In March 2020, Hazel noticed an ache in her breasts, but couldn’t feel a lump. Her mammogram appointment had been cancelled due to Covid, so it wasn’t until October that she was able to have her check-up. When the hospital asked her to go in for another scan, Hazel instantly knew something was wrong
Hazel recalls: “l had a scan and a biopsy and a small tag was inserted. l wasn’t allowed anyone with me and it all seemed so surreal and clinical.
“Nearly two weeks later l was called back for a meeting (still unaccompanied) with a surgeon. She was very nice, but precise and to the point. I was told I had breast cancer and needed surgery. The operation date was in November. I felt numb. It was all so quick that l didn’t even cry. I left the hospital having signed all the necessary paperwork for the operation. l felt like I was in my own world.
“My husband was in shock and my grown up kids were quiet. What could anyone say? l felt alone and scared.
“On a practical level, Covid was rampant and l had to make arrangements to have my elderly father looked after. l was terrified and certainly didn’t feel like a cancer warrior.
“l ended up having two operations, two months apart. l received support from a volunteer lady who saw me through the diagnosis and the dark days that followed, the tiredness, the feelings of utter despair.
“l only ever spoke with the oncologist on the telephone. I never had a face to face appointment. l decided not to have radiotherapy as l have rib problems. Instead l accepted the hormone tablet letrozole, which made me very ill.
“It was around this time that l began the Cancer Coach course. l found it very helpful. There were other women who were feeling like me and the lady who was the coach also knew what we felt like as she’d also had cancer.
“We were encouraged to write feelings and thoughts down, and to accept ourselves. The course lasted six weeks and it was a relief to speak regularly.
“Through Cancer Coach I met other women with similar experiences to myself. We were all able to have a good laugh together, despite having different kinds of outcomes.
“I’m still on the road to recovery. I’ve had to come off treatment as it’s made me unwell. l have up and down days. l worry about the cancer returning, but I’m more calm in other ways. I’ve learnt to live one day at a time. It’s amazing to have received such help and compassion from charity organisations like Cancer Support UK, who really pulled me through this awful illness.”
Cancer Support UK’s Cancer Coach support groups are for people who have finished their cancer treatment and need someone to speak to about their experience. The emphasis is very much on providing practical and emotional support in a safe space and connecting with others who have been through cancer. We provide techniques that people can take away and try for themselves. The groups are split into weekly sessions held over six weeks and are carried out free of charge by video call or telephone. Each group is facilitated by a Cancer Coach, who introduces the group, offers support and structures the conversation.
Cancer Coach is for anyone over the age of 18 who has completed treatment for cancer, regardless of whether they finished treatment a few months ago or a few years ago. To find out more about Cancer Coach visit: www.cancersupportuk.org/cancercoach or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call: 020 3983 7616.