Liz is a busy Mum in West Yorkshire who, after her breast cancer diagnosis, was struggling to find a way forward that treated more than just her physical symptoms. Then she was told about Penny Brohn UK by a friend.
"The Penny Brohn UK approach promotes hope and positivity, and enables you to feel back in control. I hope they continue to help clients and their families for free."
I was a busy mum to two teenagers, worked full-time and my husband worked shifts. We enjoyed the outdoors, particularly caravanning, and have a cheeky, little cocker spaniel.
My diagnosis was a shock for me and my family – it stopped me in the tracks of ‘normal’ life. It had me researching, exploring and reflecting. I questioned the meaning of life. Diagnosis was all-consuming – I was overwhelmed by fear. I couldn’t see a future. I could only think of my lack of future and the impact on my family. I felt out of control, alongside emotional turbulence.
I struggled with the speed of the NHS treatment pathway it only seemed to address the symptom and nothing in context to me and the situation. I wanted to address the cause as well as the symptom. I felt I needed time and chance to explore what could have caused my cancer, before progressing to decision-making about the treatment.
My overall understanding of health is that it’s not only about the absence of disease, but a genuinely holistic approach to ensure balance across all aspects of life. I had an expectation of individualised holistic care that promoted empowerment and independence, but didn’t feel this was what I was experiencing. Some of the significant gaps I felt were in relation to nutrition, exercise, emotional support and positivity. Reflecting, I know that I greatly needed emotional support and positivity. I feel this underpinned my progress.
I quickly recognised the need to build in support to help me and accessed a range of approaches, as part of my overall wellbeing plan. At this time, a friend, who works for the NHS, sent me information about Penny Brohn UK’s local courses. I attended the Living Well course and found it useful that it was commissioned by the NHS because this gave credence to their approach. An approach I was trying to achieve, but one that was not acknowledged within my NHS provision. The course reinforced things that I was doing, for example, reviewing my nutritional intake, understanding the benefit of regular exercise, connecting with purpose and building in stress-management strategies into day-to-day being. Penny Brohn UK played a significant role in enabling me to value life, accept that I could live well with cancer, realise the cliché “we are only here once”, explore what I could do to make the best of this time and rebalance my wellbeing.
During the course, we were encouraged to build an individualised wellbeing plan. I have maintained most of my elements, building them into my day-to-day life as I returned to work part-time. I learnt how to value myself and understand that putting myself first is not selfish, it’s about self-worth and having the resources and resilience to help others.
We explored the importance of mindfulness and used opportunities throughout the course to practice this. Facilitators enabled participants to share experiences and strategies to help. Another participant introduced me to the Headspace app. I had tried since diagnosis to meditate, but unsuccessfully. This app was a turning point in achieving effective meditation. I find meditation keeps my emotions balanced. I regularly meditate and have recommended it to several friends as a way to maintain resilience in our busy lives.
For me an integrated approach to my cancer has been the most appropriate route and Penny Brohn UK has helped me appreciate this. I highly recommend Penny Brohn UK to everyone diagnosed with cancer and their families. They offer support that fills the gaps within the NHS provision. Their approach promotes hope and positivity, and enables you to feel back in control. I hope they continue to help clients and their families for free.