Holly Kennedy came up with the idea for Happy Magazine whilst undergoing gruelling treatment for breast cancer.
Having discovered a lump in her breast whilst feeding her six month old son, the shock of a cancer diagnosis at just 32 left her feeling shattered.
At her lowest point she understood that what people in her situation needed was an ‘anti-cancer’ plan; one filled with positivity, inspiration, motivation and encouragement.
Holly speaks to The Daily Slog about finding the strength and courage to launch a new business in the midst of a life changing event.
What time do you usually get up and how do you start your day?
At the moment I get up at 8am – probably the latest rising time for me in quite a few years – after all of my cancer treatment I decided to adopt a new routine of waking naturally, and that seems to be 8am most mornings. I start my day by brushing my teeth, splashing cold water on my face, pulling the bedroom curtains open and making my bed. Once the bed is made, I feel ready to have a really productive day.
How and why did the idea for Happy Magazine come about?
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2016 at age 32, I thought I’d never be happy again. My whole world felt shattered and those first few months after my diagnosis were incredibly hard. I had 20 weeks of chemotherapy to get through, followed by some surgery and then 4 weeks of radiotherapy. It seemed impossible.
I have always loved magazines (I am a graphic designer and also a journalism graduate) and I was surprised when I couldn’t find a ‘cancer magazine’ in my hospital. Something to help me get through my treatment, full of tips and support, full of positivity and inspiration.
I knew I had to call it Happy Magazine, because it was going to be about how to be happy after a cancer diagnosis – because I sure wanted to be.
The idea grew and grew in my head and soon I started to think that this was a project meant for me. I had the skills to do it, and the time now that I was on sick leave, so it felt like an inevitable step.
Initially I wanted to create a print magazine but I needed funding for printing and distribution. So I decided to start the magazine online first, with a new post every day so that the site could become an ongoing support resource for anyone on a cancer journey.
Immediately when I started working on it, I knew I had to call it Happy Magazine, because it was going to be about how to be happy after a cancer diagnosis – because I sure wanted to be.
Our aim is to have a print version of Happy Magazine distributed to every cancer treatment centre in Ireland
What topics do you cover on the site and what are your aims for it?
We cover all sorts of topics relevant to a cancer experience but with a positive, helpful or inspirational angle. So it could be anything from strategies for getting through cancer treatment to where to buy the best value juicer or a yoga or meditation video.
Broadly, we have contributors in four different areas – Health & Wellbeing, Food & Nutrition, Life Coaches, Beauty and Books. We also cover events, restaurants/cafés, natural products, day trip and holiday ideas and lots more relevant to someone going through cancer.
Our aims for the website are to keep posting daily – on the 21st of July 2018 we will be celebrating our 1 year birthday and 365 days of positivity so far – and then to launch a print version of Happy Magazine to be distributed to every cancer treatment centre in Ireland. After that – we’ve got our sights set on creating the site into an app.
What’s the best bit of advice you have been given in your career?
That’s easy – do what you love. Make a career out of it. ‘If you love what you do… You’ll never work a day in your life’. I heard this many years ago but it never fully resonated with me until now. I work on Happy Magazine 7 days a week, sometimes for many hours a day, and it never feels like work – it feels more like a hobby or passion project than a job and I love it.
It gave me something positive to focus on when I was in a very difficult place, and it gave me reasons to look out into the world for ways to improve my health and wellbeing
How did you find the strength and energy to launch a new business whilst undergoing treatment and looking after a newborn? Where did you draw your motivation from to see it through?
It didn’t feel like a chore to set up Happy Magazine and start writing. I’ve always found writing therapeutic and it comes quite naturally for me. The project actually helped me personally, enormously – it gave me something positive to focus on when I was in a very difficult place and it gave me reasons to look out into the world for ways to improve my health and wellbeing.
I felt cancer completely changed so many aspects of my life – from my diet to the products I use every day, to my daily routine, the amount of exercise I do, my general outlook on life and more. Writing about everything I was learning helped me to process my own experience and also create my new way of life.
Who or what inspires you?
The ongoing challenge of posting something new on Happy Magazine 7 days a week, 365 days per year inspires me! It keeps me on my toes, eyes turned out into the world for health and wellbeing, positivity and happiness inspiration! And all the things I write about keep me on my own new path in my life after cancer.
My little boy also inspires me – his pure joy at the world around him, his eagerness to laugh, play and explore are all reminders to me to do the same and remember to experience the world as he sees it.
How do you relax & de-stress at the end of the day and during difficult periods?
I have so many relaxing strategies now – cancer will do that to you! I absolutely love yoga and regularly roll out my mat on my living room floor with a Yoga With Adriene video on YouTube – it’s a really brilliant way to reset the mind and stretch out the body.
I also love to listen to meditations, especially ones from Grainne Nolan, a contributor on Happy Magazine or The Honest Guys on YouTube.
I love to ‘empty my head’ onto a page in a notebook, write lists and do colouring books. I also love to paint mandala rocks and I’m just starting to learn calligraphy.
I also love to talk! I’m a big believer in ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and find talking with my family a massive help if I have worries in my head. I also love essential oils and regularly use frankincense or melaleuca oil on my skin before bed – the scents of both are so calming and I find they really help me relax.