The Haven: Breast Cancer Support Centres
An update on recent activities, October 2014
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month which is global campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer research and support. The Haven has more awareness and fundraising activities than ever throughout the month and there are so many ways people can get involved. We are delighted to be supported by several high street brands who are all donating a percentage from sales of special ‘pink’ products in October. These include a gorgeous collection of pink boots and slippers by UGG Australia and a special edition pale pink toaster by Dualit. See here all the products helping us this month.
A new Haven for North and East London
With a new Haven poised to open in Hampshire next summer we are very excited to report that plans are in place to open a new Haven which will serve both North and East London. A £5m capital appeal has just been launched and will be led by breast cancer fundraising charity, Future Dreams, who has already raised well over £1.5m for research in to secondary breast cancer. We are expecting to achieve our target within five years.
Piloting a new Haven service delivery
The Haven currently runs its breast cancer support services from centres which are not located within hospitals. Many patients seek relief away from medical environments. However, we are always looking to innovate and experiment with new ways of providing services to as many people as possible. For the first time, The Haven will be running a pilot from next summer which will be a satellite service accessed from a new breast unit within a National Trust hospital. We will be providing a range of support and therapies on the busy clinic days at the unit.
The Haven in Wessex Appeal
We will soon be starting renovations on the stunning Grade II listed building which will be new Haven centre in Hampshire. We are delighted to have the support of top UK furniture brands, John Lewis and Furniture Village, who are donating lots of lovely products including a stunning new kitchen.
The Haven at the Chelsea Flower Show
The Chelsea Flower Show is a great British institution and a very popular event for the Queen and the public at large. Next year, we are thrilled to be exhibiting a garden at the Show for the first time. We are honoured to have a Chelsea stalwart designer, Sarah Eberle, with nine Gold Medals to her name already, creating an artisan garden that will encapsulate the essence of a Haven. A place of safety, tranquillity and beauty. Natural healthcare specialists, Nelsons, has generously sponsored this garden for the charity. The garden will then be transported to our new Haven in Hampshire where our Visitors will be able to enjoy it. We’re hopeful that, in the fiercely competitive environment that personifies Chelsea that we will be bag a Gold Medal. Watch this space.
A Visitor’s story, Georgina
I was a project manager in the building trade for 20 years. It is a very high-pressured, male environment and on top of that I was still coping with the fall-out from my mother’s death from cancer.
Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The consultant said he didn’t know how far it had spread so they wanted me in the next day for surgery.
Everyone reacts differently to terrible news but I remember splitting into 2. One part of me left the planet and the other half went totally into practical mode. I detached myself emotionally from it – this thing was just not happening to me and I had to block it out. I told the consultant that I couldn’t go in for surgery immediately as I had 3 projects on the go with 26 men working for me and I had 3 days to sort out the work and back up. I was back working within 8 days and I worked the whole way through my radiotherapy. I very rarely even mentioned my illness to anyone. It was as if it hadn’t happened.
My world imploded 4 years later. I had come back from overseas and work dried up and so I floated for 6 months. There were days when I couldn’t even get out of bed. I was heading for a deep depression but didn’t even realise it at the time. I had buried my illness so deeply that it had started to affect my whole life – mentally, emotionally and physically. I was discovering that you just can’t bury a traumatic event like this without it having some kind of effect later down the line. Luckily for me a friend reminded me about The Haven and suggested I try Mindfulness.
I went along and something in me just clicked the minute I walked through the door. Throughout my illness I had been alone. I retreated into myself and wouldn’t let anyone near me. What I loved the most about The Haven was that I could just come in and sit and be. I didn’t feel bad about myself, I didn’t feel a failure. I could be honest and didn’t feel I was being judged. Here were people I could talk to about my feelings – something I had never done before as all my energies had been spent on just keeping it all together.
Because of coming here you could say that cancer saved my life. It forced me to stop the destructive life I was living. It took me 4 years to get to the stage of coming because I had been in denial for so long. They have helped me with my mental outlook. I had faced my own mortality and the fear that goes with it. It’s so difficult to talk about deep emotional and personal fears and this is where The Haven and its wide range of treatments and complementary therapies, was able to help me to start sorting things out for myself. The therapists are so friendly, professional and understand how the mind and body work together in people with breast cancer.
The Haven has had a life-changing effect on me. It has helped me to get out of the working trap and indirectly has given me the mental strength to sell my house, move out of London and start a new life in the country. I could not have done it without the support of the people here.
I felt I had lost control of everything but now I am taking care of myself, paying attention to my diet, exercising every day, something I hadn’t done for years and I’ve learnt that I mustn’t isolate myself. Every time I come here I leave with a smile on my face and lighter of heart.
