Kim discovered Penny Brohn UK shortly after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She found a community of support that continues to sustain her.
"I feel more connected and very supported. I also feel I’ve got an opportunity to support other people and that’s really important for me as well. I don’t know how I’d manage without these services."
I was lucky to discover Penny Brohn UK very soon after my diagnosis. I asked my cancer nurse if there was anywhere she could recommend. Thankfully, she knew about Penny Brohn UK.
Before I came to the national centre, I thought that cancer care was divided into two camps – conventional treatment and a holistic approach. Thanks to Penny Brohn, I discovered that both can be supported, I could have conventional treatment, alongside my whole person being supported. I’ve learnt many things from Penny Brohn. I’ve got a clearer understanding of what I need to do to look after myself.
I remember the first time I came to Penny Brohn UK, I was nervous. I saw someone who was also waiting. She was very helpful and is still a close friend. Penny Brohn has a great sense of community, which helps in so many ways. It’s kind of difficult to describe the ways, but it takes pressure off other relationships. I know that I’ve got people at Penny Brohn to talk to who are dealing with difficult circumstances in positive ways.
The Treatment Support Clinic was the first service I used. It was such a great morning. It’s well constructed and takes you through the Bristol Whole Approach, so you get information, relaxation and exercise all together. I then went on the Living Well course, which helped me think about how my cancer has impacted me and what actions I wanted to do next.
I’ve also been on the Approach course. It was a really special experience, there was such a good group feeling of acceptance, and feeling that we were going through the experience together.
One of the biggest things for me, about coming to Penny Brohn, is seeing the doctors. Seeing an integrative doctor is revolutionary for me. Having a medical sounding board is perfect to discuss confusing things. Importantly, it’s someone who understands that you’re a whole person and that you have preferences, and it’s outside a hospital environment. It takes so much pressure off. There is so much stress involved in having cancer and it can make you feel very anxious at times. It makes a huge difference knowing that there’s somebody that you can trust, who can talk you through complicated medical decisions. When you have cancer, there’s a lot of decisions to make, but it can feel quite lonely trying to make those, and quite scary, knowing whether they are sensible. Talking to a Penny Brohn doctor gives me another perspective, which makes me feel much more secure - that I'm not on my own.
I have found many things that can support me when I’m stressed. I’ve built up my resilience and that’s been hugely tested. I was re-diagnosed and then evicted, so it’s been really, really difficult. But I find the approaches I’ve learnt are hardwired in and I do them when times are tough. They’re part of my routine.
My psychologist at the hospital has asked: ‘how on Earth do you cope?’ I didn’t answer him, but I thought afterwards that I’m meditating every morning, in a couple of different ways, then I eat healthy food and make sure I exercise every day. I also see friends. All these things are helpful and they’re daily. Also, I can come to Penny Brohn for help whenever I need it.
It’s been great to know that exercising is good for me. I think there’s a little apprehension with exercising, that it might make things worse, but Penny Brohn showed that there’s so much evidence that it’s good for you. I go for a walk every day. I try to get into the countryside and always come back feeling better, calmer and with renewed energy. I also cycle and dance which I really enjoy.
A friend was diagnosed with cancer about six months after I was and I told her about Penny Brohn. She signed up to a course and I remember her saying: ‘oh, I won’t have to bond with others will I?’ I think some people are quite nervous about meeting others with cancer. Perhaps, they’re afraid that it might be negative or upsetting. I said: ‘no, it’s fine, they don’t push anyone to bond, you can take or leave however much you want’. Afterwards, she said it was ‘great’. I asked how it was with other people and she said ‘that was the best bit’. She was so delighted that she set up a Facebook group to stay in touch with them.
It’s been great discovering Penny Brohn UK. I feel more connected and very supported. I also feel I’ve got an opportunity to support other people and that’s really important for me as well.