2023 for me was rough. Following my breast cancer diagnosis I had to step away from pretty much every semblance of my ‘normal’ life. That meant among many other things, my beloved business for six months.

Gemma in 2023

Fast forward a year, and my world is in stark contrast to the darkness of 2023. Of course no one wishes for illness but anyone who has looked down that barrel of a gun will tell you, as long as no one dies (my favourite ‘23 saying) you can learn some pretty wonderful things about how to live (and not live) your life.

I caveat this with having PR in my blood and a brutal awareness of my use of it in my personal life, a somewhat ‘toxic trait’ of ‘round ups’ and ‘life lessons’.

I do however feel strongly that whatever someone achieves/ survives/ overcomes there can be some wonderful sharing’s, so here are mine:

1. Health is everything, bar none.

This is a pretty obvious one and is a hard one to appreciate, sadly, until it’s removed. As I feel well again, a few sayings have stuck with me to remind me to make healthy choices: ‘If you think health is expensive, try illness’ and ‘if you don’t look after your health you’ll be forced to look after your illness’.

Learning from my own experience, this year I introduced private medical care for my team at BPR.  I am sadly excluded from this due to a ridiculous exemption list but it makes me really proud that as a small business we are able to support the physical and mental health of our team thanks to the cover we have in place.

2. We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time.

Ferris Bueller said it, life moves pretty fast, and sometimes pausing gives you time to reflect on whether you’re doing things right. For me it’s not that anything was wrong particularly but maybe there just wasn’t enough fun.

We spend so much of our time at work caught up in deadlines that sometimes it’s hard to see past the next tick on the list, but by actively adding ‘fun’ to both our work and team agenda we’ve been able to accomplish and experience so much more this year already. Overseas travel, away days and a very exciting company event in a few months time that we are enjoying planning together.

As a team we are happier and stronger for it, and having extra time with our clients and partners in less sterile environments has no doubt supported our creativity and strengthened our relationships.

3. Be real & authentic

I have been open about my personal health journey for a number of reasons:

  1. Because it was thanks to others openness that I was aware of the signs of breast cancer and I want to pay that forward
  2. It’s provided me with an instant support network
  3. I’ve been met with understanding
  4. I’m in PR and I’m an over-sharer (if you hadn’t already noticed!!)

However all this has shown me the benefits of being true to yourself, in that for me it has not only helped me but has strengthened my relationships with everyone from my team to partners.  Goes to show that a little vulnerability and honesty is all we really need to develop true relationships.

Authenticity and being ‘real’ is something we all need to try and foster when it comes to communication and community.