Claire’s story

“Through the treatment, my body was getting an incredible battering and there is a weird gratitude for this as of course it’s getting rid of the cancer. But I found that it wasn’t just my body getting hammered, my mind was at risk too. This is where My Cancer My Choices really came in to their own.”

As soon as the consultant said “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer”, I could feel the eyes in the room on me…the breast care nurse as she sat at a respectful distance looking at me, having had prior knowledge of the news that was delivered and those of the consultant as he maintained eye contact to check I’d understood. I had expected the diagnosis and I think my calm manner took the team slightly by surprise. My time with the consultant was relatively quick and I shook his hand, thanked him and was escorted to a more comfortable room where the breast care nurse would spend some time talking me through what would happen next. She told me it was ok to cry – I didn’t – and I came away with pamphlets and not much of a clue about much else…too many unknowns.

I sat in my car and rang my husband to deliver the news I’d expected but he’d thought or hoped wouldn’t come. I then called my parents and told my in-laws the news. Everyone wanted answers I couldn’t give and I felt terrible. The only time I cried was at the thought of telling my kids – they’re old enough to understand the implications and I didn’t want them to be afraid.

The next few weeks were well and truly purgatory. I assumed I’d have an action plan within days; completely underestimating the range of tests and appointments I’d have before a plan was drawn up. If I’m honest, I found some of the tests incredibly traumatic and living with the ‘unknown’ was a surreal nightmare for a control-freak like me. It was a relief when finally I was told the type of breast cancer and the recommended treatment. Don’t be fooled, there is no ‘good’ cancer to have and mine was particularly aggressive. I quickly learnt never to Google anything! I had unwittingly got the BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) deal with what was expected to be three tumours but turned out, thankfully, to be just two. It was reassuring to have a plan and I opted for surgery first as I didn’t want to be ill over Christmas. I also decided not to tell everyone, so family could enjoy Christmas without the inevitable fear cancer brings.

In the New Year came extensive chemo and radiotherapy. I was well and truly on the conveyor belt of appointments, blood tests, appointments, blood tests, scans….Every medical professional I met treated me with such kindness and patience, but I really did feel like a ‘cancer patient’ in everyone’s eyes – which, of course, I was.

I’d been warned I’d lose my hair (the cold cap wasn’t suitable for me) and it was then I realised that the only thing about this whole situation I could control, was the way I dealt with it. Personally I don’t believe in the adage that everything happens for a reason, but I am a big believer in that you can turn bad situations into good. Through a good friend I was aware of My Cancer My Choices, and my brother had already done some fundraising for them. As I found out more about the charity, I decided that I would get sponsorship to shave my head and turn the inevitable hair loss into something positive for them.

Even though it was expected, it was still a shock to be in the shower and see my hair coming out in handfuls. No one warns you that your head gets sore and tingly as the hair gets ready to fall out, so it was quite a relief to get to the ‘big shave’  and have my husband, children and friend there supporting me. Family, friends and colleagues had sponsored me incredible amounts and everyone’s goodwill really carried me. It was very empowering to take the decision to shave my head and raise money for such a good cause. For me it was important as I didn’t feel like a victim of cancer.

Through the treatment, my body was getting an incredible battering and there is a weird gratitude for this as of course it’s getting rid of the cancer but I found that it wasn’t just my body getting hammered, my mind was at risk too. This is where My Cancer My Choices really came in to their own. I had an incredible aromatherapy massage which made me feel like I was floating on air! I didn’t feel like a cancer patient during the session, I felt like Claire again! I also tried Mindfulness and Tai’Chi. All things I’d never have made time for before becoming ill, but all things that made me feel like a stronger version of myself, which helped me tackle my medical treatments head-on.

That’s what I really value about My Cancer My Choices – their treatments not only complement the every-day medical care, but pamper your body and soul so you come away feeling incredible – even on the hardest of days. I am very fortunate and grateful to have benefitted from the services the charity offers. I am blown away by the kindness of the whole team, who give up their time to focus on the well-being of others – thank you all. To the supporters of the charity – please keep doing what you’re doing…it makes such a massive difference to patients in the area.

Sincerely, thank you. Claire

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