In September 2019 Sabine Raza Khan was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. In the year prior to finding a lump, she felt exhausted and burned out all the time.
Sabine thought that she was menopausal and put all her efforts into getting stronger mentally and physically. She focused on exercising and eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats and fibres. She cut out sugars.
The cancer diagnosis left her feeling numb, shocked and disappointed. Despite having done everything to stay healthy, she had still developed cancer.
“I breast fed all three of my children and there is no history of cancer in my family, so it never crossed my mind that cancer could ever happen to me.”
“The hardest part was telling the children. It felt better to wait until later as I first needed to understand what was happening.
“I did my best to act normal, but all my efforts in protecting my kids from the effects of this illness failed. The cancer not only robbed me of my livelihood, but it also robbed my children of their mother, my husband of his wife, my parents, siblings, and friends of their companion.
“After I began chemotherapy, I found myself helpless as I struggled with the awful side effects of the treatment that was eventually going to save my life.
“In between hospital appointments I managed to train a colleague so that I could hand over my job to her in case I couldn’t manage. Looking back, I realise how naïve I was in thinking that I could have carried on working.
“Initially, I received support from Macmillan, but then Covid happened and the centre had to shut down.
“Luckily despite lockdown, my chemotherapy continued. I looked forward to these appointments and check-ups because I didn’t feel so isolated.
“Then the operation had to be brought forward because of my type of cancer. I had just two days to come to terms with the fact that a mastectomy was the only sensible option.
“I was devastated. However, the team of consultants and nurses were 100% supportive. The operation and after care were explained in full detail and everyone made me feel as comfortable as they possibly could.
“Counting down the number of treatments remaining, I knew I should have felt happy. People around me were celebrating and expected me to be happy. People told me that the hardest part was now over and that I could get on with my life. A few asked me how I felt, but most just expected me to carry on with all that I used to do before cancer.
“As my hair and eye lashes gradually grew back, it felt like a cover had fallen over the wounds, but inside I felt insecure, changed and broken. To be honest I was tired of explaining what I wasn’t able to do. I felt exhausted, isolated, misunderstood, neglected and pushed beyond my capacity. Partially because of my own expectations.
“A dear family member whose mother had fought cancer introduced me to a life coach, who helped me a lot, but I didn’t feel back on track.
“Then one day I stumbled across an advertisement for Cancer Coach. I could relate to the concept of it, but I wasn’t sure if I should sign up, as I thought I was getting better.
“But one sleepless night I scrolled through my phone and there it was again, Cancer Coach. It seemed like I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I filled in the application form.
“Shortly after I had a telephone consultation with a Cancer Support UK member of staff who assessed me and talked me through the coaching structure.
“A week later I joined my first Cancer Coach meeting via Zoom. It was convenient and easy to attend. My Cancer Coach was an absolute delight and, for the first time in a long while, I felt better.
“The struggle wasn’t over, but now I wasn’t alone. There were people who felt exactly the way I did, and it was great to know that it was alright to feel the way I did.
“Each session gave me strength and reason to carry on. The fact that we could discuss sensitive issues with each other, without being judged, felt empowering. The whole atmosphere was relaxed, empathetic and helpful, as we all supported and learned from each other.
“We were able to discuss coping techniques and gave ourselves the freedom to take the time we needed to heal and reconfigure our lives. We wanted to make amends for own benefit, as well as our loved ones, but without putting ourselves under pressure.
“We learnt to let go of the grief we felt at losing our former selves. Now we were ready and willing to represent the new person that we had become through this struggle.
“When treatment finished it was like falling through a hole. But Cancer Coach gave me the support I needed when no one else could.
“Thank you, Cancer Coach, for your dedication and support.”
Cancer Coach is available free of charge to 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. Participants can be based anywhere in the UK.
If you are interested in finding out more about Cancer Coach, please submit an application to join a group and a member of Cancer Support UK will be in touch.