“I was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer at the age of 41, during the first Covid-19 lockdown. I had been experiencing a pricking pain in my breast for a while, but the information I found on the internet said this was probably due to hormones and was nothing to worry about.
“It was when the skin on my breast started to dimple and my nipple inverted, that I knew I should get it checked out. Despite these symptoms I was convinced that there was nothing seriously wrong. So much so that I didn’t even tell anyone I had the appointment.
“I remember reading the posters in the breast clinic about how long the appointment would take. “I won’t be here that long”, I thought. As the afternoon wore on I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. Eventually I was invited into a clinic room and the doctor told me that I had breast cancer. Although I put on a brave face I was shocked to the core. It felt very surreal to be suddenly given a cancer diagnosis when I felt so well.
“The treatment plan outlined by the doctors was: chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, further chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
“I am very blessed with amazing friends and I chose to tell a small group of them what was going on straightaway so they could support me. Although my family don’t live nearby, I was able to tell them as well and they were involved in supporting me.
“I knew about Cancer Support UK’s Cancer Kits through my previous role as a children’s cancer nurse. I ordered a Chemo Kit and was so thankful for it – every item was brilliant and thoughtful. I was especially grateful for the toasty warm socks, which really helped keep me warm when I used the Cold Cap, and the toothpaste which protected my sensitive teeth during chemo. Thank you to everyone who donates to make these Kits available and to Cancer Support UK for providing such a valuable service.
“I was amazed at how well my body tolerated chemo – I had relatively few side effects. My biggest fears were being or feeling sick, and getting really tired, but these never happened. I did lose my hair, which was probably the hardest thing to deal with, but I found an excellent wig, called Marley (that’s her actual brand name!) and she helped me cope with my changing appearance. She was so good that people actually thought she was my own hair.
“Unfortunately, five months after my diagnosis I learnt that the cancer has spread to my spine, which changed my diagnosis to stage 4, with a terminal prognosis. Again, this was a huge shock, especially as I had not had any symptoms until that point. But we are all ‘terminal’ and I believe that only God can call me home.
“The doctors changed the treatment plan to include extra chemo sessions, and the decision was made to not go ahead with surgery or radiotherapy as this would not be beneficial.
“Having now completed my chemo, I continue on three weekly monoclonal antibody injections to prevent the cancer from spreading any further. Thankfully these do not have any side effects for me and I remain very well.
“My faith in God has played a huge part in how I’ve handled my cancer journey, as have my friends and family. They gave me lifts to my chemo sessions, provided chocolate and flowers, spent time with me walking in the park, and they pray constantly for my healing.
“I kept working as a nurse throughout my chemo and I refused to let cancer stop me doing what I wanted to do.
“I have always loved singing, and writing songs has been a hobby of mine for a number of years. In 2020 I wrote a song, Dying to Live’, about my cancer journey, which I hope will encourage other people living with terminal cancer to keep living for tomorrow.”
Jos’ top tips for someone who is newly diagnosed with cancer include:
- Listen to your body – rest when you need to
- Get a supportive group of people around you who can cheer you on and support you if you feel low emotionally; also let them do little things for you like give you a lift as they might feel pretty helpless
- Go with your emotions – it’s ok to feel angry and sad or any other emotion
- Request a fabulous Chemo/Cancer Kit from Cancer Support UK
Jos McLaren’s song Dying to Live is available on all main streaming platforms including Spotify and iTunes from 22 July 2022. It can also be listened to on Amazing Radio.
Jos is just one of many who’ve received kits made possible by your generosity. Sadly, there are still thousands of patients undergoing treatment in hospitals and hospices throughout the UK. For them, the arrival of a Cancer or Chemo Kit can prove such a boost, the lift they need at the most difficult time. If you can send a gift today, we can help even more people. Thank you.
Cancer Support UK offers a range of free Cancer Kits to people currently undergoing cancer treatment, as a practical aid to their recovery. The kits contain items specially chosen for people receiving cancer treatment. They can be ordered for yourself or for a friend. Choose from the following kits: