News & blogs Blogs Visitor blogs Zula's story Three years ago I found a lump in my breast, and was given the all clear. I went for a second opinion this year. So in February I had a biopsy, and I was diagnosed with an ER positive breast cancer, grade 2. I had an operation to remove it and the results were unexpected. My cancer was upgraded to a grade 3, meaning the most likely to spread. It was one of those rare occasions where you do not want an upgrade! I was also diagnosed with a second early form of breast cancer, and there was evidence of it in my lymph nodes too. I would need chemotherapy, a second operation and radiotherapy. I was emotionally exhausted from the start. My final check up is next week. Cancer treatment is really an umbrella term for so many emotional, physical, and practical daily life challenges that you come face to face with. Here is what breast cancer has meant for me: Being at risk of early menopause (I’m 39), and so putting chemotherapy on hold whilst I decide whether to freeze my eggs, or to freeze fertilised eggs and researching sperm donors. The thought process was so emotionally traumatic what with everything else I had to absorb, and the added pressure of time. I ended up saying “no” to all of it. Having monthly implants injected into my stomach to shut down my ovaries, to try and protect them during treatment. Resulting in hot flushes. Night sweats. Mood swings. This, is breast cancer. Having a series of injections every month to stimulate production of white cells, because my immune system was so weak. Knowing that a fever could be life-threatening. Aching joints. Nausea. Insomnia. Pulling out clumps of hair. Having phlebitis (inflamed veins) in my arm as a result of chemo, it is so painful. I still have this physical pain. This too, is breast cancer. And crying. - a lot. Because daily life was a challenge, even managing help with daily life felt like a challenge: food shopping and cooking. And so many appointments to keep track of, constant blood tests and results. And practical financial concerns too. All this, is breast cancer. A breast care nurse at the Royal Marsden told me about The Haven. Whilst the hospital does provide support, you need more. My catchphrase has always been “I’m fine”, and the more challenging a situation is, the more fine I think I am! When I went to The Haven for the first time, and had a meeting to discuss which therapies might be good for me, I felt this immense peace around me, and I was very suddenly aware of how much tension I was holding inside. These wonderful professionals know exactly what I’m going through. I can speak freely in cancer shorthand, they understand me and can read between the lines when I’m not feeling well. When I’m there I feel so light and I can truly unwind. I’m grateful for the 10 complimentary hours of therapies. I had a few treatments which helped with physical and emotional side effects. Such as acupuncture. I felt balanced after each session and would try to cling on to that feeling until the next session. And this became easier to do. I also had therapy to calm and clear my mind of so many different issues. This helped me channel my energies where they were needed, so I could heal, and plan my future with greater clarity and positivity. The therapists are amazing, I could sing their praises for hours. The Haven also holds talks and events, we all exchange stories and tips, we get practical advice on how to manage daily life and new routines, and we meet people who had cancer years ago and are fine now. The formation of cancer is a process, treatment of cancer is a process, and recovery from cancer is a process too. Every breast cancer survivor that I have spoken to, has expressed a fear of being suddenly alone, once they have been discharged from hospital. The 10 free hours of sessions are wonderful, I’m so grateful to have had these. My treatment has finished (other than taking Tamoxifen), but now I suffer from fatigue and nausea. It’s difficult, and frustrating. I used to be the most the energetic person I know. I’ve stepped off the treatment treadmill, and now I’m (trying to be!) still, but I can feel the stress catching up with me. I still need The Haven. My mind and body need time to recover, and to readjust to this new life, it is and it will be a good life, but it is still new. And I need practical support in moving on, in moving back into the world. My cancer was caught at an early stage. And my heart goes out to those who are at an advanced stage, have a recurrence, or have a family to look after. We’re all very grateful that The Haven is there for us.