As Christmas approaches, I have mixed feelings. For me, it’s a time of happy and sad memories.
I remember fabulous times with my parents, my five brothers and sister when I was growing up. My lovely Mum made every Christmas so special for us and always threw a big party on Boxing Day. I married my husband, Phil, on Boxing Day and we had the reception at home, so that’s always been a day to celebrate.
Nowadays, Christmas arrives with a reminder of the loved ones we’ve lost and the many times cancer has touched my life.
My Mum died of cancer in late November, so the start of the festive period is always tinged with sadness. Two of my brothers, my sister, my nieces and my brother-in-law have all had cancer. In 2006, Phil was diagnosed with head and neck cancer and in 2007, I found out I had Stage 3 womb cancer. I’d seen first-hand the impact cancer had on the lives of loved ones, and I felt scared for the future.
After I was successfully treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, I thought I’d go back to my old life and we could put cancer behind us, but the radiotherapy left me with lots of problems with my small bowel. I was later diagnosed with Pelvic Radiation Disease (PRD). When I first started experiencing the symptoms of PRD, I didn’t know what was going on and felt very unwell and low. My body struggled to absorb food and I constantly felt bloated and sick. Over time, things got so bad that I couldn’t go out or work. I felt so lonely. I was prescribed antidepressants, but before long I began to feel utterly desperate. I knew I needed more physical and emotional support.
I went along and immediately knew they cared. I wasn’t just a number. Together, we put together a personalised support plan. I visited the Support Centre to see a dietitian and she helped me find out more about nutrition and make better food choices. The charity’s trained therapist gave me Reflexology – a complementary therapy that involves applying gentle pressure to the feet. It eased a lot of my stress, helped me to relax and feel much better able to cope. She showed me how to do special massages at home to manage my lymphoedema (swelling caused by a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues) in my legs and tummy. I’ve also joined the Sing for Life choir, which I find so uplifting! For me, the most valuable support has come from the people I’ve met. The trained befrienders listen to me without judgement. Their support makes me better able to communicate with my GP and get the support I need.
Like many couples, Phil and I have had our ups and downs during our 50-year marriage. At a particularly tough time of our lives, Wessex Cancer Support scooped me up, put a much-needed arm around my shoulder and gave me all the support I needed to get my life back on track. As Christmas comes around again and I reflect on the years gone by, I feel blessed to have found Wessex Cancer Support. I can honestly say they’ve saved my life.
We know that not everyone living with cancer is getting the personalised support they desperately need. With your help, Wessex Cancer Support can be there for anyone who needs them. A donation of just £25 could help pay for an hour of counselling for someone with cancer. To make a donation, please click here.