In 2016 my husband, Stephen, became ill. He had always been active and healthy and this was the first time he had taken time off work with ill health for more than thirty years.
Stephen had a successful colon operation but was advised to have chemotherapy. The treatment caused a very rare side effect which caused a bi-pulmonary embolism and Stephen was unable to breathe without oxygen. He became seriously unwell and was in a NHS hospital for three months and spent three weeks in ICU, with four days on a ventilator when his lungs completely failed. The experience was incredibly traumatic for us both. I was at the hospital with Stephen twice a day, every day and a number of serious failings at the hospital meant I was constantly fighting to get Stephen the care he needed. Our families do not live close by so I had to do everything and had very little support.
By the time Stephen was discharged from hospital I was on the floor. Everything that we had been through, which we had to go through again during an extremely stressful complaints procedure with the hospital over their failings, had taken its toll on my own wellbeing. I was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and had Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help deal with everything I had been through. Stephen was still on oxygen for six months after being discharged but could remember very little about his time in hospital.
Stephen’s oncologist, Dr Saka, moved to GenesisCare and Stephen followed him to have his treatment through GenesisCare. Stephen was told about the support he could get through Penny Brohn at GenesisCare but didn’t feel that he needed it at the time and was focused on his medical treatment. However, the nurses recognised that I wasn’t coping very well and asked Bev, the Penny Brohn Wellbeing Consultant at GenesisCare in Milton Keynes, to speak to me.
I immediately clicked with Bev. She helped me with breathing exercises and showed me how I could use my love of gardening to relax. Once I knew that Stephen was safe and being cared for by the team I felt that I could start to open up. Bev has kept an eye on me and Stephen and we know that she is always there to talk to whenever we need her. She has reassured me that I’m not on my own and organised for me to take part in a group discussion with other people living with cancer and their supporters. I honestly don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t had the support from Bev. It has helped me cope with Stephen’s ongoing cancer treatments and the fear of other cancers being diagnosed.