their smears after reading Emma's story.  Being able to raise the profile of such important things and have people actually listen, and act upon it, is such a rewarding part of this job.

It is that trust people have in me that makes me love my job even more.

I've always joked I was destined to be a journalist because of how nosey I am.  I mean, don't get me wrong, it helps no end.  But I love people too.  I love telling people's stories - whether they are happy or sad.

Each day I go home full of admiration for people I meet through work.  Admiring their strength, bravery and courage.  It also makes me feel so blessed and reminds me that, no matter what obstacles may be thrown in my way sometimes,  I really shouldn't let it get me down.  If there are people out there going through real hell and real battles and they can carry on with their heads held high, then I really have no excuse.

Last night's award ceremony was amazing and, while I didn't walk away with the top prize, the judges said some really good/nice things about me. I'm still so young and so new into this career path it was such a huge honour to be shortlisted and highly commended. I love my job and the work I do, and for others to recognise that makes it even better.




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