Being diagnosed with Cancer (or even finding that lump!) can be an anxious, devastating and life changing experience.
The thing about it and because of Death from Cancer being so widely reported, when you get that diagnosis, many people start cutting off the hopes and dreams, they had for their life, assuming that THIS IS IT ….. THIS IS THE END!
I was in my forties when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer, my children are teenagers at school! I am a single mum, my eldest has an autism diagnosis.
Are my sons really ready to cope on their own?
Are they ready for Mum to not be here anymore?
Who will look after them or look out for them?
Will my eldest son be able to get the outside world, to understand his autism?
After I had the treatment and because the worst tumours were hidden and didn’t show up in the initial Mammogram, when is the cancer going to come back?
Why do they give you a single Mastectomy, why not a double Mastectomy?
How do you live with this odd-shaped body?
I can’t sleep?
I feel trapped?
So many questions I had.
MacMillan nurses are lovely but they don’t always have the MAGIC POWERS to solve the situation in your head or to give you HOPE!
However, MacMillan can offer the HOPE programme.
This was a 6 week course, which actually took place in my old high school building. (Walking along the corridors to the HOPE meeting room, trying to remember Cookery lessons or Chemistry lessons in the lab …… everything looked so different!)
The course I attended, was all female, but attendees can be both male and female Cancer patients!
The girls in my group, ranged in age from a grandmother in her 70s, to a nurse in her mid twenties. We had all been diagnosed with Breast Cancer at varying degrees ie. Stage 1 to Stage 3!
Their Stories ……. the grandmother was the last amongst her brothers and sisters to be alive and her siblings had all died of Cancer! She was very frightened that she would die and then who would be there for her children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren!
The 28-year-old nurse was engaged and had been planning her wedding for 2 years. She was devastated by her diagnosis at such a young age. All her life plans ripped up and thrown away. In the room of ladies, she was the one that caught my heart!
Her wedding hair was the biggest worry throughout the course. She was wearing a wig , she had been through a Mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy.
She talked about how her Fairy tale Dream Wedding plans had been cut to shreds by Cancer. She was devastated, as she would be wearing a wig in the photos, her wedding was just a month away from the end of the course!
It wasn’t her wig wedding problem that caught my attention, but her saying that her hopes to have a family when she was married, had been completely shattered by the Cancer diagnosis! We were all mums apart from her and she was much younger we were!
You can’t imagine what is happening in her head!
The other women there, included 2 very anxious mums in there 50s, a little older than myself, with older children, who had again treated the Cancer diagnosis as an end to their life. Both seemed to be the emotional support of their household and very important to their families. So the diagnosis had been devastating!
By the end of the course, we had all been given a much better way of dealing with ‘after cancer’ and ways of relaxation, including Mindfulness.
We shared ideas about how we could cope. I used my ‘Everything Pink or Purple’ idea which the other women on the course took onboard.
Where I replaced the ‘unfeminine’ side of having a devastating mastectomy with the desire to make myself as feminine as possible. My once black handbag and purse were replaced with pinks and purples. Even my clothing brightened up with sparkles and lots of colour….. girlie girlie girlie was the intention.
From being frightened women at the start of the course, we were now looking forward to the rest of our lives. We have Hope!
To find out more about the Hope Course contact your Macmillan Nurse or Macmillan information point in the hospital or Maggies Centres.