In 2017 life was going rather well for Briony Benjamin. She'd just landed her dream job as executive producer of video at Mamamia; at 31, everything was falling into place. Some days she'd be interviewing celebrities, others working on high-level digital strategies. Life was good.
But she began to "feel off". More than off.
"Feeling awful had become my new normal," she says.
"I was so used to always being a bit icky and tired that I had started to believe that this was how I would always feel."
Doctors kept telling her she was fine, that perhaps she was just a bit stressed and needed to rest more.
"But no matter how much I rested, meditated, ate vegetables, Marie Kondoed my room, drank the recommended water intake, stopped trying to consume the entire internet before bed, cut alcohol/caffeine/sugar/dairy/gluten/anything remotely fun, took vitamins and did mindfulness puzzles, I could just never get on top of the pervasive tiredness that had become a constant in my life."
It was a typical Thursday the day her mother took her to see a blood specialist. Benjamin's parents, Denise and Anthony, had been insistent she get another check-up, despite her thinking it was all a little overkill. Sitting in the waiting room, she was busy planning her day on her phone. Facebook live with Bachelorette Sophie Monk, complete video presentation, groceries on the way home.
And then her doctor told her it was cancer. Hodgkin's lymphoma. The rest of the consultation was a blur.
Over the next few years Benjamin's life turned upside down. There were plenty of tears, she harvested her eggs to avoid future fertility problems, she underwent chemotherapy, lost her hair, and went to more hospital appointments than she cares to remember.
She made a video about it all, how you do only get one life, and it went viral.
She was sad and angry; some days she felt terribly alone, others she wished people would just leave her alone; there were days full of pain, others full of regret.
But she got through it. She's three-and-a-half years into remission, still dealing with some chronic fatigue which is common post-cancer treatment, but she's through it.
And now she's written about her journey in a book she hopes no one will need to buy. Life is Tough But So Are You: How to rise to the challenge when things go pear-shaped is ''the book I wish I had when I started this", she says.
It's part practical guide, part cheerleader - "Good days are coming, hang in there legend" - full of truths and suggestions you might not have thought about, ways to get through the dark days, ways to find the good in most things. It's all these things packaged in a bright yellow bundle, full of pastel colours and pretty little shapes. Okay, I know that means nothing, but even the book itself is cheery.
And so is Benjamin. She's chirpy and upbeat and genuine in her want to help people through whatever trouble might be facing them.
"It's been lovely to be able to turn a really challenging time, to take that trauma and now turn it into something that's lighter and colourful and helpful for people who are navigating tricky times," she says.
"To write it all down has been really healing for me, quite cathartic, helping me make sense of it all.
"Being able to turn the lessons and the things that really helped me most, and articulate that in a way that can help other people, in a form that can live on, is really exciting to me.
"I've been supporting a lot of people through their cancer journey since, people that might have connected with me online, or through my friends and family, but being able to have it all in one place for everyone is a really nice feeling."
But the best thing about the timing of this book is that much of it can be helpful with our current everyday lives. It was never meant to be a Covid handbook but much of it applies.
"At a time where so many people are going through such a challenging time with Covid and lockdowns, and just the uncertainty of it, there are so many learnings out of my experience that can help really at any kind of time," she says.
"It might be a deep sadness, or just a bit of a rough patch, just not knowing what's coming next or not knowing when lockdown's going to end.
"The book gives you the tools around acceptance and taking things day by day and finding little moments of joy no matter what's going on in your life.
"These are all the things that really sustained me through that dark time that I think are universally relevant, now more than ever."
She said one thing she's realised is that everyone deals with things differently, whether it be physical or emotional traumas.
"It's very important not to compare how anyone is dealing with something to how someone else is, whether it be cancer or Covid, or any challenge they're facing," she says.
"For the the healing after trauma has been a lot longer and a lot more complex than I would have originally thought, but once you know your normal, you feel much more at ease with it.
"We have this very rough culture around healing, everyone wants you back on your feet in no time, or they're wishing you a speedy recovery, your body needs time to heal, and you are entitled to do that at your own pace."
She's realised it's okay to say no and to slow down. She's no longer working with Mamamia, but working on projects of her own, doing plenty of public speaking and working with brands that she is passionate about, a lot of them in the environmental space.
"One thing which really hit me was learning to rest, and that's been an ongoing thing with the fatigue," she says.
"They'd look at my schedule and go, you realise you don't actually have a rest, so all these things I thought were resting - reading a book, listening to a podcast, reading the paper - all require a high cognitive load, they were exhausting me.
"Resting is making a cup of tea, heading out into the garden and just staring up at the sky, that's resting; I don't know many people who rest."
- Life is Tough (But so are you): How to rise to the challenge when things go pear-shaped, by Briony Benjamin. Murdoch Books, $29.99.