It was November, 3 months post-treatment for Stage 2 Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer, and I didn’t really know what to expect when I finally decided to go to Wessex Cancer Trust in Bournemouth. I live about 7 miles away from the Centre so not a trek by any means, so I thought I’d just pop over and see what it was all about. I was feeling a little anxious about walking in there, but I needn’t have worried.

The Trust is a drop-in centre, on the top floor of a set of offices. I was buzzed in and when I walked through their door, I was greeted with two friendly faces who immediately offered me a hot drink. They asked me to take a seat while a couple of ladies busied around answering the phone and checking paperwork. I sat there and looked around.

No white walls. No staff in uniform. No squashing onto the bench seats waiting to be seen. It was a calming, softly lit, cosy, cushions-on-sofas, sanctuary!

Warm colours decorated the walls, where serene pictures hung. Two ladies were nattering on one sofa and a volunteer came over with my coffee. “Help yourself to biscuits over there”, she said, then came and sat down next to me.

We went through some paperwork, chatted about what services they offered and made a point of saying that if I just wanted to come over and escape, sit, chat, have a coffee, then go, I was more than welcome.

It was so lovely in there. But then all of a sudden, my tears flowed. This poor volunteer was sat there, never met me before, and I was sobbing! But she held my hand and told me I wouldn’t believe the number of people who have come here and done the same thing. No one was staring, no one went quiet, the few that were in there just carried on with their business, chatting away.

I felt comfortable being there. I could escape the daily stresses and openly chat about anything. I could chat about Cancer in general and…shock…non-Cancer related subjects!!

So, I started visiting every other week. I would sit and talk to someone who had Bowel Cancer, or they were getting over Lung or Ovarian cancer, and other ladies with or a history of Breast Cancer. Some were recent like me, some were visiting and were 5 years clear.

The Bournemouth branch of WCT has been a huge help in my recovery. I would come over on their Coffee Morning where the place is buzzing with people, and I’ve been over when there’s only been me and one other in the centre. The Manager, Emma Ormrod, seen here on the left next to me, or one of the volunteers there, will always make time to come and chat to you, or just leave you to some peace and quiet – whatever you want to do.

On the Coffee Mornings, just sitting next to someone you’ve never met before, because there is a spare seat and next thing you know, you’ve been chatting about their experience, listening to their concerns and feelings and taking comfort in knowing you’re not the only one feeling like this. But also, they’re interested in listening to you too. Of course, not everyone wants to sit and offload all their worries to someone they don’t know, but the opportunity is there to strike up a conversation if you want to.

So, once you have visited the centre, they will chat and assess you and once signed onto their books, Complimentary Therapies are also available if they feel they’ll help you. The rooms are cosy, relaxing, therapeutic. I’ve had some Reiki, and - the main benefit for me - seeing their Counsellor regularly.

And that’s something I always declined before when offered. I’m glad I changed my mind.

I’ve now…gulp…booked in for Acupuncture to see if it will help with the neuropathic pain from nerve damage and help my sleep problem. I keep being told how good it can be. It’s just the thought of looking like a pin cushion and not being able to move!

If you are reading this in other parts of the Country, do try and source similar places like this. Your hospital’s Cancer centre will have details of local support centres and your Nurse will be able to recommend things they feel you’d benefit from.

I have found therapy in writing. At the time of diagnosis and throughout treatment, I didn’t want to write, I just wanted to get better. It’s only now that I have been able to write about my experience of it all so far, and I decided to do something with my words. So, I’ve created a website called Cancer…Me? Really??

I have written about various aspects of my Cancer, treatment, but not in traditional blog format, shared photos and a couple of poems I’ve written. I have shared tips and advice I found helpful and have tried to keep it true but not dark. After all, there were some lighter times and it’s important to encourage and not scare people going through it.

If you’d like to read further, including seeing this article about Wessex Cancer Trust on the website, please go to www.cancermereally.co.uk  

And thank you Wessex Cancer Trust xx