Manvinder was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. Following treatment, Manvinder felt like she'd been pushed off a conveyor belt and knew she needed more support. Luckily she discovered a Living Well course in Coventry.
"I can genuinely say from the bottom of my heart that Penny Brohn UK has been a lifesaver. I don’t know where I’d be without the charity."
I felt like I was on a conveyor belt. I literally went from diagnosis, through surgery, then from one appointment to the next for months. Surgery left me with severe pain and lymphoedema in my arm; I ended up having six months of physiotherapy, which didn’t really help. For a whole year, my life seemed to revolve around hospital and doctor’s appointments. Then, I had my first annual check-up. Thankfully it was all clear but suddenly I felt like I’d been pushed off the conveyor belt.
I didn’t have to be seen again for six months and I was expected to just go away and carry on. Everything had taken its toll on me – emotionally and physically. That’s when it hit me. I needed further support, so I went to a wellbeing event in Coventry, where I spotted the Penny Brohn UK stand. Penny Brohn was running its first-ever Living Well course in Coventry, where I live, so signed up there and then.
It was so worthwhile going on because I finally got the support I was looking for. Cancer impacted my life in so many ways. Surgery left me in considerable, constant pain and I had problems using my arm, so I ended up giving up my job as a primary school teaching assistant. This had a huge effect on my confidence and self-worth. I really didn’t know how to get on with my life.
During the Living Well course I learnt about things like the importance of food and nourishment to heal my body, the benefit of exercise, importance of relaxation and other things to help my general wellbeing. I met other people with different cancers and it was good to be able to talk to them and share experiences, thoughts and feelings about what we were going through. For the first time since being diagnosed, I felt I was being treated as a whole person.
I was keen to visit the charity’s National Centre. I was concerned about travelling over 100 miles, but decided it was worth it.
I’ve since visited the Centre a number of times. No matter what baggage I arrive with, by the end of my time there, I always feel as though the cloud has been lifted and I can go home feeling at peace with myself.
Two years after my diagnosis, I was shocked to be re-diagnosed with breast cancer. This time it was more aggressive and needed chemo and radiotherapy.
I found this second time really hard. I could only manage five out of the six chemo treatments because I became so ill with it. Radiotherapy was really difficult, I felt very exposed and quite degraded by the whole process. My body felt battered and the loss of my hair added to the distress. I could not recognise who I was anymore. By the time I’d finished treatment, I was extremely low and felt I was in a very dark place emotionally.
I needed Penny Brohn. I decided to attend a retreat. It was transformational. I felt like I’d gone through a very dark tunnel and come out at the other side into the light. The facilitators could see how much I was struggling and helped me to work through my difficult thoughts and feelings. They gave me the time and space I needed to come to terms and make sense of what I had been through and the effects it had had on me both physically and emotionally. Throughout the week I felt safe and supported, I was able to release all the built up emotions I had been suppressing since my diagnosis. It was a real journey of transformation.
I truly thank Penny Brohn for everything they’ve done for me. My younger brother was so moved by my experiences at Penny Brohn that he ran a half marathon and then the London Marathon to raise a substantial amount for the charity. I also make monthly donations to Penny Brohn, to thank them for the help I’ve received.
My family see the benefits of Penny Brohn’s help. As a family we have made lifestyle changes as a result of things learnt from them. I can genuinely say from the bottom of my heart that Penny Brohn has been a lifesaver. I don’t know where I’d be without the charity.