My sister, Maria, and I were diagnosed with breast cancer within twenty minutes of each other. Our mother had only recently died and our diagnoses came as a huge shock.
We were both recalled for further investigation after attending routine mammogram appointments and we weren’t initially concerned as there was no history of cancer in the family.
Upon diagnosis we were both offered surgery for the same date, but this wasn’t ideal; whilst I had the comfort of a support network comprising my husband and children, my sister lives alone, and we needed to support each other post-surgery. My husband has private medical insurance and, thanks to this, we were able to bring my surgery forward by a week, enabling me to be of some support to Maria when she had her own surgery. So, I started my treatment with GenesisCare, whilst Maria had her treatment through the NHS.
After my lumpectomy, it was found that the cancer was in my nodes and I needed a second surgery for node clearance. I then had radiotherapy, and it was borderline whether or not I needed chemotherapy. After fully discussing my options with my consultant, who explained to me that my ‘Predict’ statistics showed that chemo would only have added a very marginal benefit over surgery and radiotherapy alone in my particular case, I decided against chemo given its potential impact and side effects.
In Maria’s case, her nodes were clear of cancer, and she underwent radiotherapy at Addenbrookes in Cambridge.
At my final radiotherapy appointment at GenesisCare, the receptionist mentioned Penny Brohn UK and mentioned that I could have an initial consultation with Bev, the Penny Brohn Wellbeing Consultant. To be honest I immediately thought it to be a sales pitch, but when I met Bev I very quickly realised that it was the best thing I could have done.
I told Bev about Maria and how I was trying to support both of us. Bev said that she could also receive support through Penny Brohn UK, and Maria became the first NHS patient to receive Penny Brohn UK support through the GenesisCare centre in Milton Keynes and so we were able to have a dual experience. We received counselling and have had joint and individual sessions. Having a professional to talk to made all the difference to Maria’s wellbeing.