I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was forty-two.
At the time I was busy juggling work, being a mum and everything else that life throws at a forty-two-year-old working mum! Being diagnosed with breast cancer was certainly not part of my life plan.
I took an extended leave of absence from work and focused myself of getting through treatment. For the first time in a long while I slowed down and started to put myself at the top of my priority list.
And in getting myself through treatment, I realised that I needed support and help.
Help from friends and family
First of all, I took up the offers of help from friends and family. Although accepting help or asking for help is something that many of us are not very good at, I knew I needed help, so I accepted it. It was lifesaving. Among other things, I was driven to and from appointments, brought meals for the family on days I couldn’t face cooking and friends took my children to school on my bad days.
Support from people in the same position as me
Next, I looked for support outside my friends and family: emotional support from people who knew what I was going through because they were also going through it or had been through it. I joined a private Facebook group (the Younger Breast Cancer Network), I dipped into the Breast Cancer Now online forums, and I went along to breast cancer coffee mornings at my hospital. However, this sort of support can also be found on social media, in person support groups at local cancer centres and now at the Future Dreams House in London (for whom I volunteer my time running their Online Support hub).
Help and support from further afield
And then there’s all the help and support available from charities, non-profit organisations and kind individuals which can be absolutely invaluable. I’m talking about:
- information available from places like Macmillan, Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Now together with the smaller charities like Trekstock, Shine, Maggies, Mummy’s Star and many more.
- online information available from medically qualified people like, for example, Dr Liz O’Riordan and Dr Tasha Gandamihardja via their social media presence and websites.
- practical advice on getting through breast cancer treatment from people like Paxman Scalp cooling (cold capping); Keeping Abreast (surgery and reconstruction); Nourish with Jane Clark (nutrition) and more.
- online workshops, talks and classes from a range of large and small charities.
Support from Future Dreams
There are so many places where you can find good quality, reputable advice, help and support. Hospitals don’t always know about everything that’s available, and it can take a bit of research on your part, and that’s why I set up my website (Ticking Off Breast Cancer) which is now the Online Support Hub for Future Dreams. Not only do we give you straightforward practical advice for going through breast cancer, but we also signpost you to all the wonderful places offering support. We’ve done a lot of the research to give you a great starting point when considering the support options available to you during and beyond your treatment. And we have a lovely in-person support centre in Kings Cross, London where everyone is always welcome.
Sara is founder of the Ticking Off Breast Cancer support community (@tickingoffbreastcancer on Instagram), author of Ticking Off Breast Cancer (a book giving a heads-up to someone going through breast cancer treatment) and forthcoming book, After Breast Cancer: A Recovery Manual. She runs the online support hub on the Future Dreams website (https://futuredreams.org.uk/get-support/) acts as a general consultant to Future Dreams and is an active patient advocate who is a member of the Thames Valley Cancer Alliance and NHS PPV.