Now opening in the evening in London
Thanks to the generosity of two trusts, The Haven has been able to go ahead with a six month pilot project of extending its opening hours to 8pm each Wednesday to increase our accessibility, particularly for people who are in full-time employment, as well as keep therapy waiting times to a minimum. Throughout the pilot we have offered one-hour appointments for the following individual therapies: acupuncture, counselling, massage, reflexology, healing and welfare benefits and money advice. Our Information and Support Manager, Sonia Peart, has also provided first consultations (a one-hour session where people come in to discuss their diagnosis and treatment and put together a programme of therapies at The Haven), review sessions (after six therapies every Visitor has either a meeting with Sonia, or our Clinical Nurse Specialist, Tina, to discuss how their therapies are working for them, and to make any necessary changes to their programme), and has been on hand to answer any ad-hoc clinical enquiries or telephone queries. We have also held a new group evening fitness class.
Take up of the service has increased by 62% in the second two months. Three therapies have so far been particularly popular during the evening hours: counselling, clinical support, and acupuncture which reflect the overall most requested therapies at our London Haven. We are particularly encouraged to see that nearly a quarter of the 68 people attending evening sessions in the first four months were new Visitors who had not visited The Haven before, some of whom were Visitors’ partners who were able to access counselling sessions after work. We are so far delighted with the progress of the pilot which will continue until 16 July, take a pause over the summer months and then restart from 10 September until the end of December.
The Countess visits The Haven in Titchfield, HampshireRenovation is underway on the building that will become our next Haven in Wessex which will serve the South of England. We were honoured to welcome HRH The Countess of Wessex to the building that will soon be home to this new facility. This was the first royal visit to the area for over 150 years and needless to say it was a memorable day for The Haven as well as for many people from the village who lined the streets and dusted off their flags to greet and welcome her to the area. The Countess took a tour around the building and made time to speak with many of the people whose tireless fundraising efforts and support have contributed to making the Haven in Wessex a reality. During a speech at the end of her visit, HRH told guests:
“I remember when this building was just being talked about and now it is here. Clearly there’s a lot of work to do but once it is finished, it will be the jewel in Titchfield’s crown”.
Website launchAt the end of May we were delighted to launch our new and much improved website thehaven.org.uk. The new site is far more intuitive for our Visitors to use, is easier for our reception teams to update with information about groups and classes, and the calendar is now easier to navigate so Visitors are easily able to find out what is going on at The Haven on any given day. So far the feedback we have received from Visitors has been very positive, with many of them commenting on the bright, attractive design.
New nutrition seminarOur Haven nutritionist, Julie Webb, a highly skilled nutritionist with many years’ experience in cancer support, will be running a new workshop in London, ‘Supporting the Immune System’. During the two-hour workshop Julie will explain how the immune system works and suggest ways to support the body’s natural defence system to reduce some of the burdens that everyday life can place on it. Julie will also discuss certain food products on the market that claim to ‘boost’ the immune system and there will be plenty of time for questions during what is sure to be an interesting and well-attended workshop
Supporting healthy eatingHistorically our kitchen in London has opened from Tuesday to Thursday every week, but from the beginning of April we have been trialling opening it on Mondays too. Our kitchen is run entirely by a group of dedicated volunteers who cook fresh, healthy, nutritious food – in line with our Healthy Eating Guidelines – for Visitors and their families. The kitchen is open to everyone, and we often have people popping in for a healthy lunch even if they don’t have any therapies booked in that day. It’s a wonderful place where people chat to each other and socialise and, if the new Monday opening proves popular (which it has done so far) we will consider it on a permanent basis.
Reaching more people affected by breast cancerOur Hereford team’s outreach programme which aims to support people who can’t get to the Hereford Haven, continues. In June they ran a very successful support day in Cwmbran.
Tracy’s story, Visitor to the Haven“For most of my life I have been a career girl, working in London and abroad as an event’s organiser. I loved my job, and was headhunted to work on the London 2012 Olympics. Just over a year ago I made the decision to move back to Yorkshire, to be closer to my family, and to look after my parents as they get older, which seems ironic now.
I found the lump whilst on holiday in Spain. There is absolutely no cancer history in my family but I knew I needed to get it checked out so I rang my GP from Spain to organise an appointment for when I got home. My GP referred me to hospital and after a nerve-wracking two week wait I had a mammogram and ultrasound tests. When the nurse said that I needed a biopsy there and then I realised something really was wrong. The doctor say “it looks like it might be breast cancer” but it took another two week wait before I found out for certain.
As soon as I walked in the room for my appointment I knew the outcome because the breast care nurse was there. The doctor confirmed that it was breast cancer and asked straight off if I would prefer a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. I was confused and thankfully the breast care nurse was there to guide me through the decisions I had to make on the spot. I asked “so how long until you take it out?” and when they paused I said “I’m coming in tomorrow!” I was sent home with a pile of leaflets, including The Haven’s, but I was too scared to read through them then. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening to me, and just bury my head in the sand.
