Susan took part in MoonWalk in memory of her mum who died of breast cancer. When Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 she attended a regional Living Well course. Penny Brohn UK gives Susan the space to step away and really focus on herself.
"Penny Brohn UK allows me to be myself. I can open up to other people who have been through similar experiences."
In 2005 I took part in the half MoonWalk in memory of my mum. My mum died from breast cancer at the age of 49, and as I was 49 that year I decided it would be the ideal time to take part in her memory. My daughter, Hazel, and my friend, Jean, walked with me. We decorated our clothes with my mum’s name and wore white caps to show we were walking the half marathon. On the bus back to Victoria Station in London I said that I thought I could have done the full marathon and decided to enter it the next year.
The following year, Hazel was pregnant and Jean said she wanted to volunteer rather than walk so my husband, Paul, said he would join me. We wore pink caps to show we were doing the full marathon. Unfortunately, at 14 miles, I fell over and was badly grazed. The medics said I couldn’t finish the walk.
I was determined to complete the full MoonWalk so in 2007, Paul and I entered again. We put in lots of training and spent lots of time walking around Chichester harbour. My father-in-law had been a PT in the army and Paul suggested we train to go further than a marathon so the MoonWalk wouldn’t feel as long! I was delighted to complete the full marathon this time. It was extra special as it was the 10 year anniversary of the MoonWalk and we all wore luminous feet on our caps to celebrate.
In August 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. During chemotherapy, I tried the old style cold ice caps but it didn’t work and I lost my hair by the second cycle. The chemotherapy affected my bones and I have had to have a hip replacement. I also sustained a compound fracture of my left forearm during a charity cycle ride which needed an operation to plate both the bones. I now have regular scans to check my bone density.
I went back to work whilst having radiotherapy – I would go to work in the morning and go for radiotherapy in the afternoon and vice versa. It was only when I went back to work that the enormity of what I had been through hit me. I had been off work for six months and was still feeling the effects of the treatment. I continued working but had my doubts about what I was doing and unsure what to do next.
After my treatment finished I fell apart. I contacted a local charity in Chichester called CancerWise and attended a Living Well with the Impact of Cancer course which was run by Penny Brohn UK. I found the course so helpful that I wanted to do more with Penny Brohn UK and attended the Approach course and a couple of Retreats at the National Centre.
Penny Brohn UK allows me to be myself. I can open up to other people who have been through similar experiences. My friends and family try to understand but they don’t know the detail of what I have been through. Paul and Hazel, have been a great support to me through everything but when I’m at Penny Brohn UK I can really focus on me and my emotions. I don’t have to be afraid of crying when I’m here.
Before I found Penny Brohn UK I felt very lost and had lots of unresolved emotions that I hadn’t dealt with. Penny Brohn UK gives me the space to step away and think about what I really want to do.
When I visit the National Centre I feel calm and can put everything into perspective. I can shut myself away from the world and have the space to focus on my own emotions. Penny Brohn UK has helped me learn a lot about myself.
Last year I was feeling stressed with the enormity of what I have been through, the pressure of looking after elderly relatives and stress from work. I remember arriving at one of the courses late and feeling really stressed. As the day went on I began to feel myself really relax and two people even said to me independently that I looked noticeably better than I had done when I arrived. The support from Penny Brohn UK has helped me think about what I really want to do in life and helped me to decide to take my pension and work part-time.
I love the gardens at the National Centre. I am a keen photographer and when I visit I enjoy photographing the gardens and capturing them throughout the seasons.
Although I cannot take part in the MoonWalk anymore it has given me a taste for fundraising. I really appreciate that the support at Penny Brohn UK is all provided for free and so I give a monthly donation to the charity and also donate when I attend a course or retreat. I donate because it means so much to me and many others that the vital work of Penny Brohn UK continues.