“Being able to talk to others who really understood was life changing” – Jo Wilkes’ story

Jo Wilkes Cancer Coach ParticipantIt was September 2020, I was about to turn 39 and my daughter’s 18th birthday was in just a couple of days. I felt a lump. This wasn’t the first time, I’d found one as I’d previously had two cysts, but I always acted quickly when I did.

Having lost one of my very best friends to breast cancer a few years earlier, I understood the importance of getting checked out. I focused on my daughter’s birthday and contacted my GP later that day. They saw me the very next day and referred me to the local breast clinic.

Things moved very quickly after that and I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The whole journey was very lonely. I didn’t see my friends or siblings after diagnosis because of isolating for my operation. I attended all my appointments alone. I had to be really careful about the conversations I had at home because I wanted to protect my children, but I was scared.

My single mastectomy and lymph node removal went well, and a further test revealed I didn’t need to have chemotherapy. But I would have to take hormone therapy for the next ten years.

Jo Wilkes Cancer Coach participantLife moved on around me and people stopped asking how me how I was or checking in. But my head was very much still living with cancer, the fear and dread and I was finding it difficult to cope. Cancer consumed my thoughts.

I didn’t want to talk to people, because I was so worried that people would think I should have moved on and I just couldn’t explain that absolute fear.

I saw an advert on social media for Cancer Support UK. Reading someone else’s words, which sounded like my own thoughts was surprising and reassuring. I knew I needed to do it and I contacted CSUK straight away.

The group I was part of were women of similar ages and by the end of the first session, I felt the loneliness lift. They had the same fears, they struggled with the same feelings, they had the same anger and we talked this through honestly and openly. The relief to hear others had the same thoughts was therapeutic and I looked forward to every session after that.

Our Cancer Coach was incredibly supportive, she encouraged our free conversations while referring to the supporting workbook to give us the tools to make changes.

I found the exercise about ‘grieving parts of you’ incredibly powerful, as I had felt like I was no longer the same person.

We discussed returning to work, which helped my guilt in not doing it sooner and laughed about our Tamoxifen rages. Being able to talk to others who really understood was life changing and I am so very grateful to Cancer Support UK for bringing us together.