After a diagnosis of a very rare form of lymphoma, no stranger to Penny Brohn UK, James knew where to go for support.
It’s thanks to Penny Brohn UK that I know how to look after myself. I still meet with Janey once per week, it provides me with the additional support of my body and mind.
I was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal Lymphoma in June 2020. I was told that not only is this an incredibly rare form of cancer, it predominantly affects women around the age of 35 years and above, but the good news was that it was potentially curable. The news that there was a possibility of a positive outcome stayed with me throughout my treatment. My consultants always said I had a good chance and I carried that with me the whole way through.
Whilst the chemotherapy was tough, it was manageable and ultimately when I felt unwell, it made me think that the treatment was working. But it’s the mental challenge that is far greater. I would carve up the impact of cancer on you as person as 30% impact on your body and 70% impact on your mind. It’s just something you cannot block out, you carry the what ifs/buts/maybes with you during treatment and beyond which can be a real challenge.
Intro to Penny Brohn UK
I was no stranger to Penny Brohn UK, as my director at Wessex Water Mohammed Saddiq is a Trustee for the charity. And at the start of the first lockdown in 2020 Wessex Water arranged relaxation sessions to support colleagues with Penny Brohn UK’s lead therapist, Janey Barrett.
It was just after my second round of chemo that I got in touch with Janey. From then on, I met with her twice a week for relaxation and mindfulness sessions. I also met with nutritionist Nicky, who helped rehaul my diet, and I also met with physical therapist Alyssa, who helped me maintain my physical fitness during treatment.
It’s thanks to Penny Brohn UK that I know how to look after myself. I still meet with Janey once per week, it provides me with the additional support of my body and mind. Since being diagnosed with cancer, I’ve struggled to find people to talk to who I can be totally honest with about how I’m feeling, and who have experience in dealing with these thoughts. I found that person in Janey. It helped settle me and I’m so grateful to her for that.
Being given the ‘all clear’ or something along those lines
When I finished treatment, I was sent a letter saying: “we assume you are disease-free.” I felt a bit deflated, especially as throughout my treatment the words ‘cure’ and ‘remission’ were the ultimate objective. You hang on to certain words and want to hear them at the right time. I even called up my consultant to ask if the letter meant I was in complete remission. That was confirmed over the telephone.
The care I received from RUH and the NHS was incredible but it’s all medication and strategy to fix you. Once I received the letter, that was it, it felt like I was on my own. There’s no real psychological support on offer, but I was fortunate to have a consultant who was emotionally intelligent, which complimented his incredible medical skills. But finding such a well-rounded consultant is perhaps not the norm.
That’s why Penny Brohn UK’s services were so helpful, it provided support in the other impacted areas of my life.
‘My work here isn’t done!’
I feel like my relationship with Penny Brohn UK has only just begun! Other than the continued support I’m receiving from Janey, I’m determined to give back to the charity.
During my treatment I asked for donations to the charity in lieu of gifts. I raised nearly £2,000! During lockdown employees of Wessex Water were treated to personal training sessions with Mike Spiring (who also happened to go to school with Penny Brohn’s son!) and my colleagues had the option of making a donation to a yet to be selected charity. Wessex Water would then up the final figure by 50%. In total, colleagues raised £7,200 from the fitness challenge. When I returned to work I was touched to find out I’d be able to select which charity the money would go to. Without a moment’s hesitation I chose Penny Brohn UK.
As part of my physical recovery I’m taking on Snowdon with a small group of friends and family including, Ali Hollest (from Evolve Pod). Treatment affected my breathing so this is a way for me to build up my recovery. But it’s also another opportunity to raise money for Penny Brohn UK!
Like I said my work here isn’t done.