Rebecca Hartley


Illness can teach you lessons

July 25, 2023

‘Affect Change With Your Actions’

My name is Rebecca Hartley, I am a mother, a business woman, a breast cancer survivor and ambassador.

I was born in Birmingham but moved to Stockport when I was 6. As a mixed race girl, having only known Birmingham in all its vibrance and multiculturalism, the move to Stockport was a shock as it was a mainly white area at the time. I can vividly remember hiding behind my mother’s legs as the National Front rode through the town.

At the age of 7 I organised a surprise party for my parents, this was my first ever event. I spent all my pocket money on decorations and food from the corner shop, and sorted all the invites independently. I suppose this was my passion, but I didn’t know that I could make it my career, so I followed more traditional routes into the world of work.

I started work straight from college, working for software companies in client facing roles. I didn’t really have a plan, I just took every opportunity that came to me.

Then I made a career move, I went from working for a big brand to a much smaller business as the company director. I went into this thinking it was a good chance to learn about the inner-workings of a business and in doing so set myself up well for running my own business.

Then one evening, I sat up in bed to put my book down and I could feel a pulling. This alerted me and so I checked my breasts. What I found was a lump. I went to the doctors and they assured me that it probably wasn’t cancer, but sent me for further testing in order to be sure. But I had a gut feeling. The tests came back positive for breast cancer. My world fell apart.  

One of the hardest things at this time was having to tell the people closest to me. I had to phone every single person and re-confess, I was dealing with my own and other people’s emotions.

I went through several phases with my diagnosis. The first was denial, I wouldn’t talk about it and I swore I wasn’t going to wear a headscarf if I lost my hair. But as I got into it I opened up;  I read and listened to information about my situation, I took part in lots of reflection and holistic therapy and altered my diet. It gave me lots of thinking time to decide what direction I wanted to take my life in.  

I got the all clear and went back to work. My boyfriend said to me “well you’ve done it now you don’t have to think about it ever again”. But this felt odd, I went from having all this support and care to a complete abyss. It took a lot of adjusting.

I then approached my boss to hand my notice in and start my own business. I had come up with the concept of employee engagement of which events were part of. I quickly realised that the only service people were buying was events so I rebranded the company to solely focus on this and named it Saving Grace Events. We now deliver incredible events for people driven brands. I also set up a socially distanced festival called Tatton Park Pop-up Festival.

I think it is important to mention that not long after I recovered from breast cancer I lost my mum, my sister, my half-sister and then my dad. Looking back it was lunacy to start a pop up festival in the middle of the grieving process. But I found that people treated me as a real war horse. They would tell me how amazing I was because I got on with things after going through such a rough time. I think this was counter intuitive and fed into some of the reasons as to why I was hyper- performative at this time. This sort of encouragement, although well meaning, made me feel as though I couldn’t  be vulnerable.

I embarked upon the pop-up festival for a second year but we made a loss this time. My ability to cope with this emotionally was wavering because I hadn’t dealt with the trauma I had been through. I decided to put myself into therapy so that I could start to process what had happened to me. This process is ongoing and has helped me enormously.

Now I am splitting my time between Saving Grace Events and my role as an ambassador for breast cancer. I help others through sharing my story and mentoring. I know I was put on this earth to help and uplift other women. 

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