It was around the time of my lumpectomy that I contacted The Haven. I was scared of coming, I didn’t know what to expect, and I was wary of meeting other women with breast cancer. Initially I only wanted to know about nutrition, but after my first consultation where I learnt about all the different therapies on offer, I decided to try some of them. I’m so glad that I did. I have always been a slim and healthy person, always on the go and I and rather took my healthy body for granted, so learning to listen to my body and realise when it is tired has been a bit of a learning curve for me. The Haven has helped me to learn how to relax, to welcome the relaxation and to realise that my body needs it.
I did go and see the nutritional therapist and she was extremely helpful. You can read so much on the internet that it becomes confusing so it’s great to have the clarity and practical advice from an experienced professional. It has actually been the combination of lots of different therapies that I have found to be particularly helpful. The herbalist is very good, not least because it is so helpful to be able to talk through your symptoms with someone who has heard them before, and can give you hints and tips to help you through it all. The aromatherapy massage is wonderful – and really helped with the awful ‘cording’ of my veins from the chemotherapy drugs. It is just so nice to be touched in a soothing way, a lovely contrast to being touched in a medical and invasive way. I have also found hypnotherapy really helpful. It really helps you to focus your mind. There is so much information thrown at you along with this huge, life-changing and shocking news and the sessions just helped me to focus and make the decisions I needed to. I also attend the relaxation and visualisation group. It was hard to concentrate in the first session but the more you go, the more it attunes you to the next session and the more it gently alters your outlook on life to a more ‘positive’ light.
I started chemo just before Christmas and it is awful. I cried at my first session, and just hoped that I would scrape through without my body being too physically changed. The effects are cumulative, so they get worse each time, and nobody tells you everything before you start. Around the same time I joined the Young Women’s Support Group at The Haven, and I cannot tell you how helpful it has been to me. The majority of women that you see at hospital appointments are a lot older, and so it is nice to meet people my age and talk about all sorts of things that are affecting us, like getting our careers back on track and how to look good in a wig! I also found the tips for going through chemo from the other ladies really helpful – little things that make life a bit easier like sucking boiled sweets to mask the nasty taste when they give you the chemo. I count some of these women as my friends now.
The next step is my mastectomy. The hospital assumed that I would want a reconstruction at the same time, perhaps because I am a younger, but I wanted to wait and give my body time to recover before considering putting it through more surgery. I had a review session with the Clinical Nurse Specialist at The Haven to talk through what the mastectomy would be like, I just wanted to understand a bit more about the process and get a bit more information. The session was really helpful, she answered my silly questions in a language that I could understand, and it has helped me to anticipate how I will feel. It will be a big change, but it doesn’t have to be a negative one.
I am so grateful that I live in a city with a Haven. I really feel for women going through this experience who don’t live near a centre. The medical care you receive is good, but my God you need so much more than that and you can’t always rely on friends and family for that support. They don’t always want to hear more bad news, or that you are struggling. That’s why it is so helpful to be able to talk to the professionals at The Haven. It’s also good to see others doing well – it gives you something to look forward to whilst you are in what we call the “chemo tunnel”.
I am beginning to be able to look beyond my treatment. There are so many things that I want to go and see and do. I just got engaged to my fiancé Robert and I are looking forward to planning the wedding once I have my health …and my hair back!”
An update on recent activities, March 2014
Major boost for the Haven in Wessex Appeal
We were delighted to announce at the end of February that we have purchased a beautiful period property in the picturesque village of Titchfield in Hampshire, which will eventually become our fourth Haven centre. With Wessex having one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the UK, the new centre will provide vital one-to-one support for the nearly 3,000 breast cancer patients in the region. Clare Morgan who visited the London Haven welcomed this news:
“The Haven was essential for me as it provided a safe tranquil environment, particularly after finishing treatment, where everyone understood exactly what you were going through. No one should have to travel far when they feel ill, let alone travelling into London from as far as Portsmouth during chemotherapy. The breast cancer patients of Wessex really need this essential one-to-one support centre closer to home.”
Tocover the costs of purchasing, refurbishing, and converting the building into a Haven, as well as providing initial running costs for the first two years, the Haven in Wessex team has to hit the fundraising target of £2.5m. So far over £800,000 has been raised through a series of events, challenges, grants from trusts and foundations, and major donations. We hope to be able to open the new Haven in April 2015.
