I didn't tell anyone how worried I was

“I was 45 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I first noticed a lump when I looked in the mirror but it wasn’t always visible so I assumed it was nothing. I mentioned it to my husband and then a few months later I decided to go to the doctor. I had a mammogram and then an ultrasound. I started to feel like there was something wrong but I didn’t tell anyone how worried I was so went to get my results on my own. When the doctor told me it was breast cancer and I was in total shock.

I called my husband who took me home. I was already thinking about all the decisions I was going to have to make. I felt overwhelmed but knew I had to focus. I had to be strong and get through this for my children and husband. And I didn’t want to be defined by the illness and just wanted things to go on as normal.  

Telling my children I had cancer

I was particularly nervous about telling my children. In the end they took it really well and were a real source of strength for me. My daughter sensed my fear very quickly and would tell me that I was invincible and that I was going to be fine. At the time I didn’t believe it, but it soon became a mantra for me and when things were difficult it was those words that I held on to.

I felt like I had no control

I chose to have a lumpectomy and no chemotherapy. The scariest time was when I was just about to go into theatre. I was worried if they would be able to get the whole lump and whether the cancer would come back. It turned out it had spread more than the doctors had realised and I had to have a second operation and a lot of lymph nodes removed. This was a huge blow. It was horrible, I felt like I had no control over what was happening to me. After that I had radiotherapy every day.

It was my specialist nurse at Royal Marsden that told me about Breast Cancer Haven and I decided to go along for the first time before I started radiotherapy.

Serenity amidst the chaos

From the minute I walked through the door I was enveloped with love. A haven; an oasis of serenity amidst the chaos and confusion of treatment; a place to reflect; a place to think about me as a person and the challenges I was facing. They offered me hope and positivity and helped me realise it’s not the end of the world to have a breast cancer diagnosis.

I found the books and information in the library very useful. I also met with the herbalist who helped me find some natural ingredients that could support my recovery. But the most important support for me was the life coaching sessions. The life coach helped me to think about what I had achieved in life and to stop giving myself such a hard time. It was life affirming and I will never forget the support I received.

Feeling happier and good about myself

My treatment has finished but I feel like it will never really be over. But I feel more fruitful, happier, and good about myself than before I had cancer. The diagnosis threatened my stability, challenged everything in my life and totally rocked my boat. But I feel stronger now.

The experience has made me a better nurse as I now understand what it’s like to be a patient. It was a very humbling experience and it has also made me a better person and more compassionate.

I want to encourage others going through cancer not to lose hope. I hope that my story will help others know their feelings and experiences are okay.”

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