After being diagnosed with breast cancer just one month after her wedding, Susannah credits Penny Brohn UK with helping her take back control. Attending the Living Well course took away her fear and gave her the confidence to know that she was handling her situation well.
"As soon as my husband and I arrived at Penny Brohn UK we felt a sense of peace. We totally embraced what we had learnt and how we could carry it into our lives together. Penny Brohn UK was a real life-saver. It helped me get back in control and took away my fear; fear that I was on my own and fear that I wasn’t handling it very well. I’m so glad that Penny Brohn UK is always there and I know I can call on their support if I need it."
I had always been good at regularly checking my breasts but in April 2017 I decided to stop for a couple of months because I was getting married that June. I thought that if I found anything it would spoil my wedding and all my plans. After the wedding I started checking again and in July I found a lump.
I went to the GP who examined me and wasn’t happy so sent me to the hospital. The consultant at the hospital examined me and said they weren’t hugely worried but asked me to have an ultrasound. The radiographer who was performing the ultrasound then said that I needed to have a mammogram and biopsy. This came as a huge shock as I wasn’t expecting anything to be wrong. The shock was so much that I fainted during the mammogram. The consultant explained that it wasn’t as straight forward as they had initially thought and asked me to come back the following week for the results. The week between appointments was horrendous.
When I returned to the hospital I was told that I had a grade 2 hormone positive breast cancer. I was shocked by the results but felt ok as the doctors had already got a treatment plan and I thought: “ok, I can do this.” The doctor explained that they were still waiting for a third result but thought it was likely to be negative so they booked me in for surgery two weeks later.
A few days later I was contacted by the hospital to say that the HER2 result had come back and unfortunately it was positive and it wasn’t good news. I was told that I would need chemotherapy before surgery. I think this was the worst point for me as I had been given a plan that I had come to terms with and now the plan was all being thrown up in the air.
In September 2017 I started chemotherapy which continued until just after Christmas. Most of the time I felt relatively well during the treatment except when I had neutropenic sepsis which was terrifying. At 39 years old I was most often the youngest person in the hospital and it felt really isolating.
During treatment I was really concerned about what I was eating but wasn’t sure what I should be eating. I felt that everything was out of my control but knew that I could control what I ate. The doctors said just eat a balanced diet but that wasn’t very useful as I believed that what I ate could have a big impact on how I felt. I decided to get in touch with Breast Cancer Haven and bought their recipe books.
My mum, my friend and my neighbour all told me about Penny Brohn UK. Initially, I was worried about going to Penny Brohn UK because I thought it would be full of ill looking people with cancer. I was seeing a counsellor at the time and the counsellor said: “It might be like that but then again it might not so why don’t you give it a go; you haven’t got anything to lose.”
I had a window between finishing chemotherapy and having surgery so I booked on to the Living Well course at the National Centre with my husband, Matt. We loved it! As soon as we arrived we felt at ease and a sense of peace. It was life-affirming to meet people on the course that were in a similar situation and see that there was life beyond a cancer diagnosis. For the first time in a long time we both had a good night’s sleep. It set me up really well for my upcoming surgery.
In February 2018 I had a lumpectomy followed by four weeks of radiotherapy. I found those four weeks really difficult. But I recovered well from surgery and radiotherapy and in June I attended The Approach which was brilliant. Throughout treatment I had been conscious of keeping active and eating well so I really valued the one-to-one time I had with the doctor and nutritionist. They affirmed my belief that I was already doing great things for my recovery such as staying active and eating well. It was great to feel that I was doing the right things and to be able to build on it.
Matt and I really got Penny Brohn UK and the whole person approach. It was a real life-saver. Together we fully embraced what we learnt and how we could live our life in the way that we want to. The things we have learnt from Penny Brohn UK are great tools for anyone to follow in their life. Penny Brohn UK helped me enormously in getting back my control. It also took away my fear; fear that I was on my own and fear that I wasn’t handling the situation very well.
I’m now back at work and it is like it never happened; but of course the mental scars stay with you far longer. I’m so glad that I know that the support from Penny Brohn UK is always there and it is a comfort to know that I always the option to return.