“When I rang that bell at the end of treatment, that was it, the oncology family gone.” After Julie Gray’s cancer treatment finished, Cancer Coach was there to help support her when she felt cast adrift. Julie talks about her breast cancer journey.
“I was 50, reasonably healthy, fit and enjoying life, when I was diagnosed in August 2015 with breast cancer.
“They were the last words I expected to hear that day. I hadn’t even received a letter for a mammogram and yet, here I was hearing words that defied my understanding of being healthy.
“From that moment on, my feet didn’t touch the floor. There was so much information to absorb – I think I managed to retain about 5%. I just did as I was asked.
“To a degree I was very naive, but looking back, I think it was the best way.
“A double mastectomy was followed by the removal of two lymph nodes. Then chemotherapy and radiotherapy. My body was in a battle.
“For a long time I visited the Macmillan centre at the hospital, seeing nurses and consultants.
“Having endured all that surgery and treatment, the part I found the hardest was losing my hair. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So I attended the Look Good Feel Better makeup course.
“When I rang the bell at the end of treatment, I felt I was cast adrift in a boat with no paddle. I should have been thrilled. Yet it felt like there was nothing left. That was it the oncology family gone.
“I struggled with Aromatase inhibitors for over five years with rather unpleasant side effects. Then I found out about Cancer Support UK. I attended a six week zoom course and met other likeminded people, which gave me comfort, knowing that their experiences were no different to mine.
“I felt family and friends could not possibly understand when I didn’t understand either. I felt that once you finished treatment that was it, nothing, zero, on your own to figure it out. Thankfully Cancer Support UK was available.
“Each of us are individuals and we can tell our own stories of our own experiences. In a strange way each of these stories are a piece of jigsaw, which when put together make a beautiful picture. A picture that paints a story of determination, courage, tenacity and above all friendships.
“I won’t lie. It’s been a long and, at times, testing journey. We have to accept the unknown, which is frightening, but still push the boundaries to say we’re still here and for that we are grateful.
“My hair has grown back, I have discovered hiking and photography. I also have a new companion, my lovely dog Islay.
Cancer Coach is our free support group programme for anyone over 18, who has completed their physical cancer treatment, but who is in need of emotional assistance. Sessions are run by trained facilitators and take place once a week for six weeks. They are held over the phone or via Zoom.