Sue has experienced bowel and breast cancer and is living with the long-term effects of treatment for both. Supported by Penny Brohn UK, she has learned to take time for herself and has supported others who are learning to live well with cancer. She is a ray of sunshine, and her story shows the importance of finding the courage to ask for help and accepting it.
"My mum died 6 months after her cancer diagnosis at just 59 years of age. At the same time, I started showing symptoms and had to make it a priority to get checked. Within 6 months, I had lost my mum, took on the role of carer and received my own bowel cancer diagnosis. I was supporting my family, so pushed aside my grief to ensure my children were coping and that home life was as normal as possible.
Some years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I received the diagnosis from my GP, by myself, as I didn’t want to bother anyone. I couldn’t even ask my immediate family for support as I was afraid about how it would affect them and that everything would begin to unravel. The news hit me really hard – how could I have cancer again? It didn’t seem fair – I’d already survived once, and I honestly thought that would be it. I just didn’t know how I was going to keep going and I felt extremely low and afraid for a long time.
“I really think we can help you Sue.” Penny Brohn UK receptionist
My doctor suggested I call Penny Brohn UK and I can honestly say it changed my life. Hearing the receptionist say, ‘I think we can help you Sue,’ was just enough to encourage me to start making time for myself and coming to terms with what had happened to me.
I was invited to join a wellbeing retreat soon after that first call, which at the time seemed a million miles from my comfort zone. But I plucked up the courage and went by myself. We were encouraged to walk around the gardens, which forced me, for the first time, to really think about my situation. I began to come to terms with the grief of losing my Mum, and the grief of a second life-threatening cancer diagnosis. It was the first time in a long time that I felt safe and although talking about it all made me face realities that were very difficult, I haven’t looked back since.
“Penny Brohn UK helped Mum find herself again. They gave her a different level of support, beyond the very practical medical help you get for cancer, which was something we just couldn’t provide. We’ve all benefited from Penny Brohn UK’s support – we got our Mum back, and I know we’re a stronger family knowing she’s OK.” Shanice, Sue’s daughter
I regularly attended nutrition and wellbeing sessions at the Penny Brohn UK centre in the years before the pandemic. I made some brilliant friends through Nordic walking and other activities and was helped by some extraordinary professionals. It’s a wonderful place to spend time, with a beautiful garden, and I feel incredibly lucky to have it on my doorstep.
When we went into lockdown in March 2020, visits to the centre stopped and I knew I was going to really miss them. It was amazing how quickly the Penny Brohn UK team started delivering sessions online – I would never have imagined myself logging in to a yoga class on Zoom, but I loved it! The people I have met online over the past couple of years will be friends for life. We’ve helped each other through so much and I’m so chuffed that I’ll be meeting some of them this month at one of their weddings! Life really does take you to the most unexpected places, and I know mine would look very different now if it wasn’t for Penny Brohn UK. I’m not at all sure I would still be here.
I am proud to say that I have learned to live well with cancer. It will always be a part of my life, but I am no longer afraid of what it will do to my family when I’m gone. I’ve accepted it’s a part of who I am, and I know my family feel they’ve got their Mum, sister, wife, and friend back."
“Cancer will always be a part of my life, but thanks to Penny Brohn UK, I’m no longer afraid of it or what it will do to my family.” Sue