I was a project manager in the building trade for 20 years. It is a very high-pressured, male environment and on top of that I was still coping with the fall-out from my mother’s death from cancer. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The consultant said he didn’t know how far it had spread so they wanted me in the next day for surgery.

Everyone reacts differently to terrible news but I remember splitting into two. One part of me left the planet and the other half went totally into practical mode. I detached myself emotionally from it. This just could not happen to me. I had to block it out. I told the consultant that I couldn’t go in for surgery immediately as I had 3 projects on the go with 26 men working for me and I had 3 days to sort out the work and back up. I was back working within 8 days and I worked the whole way through my radiotherapy. I very rarely even mentioned my illness to anyone. It was as if it hadn’t happened.

My world imploded 4 years later. I had come back from overseas and work dried up and so I floated for 6 months. There were days when I couldn’t even get out of bed. I was heading for a deep depression but didn’t even realise it at the time. I had buried my illness so deeply that it had started to affect my whole life – mentally, emotionally and physically. I was discovering that you just can’t bury a traumatic event like this without it having some kind of effect later down the line.

Luckily for me a friend reminded me about The Haven. I went along and something in me just clicked the minute I walked through the door. Throughout my illness I had been alone. I retreated into myself and wouldn’t let anyone near me. What I loved the most about The Haven was that I could just come in and sit and be. I didn’t feel bad about myself, I didn’t feel a failure. I could be honest and didn’t feel I was being judged. Here were people I could talk to about my feelings – something I had never done before as all my energies had been spent on just keeping it all together.

Because of coming here you could say that cancer saved my life. It forced me to stop the destructive life I was living. It took me 4 years to get to the stage of coming because I had been in denial for so long. They have helped me with my mental outlook. I had faced my own mortality and the fear that goes with it. It’s so difficult to talk about deep emotional and personal fears and this is where The Haven and its wide range of treatments and complementary therapies, was able to help me to start sorting things out for myself. The therapists are so friendly, professional and understand how the mind and body work together in people with breast cancer.

The Haven has had a life-changing effect on me. It has helped me to get out of the working trap and indirectly has given me the mental strength to sell my house, move out of London and start a new life in the country. I could not have done it without the support of the people here.


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