''I was only 32 when I received my diagnosis. I was sent for a scan because my GP thought I had gallstones.  It turned out to be a rare kidney cancer. They removed the tumour and took half my kidney.  But it felt like they had taken so much more from me. 

It all happened so quickly, I just couldn’t catch my breath and process what was happening to me. It just seemed so surreal. And when it did start to sink in, I was just so angry. Why me? I went to the gym, I ate my five a day, I didn’t smoke, I didn’t overdo the wine.  It just wasn’t fair. 

At 32, I had sorted my career and was living with a friend in a shared flat. I had to give up work while having treatment and move back to my parents because I couldn’t afford the rent.  It was like being a child again, with mum helping me after the surgery and supporting me through the treatment. I was grateful, but I felt like I had been stripped of my independence. That my adulthood had been taken away.  At the same time, I was so ill and so tired. I had cancer. I felt really really old, like my life might already be over.

I couldn’t talk to my mum much about it, as it made her so upset.  And I didn’t want to discuss it with my friends and bring them down too. They still had their lives – the world was carrying on without me.

When I was in hospital one day, the specialist cancer nurse gave me a leaflet about Wessex Cancer Trust. I phoned them up and went to my nearest centre to see what it was like. I was quite scared when I turned up, but a lovely volunteer, Maggie, whisked me in and made me a cup of tea. She brought me a piece of gorgeous banana loaf she had made herself.  She didn’t say much, she just listened. And for the first time, I felt I could talk really honestly about how I’d been feeling. It all came spilling out. It was so good to talk without worrying about upsetting someone, but at the same time knowing they understood what I was going through.

Maggie booked me in with a counsellor, Alison, and I started seeing her. She helped me accept my diagnosis and see a future. She also helped me talk to other people about it, which I think helped them.  When I was feeling a bit better, I also booked in for some reflexology and yoga sessions at the centre. This helped me feel good, but also gave me ways to stay calm when the panic strikes. 

I’m through my treatment now, although I’m still being monitored. When I look back at that time, I don’t know how I would have managed without the help I had at Wessex.  I find it hard to believe that there is a place where people like me can go, completely free, and get help from such experts. It is just amazing to me that people will give up their time and their money to help strangers. I’m now organising a few fundraising events myself, and hope I can raise the money to help someone else like me. 

The doctors may have saved my body, but I really feel that Wessex Cancer Trust kept me sane, restored my confidence and made me feel good about myself again.''