When I heard the words breast cancer my first thoughts were for my three teenage kids, and how my husband and I were going to tell them. I was devastated, not so much by my diagnosis, but by the legacy that I felt I might be leaving my daughter (I have two sons also). We waited until we knew the whole story about the cancer, the treatment plan (explained clearly by a wonderful cancer team), and the prognosis before we spoke to them and though they were incredibly shocked, they understood that in actual fact we were lucky – the cancer had been caught early and was totally treatable. We knew we had a rough year or so ahead but we also knew that I would be fine at the end of it all. Kids take their lead from you – if you can be positive and optimistic about the outcome, so can they.
While I was going through my chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy treatments I became more aware of the Cancer Care West’s support centre in Galway. Although I had known the building to see from the outside I had never been in there. Encouraged by a friend who had used the services, I walked in, very tentatively the first time, to see what supports were available to me. The Cancer Support Centre is an amazing place – inclusive, comforting, warm and friendly and I felt as if arms had been put around me from the moment I walked in. I had some helpful counselling sessions, gorgeous massages and took the mindfulness and nutrition courses, all a huge help and all free of charge.
Two years after my diagnosis I was back at work, juggling multiple projects and feeling under a lot of pressure. It takes a while to recover from cancer, particularly from the fatigue that lasts for some time. I realised that I needed some more support to help me to find a balance – so I went back to the Cancer Support Centre. Two years on I received the same welcome that I had when I was in the middle of my treatment. I got a support top up and great advice from a wonderful psychologist, who is experienced and qualified in the specialist area of psycho-oncology.
I believe you have to make friends with cancer in order to work through it, and in many ways my cancer journey has been an extremely positive experience. I will never forget the love and support I received during my treatment and afterwards. I appreciate life more now and am kinder to myself and others; I am more compassionate – conscious of the burdens that people can be carrying. There is a fear factor that never quite goes away, but if I was asked if would I turn the clock back and rub out my cancer experience, I honestly can’t say that I would.
We are so lucky to have a service like Cancer Care West in our city and to have a great team running it. It deserves all of our support.