I’d already been off work with a stress related illness when I felt a lump whilst having a shower.It was on 15 September; we were going away for my husband’s birthday and he said it would be nothing to worry about – it looked like a bruise and he thought I’d knocked myself and not noticed, but I knew.I tried to be cheerful while we were away for his sake, but deep down I knew it was cancer.

I was so fit; I went to the gym every day and swam every night. The diagnosis felt unreal, yet by 9 October I was on the operating table for a lumpectomy.This was followed by a second operation as it had spread to my lymph nodes, then six months of chemotherapy.My whole world had come crashing down.I’d only been marred for a year.

I was so very low; I wouldn’t go out, I felt my friends had turned their backs on me, and was even having suicidal thoughts. My district nurse came to change my dressings and luckily recognised just how bad I was.She refused to leave and called my doctor out on an emergency visit and it was he who referred me to Willow Wood Day Services.I was so scared and really thought the worst was going to happen, but everyone here is just so lovely.They really looked after me.

I’d lost a lot of mobility in my arm – following the surgery it actually looks like I’ve got two armpits!But Brid the physiotherapist was just so amazing.She helped me with exercises and took me in the hydrotherapy pool which is so soothing.

The chemo had damaged nerve endings in both my feet and my fingertips.The complementary therapists here at Willow Wood gave me massages to help with the numbness and I’ve also had Reiki.I wasn’t sure what to think of that at first, but after the first couple of weeks it felt amazing, just so relaxing.I’ve downloaded the same music they use in the Reiki sessions and use it to help me sleep – just the mental association helps me to relax and drift off.

The cancer had spread to my neck, and I faced a further operation and radiotherapy. It was a shock to find out later just how poorly I had been – I hadn’t been told, but had been given just months to live.I’m now in remission, although I’m waiting for reconstructive surgery.

One thing I must say is how important the Willow Wood support group is to me.The support from the other ladies, as well as the staff who lead the group, means the world.You feel so alone but when you hear the other stories you take such encouragement listening to what they’ve been through.I’ve been coming to the group for about a year now, and feel it’s my turn now to help the new members who may be struggling.I can advise them like I was advised.

I’m also fundraising for the Hospice, the staff and volunteers do such an amazing job I want to give something back.

Like I say, I’m in remission now.My whole outlook on life has changed, I’m back at work and recently celebrated my 50th birthday in Cuba.Last year I wasn’t sure I’d make it – this year I’m strong and in control.

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