“I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and had reconstructive surgery, but didn’t require any further treatment. I had a great a support network and recovered very quickly.
“However, in February 2020 I noticed a lump in my other breast and was referred for a scan, which showed a shadow/lump. As a result I had to endure a further test, involving taking a tissue sample from my breast.
“Two days later I was sat in front of the consultant who advised me that the breast cancer had returned and that I would need further reconstructive surgery.
“The consultant told me that if the lymph node results came back clear, he would proceed with the reconstruction, and at the time they came back clear. Two samples of my lymph nodes were sent off for analysis, just to make sure everything was alright. But having had the reconstruction, I assumed everything was ok.
“We were now fully in lockdown and no one was allowed to attend appointments with me, which I found really difficult to cope with.
“I arrived at my follow up appointment quietly confident as the reconstruction had gone ahead. However, the consultant revealed that the lymph nodes results had come back positive with stage 2 cancer. I would therefore need a further operation removing all the lymph nodes, followed by radiotherapy.
“I was all alone when I received this this bad news and it was one of my lowest points. The consultant booked in my operation, telling me it would be fine. But I just remember feeling so vulnerable, thinking that I would never get through this.
“A few days later they operated to remove my lymph nodes, which was the worst experience of my life. No one could come into the hospital with me or visit due to lockdown and I have never felt so alone in my entire life.
“Although the operation went well, I was in a lot of pain afterwards. I had to work through this pain to do exercises so that I did not lose the movement in my arm. I nearly gave up.
“I then had to endure radiotherapy – again on my own with no support. However, a few weeks later I had a bad reaction and several infections, which all took a long time to recover from. At one point the consultant was considering removing the implant.
“I found it very difficult after the treatment and completely lost my confidence. I would wear baggy clothes to cover up my breasts, as I felt I was disfigured and damaged. My friends and family all tried to support me, but they just did not understand what I was going through. I felt so frustrated and sad, as well as lonely and anxious.
“No matter what anyone said, they just didn’t seem to get it. One friend told me that I was lucky I did not need chemotherapy. I must admit I nearly punched her, as lucky was not one of the words in my vocabulary, at the time.
“I found Cancer Coach on Facebook. It was really easy to sign up and within a few days I had my sessions booked. This was probably the best thing that I could ever have done.
“It was lovely to meet people in my group who had gone through what I had experienced. They totally got me and understood my anxieties and issues.
“Cancer Coach sessions healed my soul and brought me back to the person I was before the cancer. To an even better version of me.
“The group taught me to love myself and my body, gave me confidence and reduced my anxiety.
“Over the past few months I have gone back to playing tennis (one of my passions) – I even won the women’s and ladies’ doubles club championship in September, last year. I abseiled off Tottenham Stadium (which I would never have done in a million years before the cancer) and went skinny dipping in the pool on holiday. I joined a military fit class in the park and shared my story with them. I even made a new friend from the Cancer Coach sessions. We keep in touch with each other regularly and when I am feeling low or anxious, I message her, or she will message me, and support each other.”
Tara says that through her experience with cancer and the help of Cancer Coach, she has learned to live again and embrace life. “I do not think I could have achieved what I have today without the help I had from Cancer Support, so thank you.”
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. You can apply to join online or, if you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 020 3983 7616.