After being diagnosed with breast cancer twice, Patricia has been able to find a support system through Penny Brohn UK.
"I continue to stitch and pass my skills on to fellow quilt artists and hope to live as full a life as possible. I can do this because Penny Brohn UK is there for me. It will be there for you, too."
An NHS letter reminded me to make an appointment for a routine mammogram. I had no apparent lumps or bumps and happily went along to the Chichester unit I visited routinely.
I was shocked when a follow up letter required me to go to the Breast Clinic in Worthing for a second mammogram and possible biopsy. A tumour was deep in the right beast, not palpable, but a grade three aggressive cancer. I was so grateful for the reminder letter as I would not have known the tumour was there.
From then, it was all a bit of a daze and I was carried along by the doctors and nurses who were there to support me during this time.
As the tumour was so aggressive, I was to have the maximum permissible doses of chemo and radiotherapy simultaneously. The next 10 months of treatment was very difficult, but I thought of it as a tunnel through which I had to travel to get to the other side. The Breast Cancer Support Group in Worthing was also very helpful.
I gradually recovered and was able to return to my teaching job, which had been on hold for a year. I retired from my previous hospice nurse role and qualified as a teacher, and became a pictorial quilt artist, teaching others my craft – I loved it. It took me all over the world and, in my lectures, my breast cancer experience would arise. This helped me a great deal and I also know that it helped many others share their experiences.
I had follow up examinations for five years and, as time went on, didn’t feel that I was in remission, but, surely, must be cured. I refused to acknowledge the words ‘in remission’.
However, after 70 years, one does not receive notification of the mobile mammogram anymore. For some reason I decided to contact the office and arrange an appointment. Thank goodness as the X-ray showed the cancer had returned after 13 years (2013), this time in my left breast. Again no lumps or bumps, just intuition!
This time there was no promise by the surgeon that he would be able to completely remove the tumour, so after a great deal of consideration, I agreed to a double mastectomy.
This was so traumatic and I experienced problems dealing with my body image – I felt mutilated. Anxiety attacks became a daily occurrence as well as becoming very depressed. I felt angry, although my husband and family were so supportive. My GP offered CBT and I found this incredibly helpful.
One day, driving through Chichester, I noticed a sign saying ‘CancerWise’ drop-in centre. This was the turning point because the organisation supports patients and families who are dealing with cancer. They offered different therapies and this is where I was introduced to Penny Brohn UK.
I attended Penny Brohn UK’s free, two-day Living Well course, which was the best therapy yet. To be able to talk to others who know exactly what cancer is all about is so invigorating. They have taught me mindfulness and meditation and how to be kind to myself, something that is so difficult for all of us.
All of this was so helpful because, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with another cancer, melanoma. It seemed that this cancer was not going away, therefore, a support system was needed – Penny Brohn UK.
Whilst travelling through my cancer journey, I have also suffered with a neurological condition. I have had this extremely painful condition for over 10 years and have had four brain operations. This condition also requires similar therapies to those offered to cancer patients.
I'm hoping to spend more and more time at Penny Brohn UK, when I can drive again, to experience even more helpful ideas to continue life as ‘normal’. In the meantime, I continue to stitch and pass my skills on to fellow quilt artists and hope to live as full a life as possible.
I can do this because Penny Brohn UK is there for me and it will be there for you too.