Sally Sandisford

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. When I found a lump in the bath I knew it was cancer straightaway and when they told me the news in my first appointment I was almost relieved. Because I just knew. I was operated on two weeks later and my treatment lasted 3 years. It was pretty hideous. Just before I was diagnosed I had quit my job to fulfil my dream of training to be a teacher.

The hardest part really is because you lose all your confidence I think it’s because of the lack of control. Most things in your life you can control but not cancer.  That just makes you lose your confidence, makes you re-evaluate everything in your life – your relationships. My relationships with everyone changed. My daughter found things tough – it was probably her age. She became really angry with me. For about six months, whenever we talked she was really snappy with me and really angry with me. But then I realised that she was feeling really angry about the situation so I sat down with her one day and said to her I think you feel really angry with me about what’s happened and I told her that that’s fine, it’s ok to feel angry.

It was probably about a year after the initial diagnosis and I was really struggling. So I went to the doctor and was prescribed tablets but they’re not great. There was a lot of emotion I needed to deal with and just having tablets that suppressed those emotions wasn’t really the idea.

After trying a couple of other counsellors that I didn’t find helpful I came across We Hear You (then PAC) and the counselling there was so helpful. My counsellor didn’t just sit there and say you’ve done amazing (as other counsellors had done) she asked about the relationships I had with people around me and my feelings about the cancer. It was much more understanding of how you have no control with cancer, there’s nothing you can do. It was just someone to talk things through with and to acknowledge how I was feeling, not giving me any solutions or telling me how I can make it better but just listening and acknowledging how I was feeling and delving into why I was feeling like that.

It helped so much that the counsellors specialise in people who have cancer.

2008 – was the diagnosis. I probably didn’t make things easy for myself continuing the degree but it was something to take my mind off the cancer. I qualified last year which I’m obviously very proud of. I’d always wanted to be a teacher, something I really wanted to do. I really love my job. Both the kids are brilliant, they’ve gone to university, the pair of them are just lovely people. Life’s really good.

You always have at the back of your mind that it could come back but there’s nothing you can do about it.

My confidence has come back which is really good – that was after the counselling.

I think it’s good to find a counsellor who understands the unique position of having had cancer and having that person who’s independent because you’re trying to maintain all these relationships with your children and your husband, your sister, your friends. So having that completely independent person you can go to and just say whatever you’re feeling without having to worry about how they might react or how they might be feeling themselves. Not having to worry about any of that at all and just being yourself.

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