To be treated as an individual and not just a cancer patient really matters. And Penny Brohn UK is brilliant at that.
I’m just one of the many thousands of people who have cause to thank and celebrate Penny Brohn UK for the way they supported me through cancer. As you’ll probably agree, what they offer is really special; the model if you like, for what everyone with cancer should receive.
I was diagnosed in March 2014 after finding a lump in my breast after a yoga class. At the time, I was living in London and working in law. I was one of those people who struggled to take time out. I was always packing my diary with more deals and more clients - almost addicted to the stress.
But this lump made me stop. And maybe that’s what I needed. If you’ve been through a similar experience, you’ll know that when friends and family, and even your GP say ‘it’s probably nothing’, it means nothing until you know.
At my biopsy, the consultant told me straightaway: ‘it doesn’t look good’. My understanding then was if you’ve got cancer, you’re going to die, so those ten days waiting for the results were really tough. Yet when it came back positive, it wasn’t the fear of dying that I found the hardest; it was fear of not working. I had always defined myself through work and I was terrified of losing my identity.
It was about this time that I decided to visit Penny Brohn UK’s National Centre near Bristol.
My parents live in Bristol, so Penny Brohn UK was very much on my radar. But I had the misconception it would be a bit 'hippy-ish' and 'Mother Earth'. How wrong could I have been.
I found logic and proper guidance and Penny Brohn UK helped me make sense of my diagnosis and I was able to get clarity on my treatment options. For example, it became very important to me to hold on to my nipple - not for vanity reasons but because I wanted to keep some control.
They helped me ask the right questions and to choose the surgery that was best for me. I was so impressed by the people. You may know their lead doctor, Dr Catherine Zollman, from the Treatment Support clinic? She’s incredibly knowledgeable and she also behaves like a human being.
That might seem an odd thing to say, but with the NHS having to offer ‘what’s best for most people’ rather than ‘what’s best for you’, to be treated as an individual and not just a cancer patient really matters. And Penny Brohn UK is brilliant at that.
Everyone who comes to Penny Brohn UK enjoys the same warmth and expertise, but the experience is different for everyone.
For example, on my Living Well course, there was one man who I’ll always remember. He knew he was going to die and it was a privilege to see how Penny Brohn UK wrapped their extraordinary care around him, so he received exactly what he needed – just as we all did, even though we were about as diverse a group of people as you could hope to meet.
I’ve already run a couple of half marathons for Penny Brohn UK as I want to raise as much as I can; not only to ‘pay it back’ but to also pay it forward for the next person who needs them.
Cancer has certainly changed me. I’ve moved back to Bristol and while I’m still working in law, I’m determined to show that you don’t have to kill yourself to be a success. It’s a slower paced but richer life.
Also, while I’ve always liked talking, I was never very intimate in my sharing. I was comfortable with public speaking but I wouldn’t have written something so personal before I had cancer. I’m doing it for Penny Brohn UK because of everything they’ve done for me.
From the very first question, through the darkest times of chemotherapy; when I was rocking on my bed crying and everyone else was at a loss how to help me – Penny Brohn UK was there for me.