When I felt a small lump in my right breast the size of a pea I didn’t react too quickly because I couldn’t always feel it. With the benefit of hindsight I wish I had. When the hospital confirmed that it was cancerous, panic set in. I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I always felt well and was never ill. I remember going to bed that night and crying to my husband Pete that I didn’t want to die and leave him and my daughter, Victoria who was just eleven. Later, Pete emailed our friends but I just felt numb and I couldn’t talk to anyone. 

Our main concern was for our daughter who was very young then. Should we tell her, how would she react? We decided to tell her and answered all her questions as honestly as we could but without scaring her. She asked if I was going to die and if she would catch it.

When I spoke to my breast care nurse and doctor I started to feel a bit better but my first set-back came when I went in for a mastectomy and they found that the cancer had spread to my liver and spleen. As the realisation that I had secondary cancer dawned, I once again felt scared and numb. 

During six months of chemo I felt very ill. I suffered with sickness , mouth thrush, constipation and diarrhoea. I felt spaced out and had no sense of taste. I was so tired that I needed an hour’s sleep most afternoons just to get me through the day. I felt desperate, depressed and couldn’t look at anything positively. Despite my supportive family and friends I felt very alone and my outlook on life was very bleak. I was emotional all the time and just couldn’t talk to anyone about it. One Sunday, having dinner at a friend’s, Pete read an article about The Haven in the Worcester County Magazine.  The next day he phoned up and booked me in and I’ve never looked back.

At the introduction day I just cried for most of the day. I could barely talk to anyone but one conversation I do remember was with the breast care nurse who said: “Try to look at having chemo differently. It may not have got rid of the cancer as you were hoping, but it has stopped it from spreading.” Such a simple line but true. It turned my life around and I started to think about things more positively from that point on.

After the introduction day I was given my free programme of therapies at The Haven. Acupuncture helped with nerve problems in my hands and also arthritis in my knees for which my knee surgery had been put on hold. Acupuncture kept the swelling down and with an aid of a stick, I am still mobile. I saw the nutritional therapist who helped me to change my diet by reducing my dairy and sugar intake and the medical herbalist suggested milk thistle which helps the liver to function. I have also had reflexology and shiatsu, Tai Chi and counselling, which has been invaluable.  

More setbacks came when cancer spread to my pelvis then lungs and more recently my bowel. We decided to tell Victoria and she is coping very well. Once a month I come to the secondary breast cancer support group. It is totally invaluable and helps tremendously. The ladies who attend this group are amazing and give me hope. They are so supportive and fun to be with. They listen, advise and encourage and are a total life-line – one that I wouldn’t have without The Haven.

Three years on, I feel optimistic about the future. My lung cancer has cleared, my pelvic cancer is reducing and my liver and spleen are stable. I’m a naturally positive person but I still have off days and get scared - I don’t think that ever goes away. I make the most of every minute of being with Pete and Victoria, and if an opportunity comes our way, we take it. I have had the most amazing support. My family and friends are so strong and supportive and the people at The Haven are wonderful too – really encouraging and no matter how I'm feeling they can empathise. They help get me through each day.