Treatment was brutal
In May 2016 I noticed a lump in my breast. I went to my doctor and was referred to the Royal Marsden where they diagnosed me with grade 3 invasive carcinoma. I was 56.
I had treatment all the way up to Christmas. It was a very intense period. I had surgery, reconstruction, eight rounds of chemotherapy and then several weeks of radiotherapy. I was on three different types of chemo, two administered together for the first half of my treatment and then a different kind later.
I was told I would lose my hair. That was difficult to come to terms with as I always like to look my best. My oncology nurse mentioned that there is a place called Maggie’s at the Cancerkin, close to where I live, where they have a session called Look Good Feel Better for women who are undergoing cancer treatment. I decided to give it a go.
I felt that my life had been overtaken by cancer. I no longer made the decisions, they were made for me. But I did everything I could to control what I could control, and that’s how I found out about Maggie’s.
Putting me at ease
I rang the centre to ask about Look Good Feel Better. From that very first phone call I felt really welcome. I spoke to Reema, one of the cancer support specialists at the centre, who was genuinely interested in me and encouraged me to come to the centre. She had real warmth in her voice. At the hospital, everything was very clinical out of necessity, but Reema treated me like a person.
When I went to the centre, it was like a warm hug. They welcomed me, signed me up for Look Good Feel Better and explained the other bits of the programme. I was ready to try anything.
I started seeing Victoria for counselling. She is unbelievably compassionate and warm, with a great sense of humour. She always picked up on my mood and knew how to talk to me. Every time I went to Maggie’s, I felt it was beneficial.
Over the course of my treatment, I tried all kinds of things at Maggie’s. I had acupuncture, which was fantastic, especially in tackling nausea. I tried Reiki, which helped me sleep well for a few nights in a row, at a time when I was so worried that sleeping was a real problem.
I didn't think I would make my sister’s wedding
Maggie’s was hugely responsible for getting me through my sister’s wedding. I was on chemotherapy at the time and felt so unwell I wasn’t sure I could go. I told Victoria that I wasn’t feeling up to going. She arranged for me to have a massage and a reflexology session on the day before the wedding, as well as a session with her. If it weren’t for all that, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the day!
Teaming up with my son
I decided to express my gratitude by walking on Hampstead Heath for the Annual Walk in 2017, organised to help raise funds for the centre. I was skinny as a rake, with legs like Twiglets, barely three months after the end of my chemo. On the very same day, also to raise money for the centre, my son Jake, who lived in Paris at the time, ran the 10km L'Equipe. "Twinning and winning from afar!" as Jake put it. He describes himself as someone who has never been very sporty, so it was a big challenge for him!
We both had great days, I completed the 10k with my sister Mandy, and Jake ran his first 10km race in 56 minutes - he was, not surprisingly, very pleased and I’m so proud!
Between us our double act has raised over £6,500 for Maggie’s.
In 2018 I also decided to organise my own 10km walk for Maggie’s, with my sister, my brother-in-law and my son keeping me company. I am proud to say that we were the biggest Royal Free fundraisers in 2018.
The support and professionalism of the staff at Maggie’s was invaluable to me and I wish for their work to continue to support other patients. Maggie’s was the wind beneath my wings.