Live Better

How I’m coping with cancer

At 35 years old, Bonnie Palmer was diagnosed with brain cancer. Here’s how she’s navigating the journey so far.


In September 2016 I was diagnosed with an Anaplastic Astrocytoma brain tumour, a rare and high grade brain tumour. Thankfully it was discovered in time to give me some treatment options. So far I’ve undergone surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy and they all appear to be working.

Someone asked me recently how I’m coping and it got me thinking … how am I getting through this?

Here are a few things that are helping:

Talking to a psychologist

Initially I was in a state of deep shock. I was so caught up in the physical aspects of having a new disease (tests, procedures and medication) that I didn’t have the mental space to start dealing with the emotional aspects. Eventually I had to.

When you’re sick you spend a lot of time trying not to make the people around you worry, but when I’m in a counselling session I’m free from that. I can talk about my biggest fears and struggles and I always feel so much better for it.

Meditation and positive thinking

The mind is a complex beast that can be difficult to control. Meditation is just one tool I use to keep my thoughts as positive as possible. The type that works best for me is Transcendental Meditation where you repeat a mantra silently to yourself (think Deepak Chopra). I aim for 20 minutes a few times a week. Ideally I should be doing it every day, but sometimes life just gets in the way.


For me this is the only time I’m guaranteed not to let my mind wander to the ‘dark side’, because I’m too busy concentrating on getting through the pain! I see a personal trainer twice a week and we focus on strength and interval training.

Feeling strong is more important to me now than being skinny. I also aim for two to three days of cardio a week – however, as with the meditation, I don’t beat myself up if I don’t reach that target. Exercise is amazing for stress and sleep and they’re things I need to manage constantly.

Writing a blog

It just so happens that writing is what I do for a living, but that in no way makes me more qualified to write about what I’m going through than anyone else. There can be no one more qualified to write about you than you! While it’s a deeply personal experience and at times I’ve felt a little exposed, it has also been incredibly cathartic and rewarding.

Returning to work

Once I started to feel better physically, I wanted to get back to work. I’ve always been a hard worker – I don’t say that to blow my own trumpet – it’s just something that comes naturally and that I truly enjoy. I guess it helps that I get paid to do what I love.

I was working for Medibank when I was diagnosed and after seven months off, I recently returned on a part-time basis. It’s the best thing I could have done. Becoming part of an awesome team of people, some of whom I already knew and some I’m getting to know, feels great.

There was a part of me that was scared I wouldn’t be able to write like I used to, but coming back to work has shown me that nothing has changed there. I have more of a routine and a focus and that is always a good thing.

Who knows what the future holds. There are many people who live with my type of tumour for years, even decades. From the beginning, my oncologists have told me that my age and overall good health give me a great chance of being one of these people. So that’s the plan I’m working to.

Follow more of Bonnie’s journey at

Latest Articles


How to choose the right sports bra

A good sports bra let you work out better.

Read more

Can music improve your mood?

Psychology professor Dr Nikki Rickard explains.

Read more

be. magazine issue 25: Rhythm

Read online or download your copy for free now.

Read more

How to set goals that matter

Why you should choose goals with your real values in mind.

Read more

Thrush: signs to look out for

75% of women experience thrush at least once in their life.

Read more

How to keep your pet cool in summer

The pet safety tips you need to know for hot days.

Read more
youtubeui-checkbox-tickui-checkbox-emptyui-checkbox-crosstwitterui-checkbox-tickWellbeing and mindfulness 1Physical Health 1Positive psychology 101 1Wellbeing and mindfulness 4All about gut health 1Understanding Genetics 4Planning for Pregnancy 2During Pregnancy 3The mind-gut connection 4The mind-gut connection 1New Parents 3Page 1Group 10During Pregnancy 2Page 1Physical Health 2Planning for Pregnancy 1Positive psychology 101 1Positive psychology 101 4Planning for Pregnancy 4Understanding Genetics 1Physical Health 4Planning for Pregnancy 3Nutrition 4New Parents 1New Parents 3 CopyMovement for your mind 4Wellbeing and mindfulness 2Nutrition 2sob-icon__mind-bodysob-icon__man-with-laptopAll about gut health 2Positive psychology 101 3Positive psychology 101 2Physical Health 3Wellbeing and mindfulness 3All about gut health 3genetics-changing-what-your-givenUnderstanding Genetics 2During Pregnancy 1Movement for your mind 2Movement for your mind 1Movement for your mind 3During Pregnancy 4