PAC

Please note that from 1st August 2022 until 5th September 2022, we are not taking referrals for our one-to-one counselling services.
Please note that from 1st August 2022 until 5th September 2022, we are not taking referrals for our one-to-one counselling services.

In January 2021 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was a huge shock, not what I was expecting at all. I was lucky, I had found the lump early but then due to Covid, treatment was delayed. Although my cancer was found at an early stage, I had to have a lot of tests due to my age, scans, biopsies etc, so they could have the whole picture. I was diagnosed in January, but I didn’t have surgery until April.

During that time, my friends and family rallied round me, I am a single mum with two children, but it felt like a very lonely place to be. Having cancer, worrying about the children and what I was now facing. At the time I thought that cancer was going to take my life away. I was talking to a friend one evening and she mentioned WHY. She suggested it may be good for me to speak to WHY as my mental health felt like it was in such a horrible place.  So, I contacted WHY and spoke to a lovely man, we had a chat about my circumstances.  I think I realized that my life before the cancer was already feeling overloaded. Because of Covid it was already a stressful time for everyone, then finding out I had cancer, I reached the point where enough was enough. I said that I felt angry about everything, and I needed to speak to someone. Apart from the physical treatment, I needed to make myself better mentally. He gave me some information on WHY’s service and also informed me about the website and other things I could look into. Although there was a waiting list, by the time I had my treatment I was ready to be seen.

Due to Covid my counselling was over Zoom. My counsellor was amazing and because it felt like such a traumatic time all I wanted to do was be at home. It felt quite comfortable as I could just go into my bedroom with my laptop and pretty much just cry. We had a review of my sessions at six weeks to see if I wanted to continue, my decision was yes, and we continued for a further 10 weeks. We didn’t just talk about the cancer, we covered everything that I needed to speak about, so if it was my family, my friends, the children, that was ok. Towards the end we spoke more about how the cancer had made me feel and my counsellor said that she could see a big change in me towards the end, which felt great.

I had previously had counselling and I am a mental health first aider at work, so I had a fair idea of what counselling was and what I was going into. I understood the benefit of counselling, but counselling is a really hard thing to do. It’s draining, physically and mentally. It’s really hard to feel brave enough to talk about the things that are worrying you the most, things that you don’t want to think about. When I first found out I had cancer, my friends were here every single day with me, but there were still things I didn’t want to tell them. Knowing that someone was there every week who was nonjudgmental, that I could say anything to them and that they were there just for me. The thing is with cancer, when you talk to your friends, they always want to make it better, whereas when I spoke to my counsellor, they can’t do that. They didn’t have an opinion, or they didn’t tell me what they thought I should be doing. I remember being on Google one night and telling a friend I thought I may have bone cancer, they responded by telling me to not be ridiculous, in the nicest way. But to me it wasn’t ridiculous because I was in that mindset with everything that was going on. My counsellor could just talk me through why I felt like this and how I could process that myself.

If I hadn’t accessed counselling, I think my life would have spiralled out of control. It sounds terrible to think that, but I think my children would have suffered as my mental state was not good. As it turned out, although it has impacted the children it has been easier. If I hadn’t had the outlet of the counselling on a weekly basis, I would have kept all those feelings and emotions inside. I was so angry, I was angry at everything, I was angry that I was 41 and been dealt that card, I was angry that I was dealing with it on my own, I was angry that I was financially impacted.

It affected everyone, my family, my children, my friends. Although the initial diagnosis was quite positive you just never know the outcome until you get there, so it meant having some very open conversations. I remember saying in counselling that I feel guilty because I have got away with it lightly, but then does anyone ever get away with cancer lightly because you live with it for the rest of your life. I was reading a blog where they described it as living with a stalker, who is always watching you, and I thought ‘yes that’s so true’. As time passes on it gets easier but you never forget. Even now, I start each day in the shower checking myself over. To everyone else I have had the all clear, the cancer is all gone and it’s over and done with, whereas I live in this world of questioning ‘is it there? Will it come back?’ I had an oncology appointment recently to check on my medication and I now need a scan on my womb because my medication can cause ovarian cancer, so although I know that is unlikely it’s still something else that I think about. I question whether I will get any other cancers, and would I find them as early as I did my breast cancer. Any ache or pain I think ‘is that something?’ I then punish myself thinking ‘I shouldn’t drink alcohol or eat red meat’, it is just a constant battle in your head all the time.

I never really felt alone in not having any support but the worst moment for me was walking into the hospital on my own to have my surgery, and I just cried and cried with the nurse as I was on my own due to Covid. I feel fortunate that my surgeon and breast nurse were lovely, which made a difference. It really felt that they were there no matter what, any niggle or problem that I had afterwards, I was brought into hospital straight away.

Cancer changed my life; it wasn’t all negative, but the counselling also changed my life as even now I still think a lot about some of the things I have discussed. If I feel like I’m having a bad day I can take the time to think back to how we discussed it in my sessions. It is such a hard journey, it’s an exhausting journey but you do start to see the benefits the further along the path you go. One of the nice things about WHY is that it was there for everyone if my family or friends also needed it.  I think even if you are nervous or apprehensive about counselling then just do it, I think it gives so much more that you think it will.

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