Most of us remember that by May 2021 it felt that life was returning to some normality after more than a year of Covid. Millions of people were vaccinated and guidance around close contact was relaxed, with people beginning to enjoy events again.
For many of us, it felt like we were finally on the road to freedom, but for those affected by cancer, it remained an anxious and confusing time. Cancer patients’ needs didn’t stop for the pandemic, and disruption has continued long after it.
As well as experiencing delays to their diagnosis and treatment, many people were forced to attend hospital alone without the support of friends or relatives to help them understand discussions and make decisions. And consultations often took place on the telephone, hampering communication and the ability to form close relationships with medical teams.
This happened to Jo, a client of our Bournemouth cancer support centre.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2021 after experiencing delays waiting for a referral. When I first went to the hospital, I had no idea what to expect. The biopsy was painful and the consultant told me things weren’t looking good. Having to go to the hospital by myself and process everything was hard. Before every chemotherapy session I had to go to the hospital for a Covid test and wait for the results. A week after my first chemotherapy session I was hospitalised with neutropenic sepsis – a whole body reaction to an infection which can be life-threatening, complicated by my ongoing Crohn’s disease (Crohn’s is a lifelong condition where parts of the digestive system become inflamed). I felt really low and isolated in hospital and Covid restrictions meant I wasn’t allowed visitors for 72 hours. As part of my treatment, I had Herceptin injections every three weeks – 17 in total, which I finished in August 2022, after which I started taking Tamoxifen – a hormone therapy for breast cancer.
“In June 2022, I was told my treatment for breast cancer had been successful, but you don’t really get an ‘all-clear.’ I’ll be having a mammogram every year for five years.”
“Cancer can be a very long and lonely journey, and the pandemic made me feel particularly isolated. Wessex Cancer Support is really helping, though. I visited the Bournemouth cancer support centre and found they had a selection of services to choose from, depending on your particular needs and feelings. You pick what suits you best. I’ve found Reiki and reflexology wonderful, and I’m a voracious reader, so I love the book club! I even modelled at the charity’s Sparkle Party, which was a huge confidence boost! And of course, when you visit the centre you surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through. They also have regular ‘crafternoons,’ face-to-face befriending, chat and stitch, coffee mornings, an evening support and friendship group, afternoon tea, walking groups and movement to music.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty around the future, and it can be hard to get out of the mindset that you’re waiting for the sword to drop. My feelings and worries have shifted throughout my cancer journey, which has been unsettling. But I do feel more positive and less isolated knowing that the lovely people at the Bournemouth cancer support centre are at my side throughout.”