"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2018 at the age of 43. It was a total shock to me as I was feeling completely fit and healthy with no symptoms apart from a small lump in the breast. Nothing can really prepare you for getting a diagnosis of cancer, it is completely life-changing. All of a sudden I went from leading a very active lifestyle, working in a job I loved and parenting two children, to a completely different world. It feels like your life is completely on hold.
I started chemotherapy within two weeks so I was immediately very unwell. I really struggled physically with the first chemotherapy as I was very sick and my bloods were very low throughout. I didn’t really have time or energy to process the diagnosis, it was just a matter of making it through each day. The second type of chemotherapy was easier on me physically, but that was when the impact of what had happened began to hit me emotionally. I then had a full mastectomy and it looks like I will need further surgery to remove the rest of the lymph nodes. This has hit me hard as I was really hoping that more surgery wouldn’t be needed. There are good days and bad days going through this journey. I try to be upbeat and positive but there are days when it all hits me and I worry about the treatment not working, the cancer coming back, and not being around for my children in the future. A diagnosis of cancer impacts on every part of your life and it does change you – I know that I won’t be the same person coming out the other side of this.
When I got the diagnosis first, the breast care nurse told me about ARC support services. I called in to visit just before Christmas and a lovely volunteer gave me a cup of tea and told me about all of the support services on offer.
I’ve found ARC to be a fantastic support, especially in the early days after first getting the diagnosis. I received acupuncture during chemotherapy, which really helped with managing side effects. I attended the yoga classes on a Monday and always left feeling energized and inspired. I went to a number of talks and information sessions, for example, talking to children about cancer, and eating well after a cancer diagnosis.
My two children (9 and 6 years) both attended the CLIMB programme, which is a 6 week group programme for children whose parents have a diagnosis of cancer. They both absolutely loved the course and looked forward to going every week. It was brilliant for them to meet other children who were going through similar to them and it really gave them a language to talk about their experiences and to ask about the cancer. An added bonus was that the parents all got to have tea and biscuits together while the children were doing the group and it was really great to meet other people at a similar life stage to myself and share experiences.
Overall, I have found ARC to be an immense support, even just to pop in for a cup of tea in the comfy sitting room if I’m early for a hospital appointment.
I’m still in the middle of my treatment at the moment but I would definitely do some fundraising in support of ARC after I (hopefully) get out the other side of this. It’s amazing to have these supports available free of charge to clients, especially as a cancer diagnosis brings a lot of financial pressures and it removes a barrier for people to be able to avail of them without worrying about finances."