In Autumn of 2017 I noticed some minor changes in the appearance of my breast, and although neither myself or my doctor could feel any lump I was referred to Tameside Hospital.

My partner came with me to hear the diagnosis on 6 October 2017, it was Grade 2 invasive breast cancer. We walked out of the consultant’s office in a state of shock, and my partner said ‘Everything will be fine. This time next year we’ll be having a holiday and family reunion in Australia’.

I had surgery at Christies, however the doctors could not advise me whether to have chemotherapy, it had to be my decision. After talking it over with friends and family I made the decision to go ahead and started the treatment in the MacMillan Unit. I have to say, the staff were brilliant, and really kept my spirits up.

One of the side-effects of chemo is neuropathy, a nerve disorder that causes tingling and pain and since I was experiencing this in my toes, one of the nurses booked me in for a Reiki session at Willow Wood. Pat, the therapist, was fantastic, so caring. She gave me a leaflet about the START Clinic in the Day Services unit at Willow Wood and I decided to refer myself and came along for an assessment.

I started coming the the support group in April 2018 and I’m still coming now. It helps so much to hear other people’s stories, everyone is so positive that you can really take inspiration from them. In addition, I had four sessions of complementary therapy which was wonderful, just so relaxing. Brid, the physiotherapist at Willow Wood gave me four sessions in the hydrotherapy pool, which really helped and I had a full Spa Day – that’s a real treat. The pool is covered in fairy lights, you’re snuggled up in a lovely fluffy white bathrobe, there’s afternoon tea, complementary therapy treatments and a makeover or manicure. It’s really amazing, you feel so special. Recently, I've started counselling sessions, which give me such huge emotional support, not just with the cancer trauma. The sessions are helping me deal with a past bereavement. I thought I'd come to terms and moved on, but the counsellor is just so amazing.

Having said that, you’re always made to feel so special at Willow Wood. All the staff and volunteers come out to say hello and ask me how I am. I always have my lunch in the restaurant, and it’s the same there. They know me by name and have a baked potato waiting for me. Walking into Willow Wood is like someone wrapping their arms round you. You just know you're being taken care of and feel so loved.

I brought my mum down to Willow Wood for the Butterfly Memory Release, I wanted her to see just how lovely it is, and how special the atmosphere is.

As I say, the support group is so positive, I’m still coming and can’t really imagine how I’d be without it. It’s really helped me through and opened up so many avenues for me. I’m now clear of cancer and back at work, but will continue to come along and would recommend it to anyone. No matter how apprehensive you may be give Willow Wood a go, it will help you.

And yes, on 6 October 2018 along with my partner, my son and his partner, and my daughter who’d flown in from Dubai I was having the most fantastic time at the races in Australia - a wonderful end to such a traumatic year.

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