Denise Ryan

Denise Ryan

”I was 35 years of age when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2019. I discovered the lump whilst scrubbing off fake tan in the shower. I cannot even describe it as a lump it was more like a thickening underneath the skin. It wasn’t on my breast but a few inches down from my collarbone.   I didn’t think too much of it, but it had caught my eye all the same and once that happened, I just felt that I needed to get it checked out.


I went to see my GP who referred me for a mammogram. I went in for that mammogram the Monday after the August bank holiday weekend thinking that I would be in and out in the hour but what followed was a triple assessment, a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. I was told to come back on the Friday of that week for the results where I would meet with one of the breast surgeons. That was when I realised that something was wrong. Why would I need to meet with a breast surgeon?


On Friday 9th August my husband and I went back to the hospital for my results and it was on that day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  No one can prepare you for that news. What I struggled with the most was trying to understand why this was happening to to me, I had only got married the previous year, I was exercising regularly between running, weight training and boxercise and I was in the process of buying a house with my husband. This wasn’t supposed to be part of my story.


Things moved quickly once I got those first set of results and a range of hospital appointments ensued. I can honestly say that I felt like I had stepped out of my own life and into someone else’s but without warning, without wanting to.  My husband came with me to all my appointments, being my ears taking all the information in whilst I asked the questions.  However, I knew that when the radiotherapy treatment started that I would have to attend the hospital Monday to Friday and I didn’t want him to be losing that time in the day when he was supposed to be working.  I decided that I would go to the first session by myself which was the prep session and I could see what it was all about and go from there. However, on the day I wasn’t as brave as I had planned to be, I was upset in myself coming out from the session and it was a very lonely place to be.  Just as I passed out by the reception desk in the hospital, I spotted ARC’s leaflets. I asked the receptionist where they were based and as it was only a couple of minutes’ walk from the hospital I said I would go down as I had nothing to lose.


On that day, Clare one of the volunteers opened the door to me and I was greeted with the warmest smile and told to come on in. It didn’t feel awkward like I maybe imagined a support centre to me. I felt welcome and from that day on ARC made a big difference to me emotionally as I went through a very stressful time in my life. The first complimentary therapy that I received from ARC was reflexology and soon enough I had a bit of a routine going on whereby once a week I was popping in for some reflexology mid- week during my treatment. And then that turned into just dropping in for a ‘chat’.


When my radiotherapy treatment finished, and I moved onto the medication that I had to take as part of my treatment plan, I then availed of the acupuncture services. Again, these sessions were complimentary, and I found them to be very helpful with the initial side effects of the tablet.



However, by far the most beneficial service of all was the counselling. I got 6 free counselling sessions from ARC and this was invaluable to me, so much so that I continued with these sessions privately afterwards. These sessions have helped me in my transition back to work, to help shift my mind-set to focus on what is within my circle of control and to treat myself with a little compassion.



In the words of Marilyn Monroe ‘Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together’ and it is thanks to ARC that I have been able to take as many positives from this situation as possible. I have learned to slow down a little bit, to take enjoyment from the small things and to just enjoy each day for what it is.  I would encourage anyone embarking on this journey to accept support from an organisation like ARC. That support can come in many forms from alternative therapies to counselling, online courses, mindfulness sessions or just a chat. There is something for everyone.   We all know someone impacted by cancer, whether it be yourself, a family member, or a friend and all you need to do is reach out and accept that help which is there in abundance from ARC. I promise you won’t look back.”