Vicky found the emotional support she needed through our Living Well course, after being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time.
"Getting the emotional support I needed was lifechanging. It would have helped with my first diagnosis. I would have jumped on the chance to share with people who had similar feelings, and do things to help me regain control and help myself."
I was happy and laidback, living with my husband, daughters and two cats. I had been looking after my girls, but just started full time as a family support worker when I was diagnosed. At that point, my world fell apart. I was so shocked, I didn’t even cry. Life completely changed, I couldn’t stop thinking about cancer and that I was going to die.
I carried on working throughout chemo. I was most concerned about keeping my hair. I thought, if I could keep it, everything would feel normal. So I used a cold cap, which was painful and made treatment hard, but I managed to keep most of my hair.
After chemo, I had a lumpectomy, which was a whirlwind of emotion – I remember crying all the way to theatre. Afterwards, I was told the surgery was unsuccessful. I was knocked back because it meant I needed a mastectomy and that was when I went off work. I was all over the place emotionally and realised I couldn’t keep carrying on as ‘normal’. I tried CBT to help with emotions and dealing with thoughts about cancer, but it didn’t help, I was waking with panic attacks.
After surgery and radiotherapy, life sort of went back to normal. I went back to work, did a 10km run and signed up to a half marathon, but inside I was knocked about something rotten, I feared it would come back.
That first year was the hardest. I kept checking myself again and again, as well as had further tests and scans, it was a massive roller coaster emotionally.
In March 2016, I was diagnosed in my lymph nodes and sternum. That was when I changed my mindset. I took ill-health retirement and decided, I am still here, I am going to enjoy every day and do lots of nice things – spend time with friends and family, and book holidays. I went to a local support group and found out about Penny Brohn UK. I attended their Living Well course, to create time for me, so I could be with like-minded people and speak my mind, away from the kids. I was also interested in nutrition.
Living Well gave me a sense of normality, hearing how others are experiencing the same sorts of things, and that it’s ok to be angry or sad. This helped me come to terms with these. Being part of a group, supporting each other, was powerful after feeling so alone. The meditation we did was so relaxing – I had not felt that relaxed in years. The entire course had this gentle, warming, slow pace and they served us lovely home-cooked healthy food. I think we don't give ourselves time to step away from life. I still practise meditation. I also loved learning about mindfulness and now regularly take mindful walks with my pooch. When I walk, I stop to listen to the birds and sounds around me, rather than thinking about cancer.
Getting the emotional support I needed was lifechanging. It would have helped with my first diagnosis. I would have jumped on the chance to share with people who had similar feelings, and do things to help me regain control and help myself.