Every year we support thousands of people with breast cancer through our range support services. As well as answering questions, we can help with the financial, practical and emotional impact of breast cancer. Here’s just a few of the women, and men we’ve helped.
Andrea was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer at just 50. Despite her diagnosis, she remains hopeful about life and the future, and is part of a support group in Swansea for other women living with secondary breast cancer.
“I was in work when I had the call to say the scan results showed it was breast cancer. On what became known as ‘Black Friday’ my surgeon took my hand and very gently told me that there would be no surgery as the cancer had already spread into my vertebrae.
Cancer left me feeling like I’d lost control of my life. Every twinge or headache made me think the cancer was spreading, and my life was taken over by blood tests, and scans with a diary full of medical appointments.
I’ve called Tenovus Cancer Care’s Support Line several times and talked to their nurses. There are some things you don’t want to subject your nearest and dearest to, so it was good to talk to someone who didn’t know me, and I felt free to tell them anything and everything.
Regular treatment keeps the cancer stable. I’ve been using Tenovus Cancer Care’s Mobile Support Unit for four years and the care I receive is superb. I have my treatment closer to home, in a state-of- the art facility. It’s amazing and I feel fortunate to have access to it.
I’m part of a support group called Breast of Friends for women who live with secondary breast cancer. It’s important to know that you can live with it and not give up hope. That’s the one thing we cling on to. Years after my diagnosis the treatment is still working and I can enjoy myself, even if it’s at a different pace. I want others to know that it’s possible to live a full and happy life despite being told your cancer is incurable.”
Lillian lives in Pontypool and in 2017 a routine mammogram found that she had breast cancer for the second time. Having her chemotherapy on our Mobile Support Unit has made a huge difference to her and her family. She’s also used our Cancer Callback service, and was supported through her treatment by one of our nurses.
“In 2015 I was discharged from Nevill Hall Hospital after being diagnosed with hormone receptive breast cancer in 2009. For two years everything was fine and I was invited to have my first mammogram since being discharged from the hospital; I went to a mobile clinic at my local supermarket. The scan found an area that needed to be looked at closer and the result of that was a HER2 cancer diagnosis in the other breast – I had cancer for the second time.
It was more devastating because my son was getting married that month and I had to keep my diagnosis from people at the wedding; I didn’t want it to affect the celebration. The day before my son was getting married I was sat in the hospital having my pre-operation assessment. I had two operations to remove the cancer and because of the HER2 diagnosis I was recommended to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
I had a letter through the post inviting me for my chemotherapy treatment on a ‘bus’ at Cwmbran Stadium. I had to read it twice because I thought it meant I would be getting a bus to Velindre. That was the first time I’d heard about Tenovus Cancer Care’s Mobile Support Units.
The treatment room has four chairs and you’re able to sit together. You don’t forget why you’re there but you’re made to feel so at ease; you get a nice cup of tea, the nurses are lovely, it’s personal and friendly, you’re there for treatment but you aren’t in a clinical environment.
My husband drives me to the Unit at Cwmbran Stadium and he has the option to sit in the reception and wait for me, or within five minutes he can be back at home. If I was having my treatment in Cardiff he’d be hanging around waiting.
The difference in distance is huge for us. It’s a nine mile round trip versus a fifty mile round trip. It’s not just about the cost of travelling back and forth to Cardiff either; it’s the convenience of being able to have my treatment and go straight home to lay down. The last thing you want after having chemo is to be stuck on the motorway. The Mobile Support Unit has been an absolute godsend.
Tenovus Cancer Care rang me during my treatment and I’m in regular phone contact with a lovely lady called Elaine. One phone call we had after my treatment was to find out how I was doing, and while I was fine physically I wasn’t coping very well mentally. I’ve had friends that have not been so lucky and passed away as a result of their breast cancer – you can’t help but to feel a little bit of guilt. It’s difficult to explain but mentally I was all over the place. During that time Elaine would talk to me about anything, it didn’t have to be about my cancer and I could talk to her like I was talking to a friend. I haven’t got a clue what she looks like but I look forward to our lovely chats. I can’t put into words what a support she’s been.
It means so much because I’m able to talk to someone that knows about my cancer diagnosis who knows me and what I’m going through. There’s times where I have had the deepest, darkest thoughts that I couldn’t bring up with my family. I couldn’t imagine talking to my children about songs for my funeral but these are the things that go through your head when you get a cancer diagnosis. I needed to talk to someone outside of the family environment that I felt comfortable with and that I couldn’t upset and I’ve had that with Tenovus Cancer Care. They’ve been superb.”
Both Mark and his wife have been affected by breast cancer. Since his diagnosis Mark has been helping to raise awareness of breast cancer in men.
“Around 1983 my wife found a tiny little lump on one of her breasts. Sensibly she went to the doctors, was diagnosed with cancer and had a single mastectomy to treat it. In 2017 I developed breast cancer myself. Funnily enough it was very obvious. I noticed one day that my left nipple didn’t look quite the same as my right nipple; it was slightly wonky in comparison. It looked as though the nipple was folded over but it wasn’t really a bother; I was more concerned with a hernia that I had at the time.
When I was called in to have a pre-op for my hernia I took my top off in front of the nurse who told me that I should get the nipple looked at. I went straight to the surgery and saw the next available doctor who wanted to refer me. Less than a week later I was having the operation to remove my cancer. The cancer was stage two and the tumour was quite small. Since the operation I’ve had no need to go back for any other treatment, I simply take Tamoxifen; a tablet that I take once a day.
It didn’t surprise me that I had breast cancer. After my wife’s diagnosis I’d done some reading on the subject so I did know something about it and that men could be affected.
What surprised me were people’s attitudes toward it. I’d had a conversation with a chap in the town centre one day who gave me the impression that he thought it was somehow un-masculine to have breast cancer. The other surprise is the number of young men that are amazed that men can have breast cancer.
It’s important that we talk about cancer because there’s a fear of the unknown; ‘breast cancer is something that women get, why should men be affected by it?’. There’s an attitude that ‘rugged men’ can’t be affected by it. Cancer is very unpleasant, it gives you a sense of your own mortality and there’s a fear that it might come back but do not bury your head in the sand because talking about it might help someone.”
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