“I first noticed an irregularity in the skin around the outside of my left breast whilst in the shower. It was a Sunday morning and we were due to visit family. I immediately suspected something was wrong but, being a Sunday, I wasn’t able to book a doctor’s appointment that day. By the Monday morning, I was feeling very agitated. I rang first thing to book to see my GP for an emergency appointment and, after an examination, I was referred urgently to the hospital for more tests and investigations. Soon after, I received my diagnosis: it was grade 3 inflammatory breast cancer and was a rarer, very aggressive type.

I was very worried about telling my daughters, particularly my eldest daughter who has autism. I knew it would be hard for her to understand that I was going to be unwell due to the treatment for the cancer, rather than the cancer itself. I wanted to protect them.

The diagnosis brought my world to a standstill; I was quickly catapulted into an unfamiliar world of hospital appointments and treatment, with little time to take a break. It was exhausting. Chemotherapy, a mastectomy and finally radiotherapy left me feeling physically and mentally drained. After losing my hair during chemotherapy I decided to wear a wig because I didn’t want everyone to know that I had cancer unless I chose to tell them. I also didn’t want to have to talk about it with people I barely knew, as I was too emotional to deal with their reactions. I struggled with the physical scars too after surgery, and took a long time to accept my new body.

In the midst of this discomfort and uncertainty, I discovered Breast Cancer Haven. My Mum had told me about them and I decided to give it a try. It was such a relief when I arrived to find a beautiful and relaxing space, far removed from anything medical.

When I walked through the doors of Breast Cancer Haven, it was the first time in a long time that I had felt relaxed. Even though I discovered their support services mid-way through my breast cancer experience, I was relieved to receive their help as I had already been through so much.

I received nutritional support as well as aromatherapy massage, craniosacral massage and acupuncture. The treatments were all very helpful, particularly acupuncture. It was so relaxing and I used to use the time talking about my worries and emotions without feeling judged. It was so important to have some me time away from the chaos of my busy schedule.

When my treatment at the hospital ended, I felt abandoned. As soon as I lost that medical support, I kept thinking my cancer was going to come back. I worried that some of the cancer cells had been missed during treatment and spread to other parts of my body. However, I have found comfort in knowing that Breast Cancer Haven was there for me and my family even after treatment and I will always have their support if I need it.

Whilst the hospitals helped to remove the breast cancer, it was Breast Cancer Haven that eased my discomfort and fortified my mental strength. They helped me to cope with the side-effects of treatment and the impact that breast cancer had on my life. “

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