The Haven in your kitchen
In January we launched a much awaited book, The Haven in your kitchen Seasonal recipes for healthy living. This new publication is a companion to The Haven’s Guide to Healthy Eating which we published in 2013. This latest Haven publication aims to educate and inspire breast cancer patients and their families to use food to develop a healthier lifestyle. We have received excellent feedback from Haven visitors and non-visitors alike who have all been amazed at how tasty healthy food can be. The new book has over 60 recipes based on the four seasons and packed full of beautiful photographs. The book is available from our website at a suggested donation of £10 ($16.50)
An evening with Martin Clunes
Martin Clunes, the British actor best known for playing the title role in the hit comedy TV series Doc Martin, got behind The Haven in a fundraising event this month. The actor took part in an intimate, but frank, interview about his life and career in front of an audience of his fans and Haven supporters. An audience member asked Clunes “I’m sorry but I’ve been asked by one of your fans in America – what do you smell like?” The surprised star replied: “Nivea with a bit of Matey bubble bath at the weekends”. It was a terrific and fun evening and the charity hopes to raise thousands of pounds through an online auction which includes a walk-on part in the next series of Doc Martin.
A Visitor’s story, Mausumi, 44
I qualified as a doctor in 2005 and moved up to Yorkshire to work in Leeds and be nearer my parents. I was diagnosed in summer 2013. After a five hour appointment at the breast clinic I was told I had grade four breast cancer and that I was likely to need a mastectomy and chemotherapy. One of the problems of being a doctor yourself is that people assume you understand exactly what is going on and that you can take news about yourself as a medical professional rather than as a human being, which you can’t. It was a horrible experience and I was on my own which made it even worse. Fortunately, I did see the breast care nurse afterwards who was incredibly kind and supportive.
My first reaction was shock, and the initial fear that it was terminal. I wasn’t that familiar with breast cancer terminology and to me hearing “grade four breast cancer” was very scary. My second thought was more positive – I had no regrets. I had followed my passion for travel and had seen the world. As the news sank in, I started to worry about telling my family and friends. We had had a particularly tough year, losing a friend to lung cancer, and my father being diagnosed with prostate cancer. I wasn’t sure how they would take yet more bad news. The hardest person I had to tell was my Dad. I had to wait until after the Wimbledon semi-final so I didn’t ruin it for him, but when I told him, he was in tears. Nothing prepares you for having to break the news to everyone else. It’s awful and I found myself having to stay positive and console the person I had just broken the news to. I was surprisingly calm but also in a bit of a daze.
I had initially heard about the Haven at a doctor’s education evening and was so impressed that I took some information back to my medical colleagues, so when I was diagnosed I immediately got in touch. I needed something to get me through the treatment and help with the anxiety I was feeling.
I went to an introduction day where I found out about everything the Haven had to offer and it was good to meet other women there. I then had an initial consultation with Debbie. It was so helpful being able to talk things through with her and together we decided on my programme of support. I saw the nutritionist, and the medical herbalist who gave me some herbal medicine to help me get through my first few sessions of chemo. She was so kind and gave me great hope. I also had Reiki, which was amazing and deeply relaxing. I have also tried lots of the different groups and classes, including tai chi, yoga, belly dancing, a mindfulness course and the sing therapy group. It’s great to be able to come here. It provides a structure to my life at the moment and it is such a supportive environment to come in to. It feels like family, and it means so much to find that there are people who really care about you, and want to help you in whatever way they can.
You are treated very much as an individual at The Haven and the support is very flexible when your situation changes. I had a particularly difficult time between my fourth and fifth chemo session, when I was told that the cancer could have re-appeared. I became very anxious as the potential reality of my situation started to sink in. I saw Debbie again who saw that I needed some help with dealing with anxiety and preparing for the future. I went to a meditation group that very afternoon, and immediately felt much better. Thankfully there was no reoccurrence.
I’ve now finished treatment and am excited about the future. I want to work more closely with breast cancer patients, and get involved in using mindfulness when dealing with pain and illness. I can’t sing The Haven’s praises enough. You just enter this amazing, nurturing environment and feel supported. You can turn up looking however you like and there is no judgement, just complete empathy. It really has changed my life. Thank you so much.
An update on recent activities, January 2014
The Haven in your kitchen
Later this month we will be publishing a much awaited book, The Haven in your kitchen Seasonal recipes for healthy living. This new publication is a companion to The Haven’s Guide to Healthy Eating which we published in 2013. It is our hope that both these books will help educate and inspire breast cancer patients to use food to develop a healthier lifestyle. The charity’s nutritional therapists have chosen healthy recipes that have been particularly popular with our Visitors for people to try at home. The new book, which will have over 60 recipes based on the four seasons and packed full of beautiful photographs, will be available to order from our website from the end of January.
Opening up our service to help more people
From February, the London Haven will be trialling a new service which will enable more people to access our programme. Up until now our service has only been available during office hours, Monday to Friday, but thanks to funding from a trust we will now be able to open one evening a week, offering help to those patients that are unable to access our service during working hours. The trial will run until the end of July and if we see a good take-up of the evening opening we will aim to roll this out across all our Havens.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month boosts awareness and funding
Throughout October The Haven ran a series of awareness and fundraising events under the campaign banner Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each Haven had a packed programme of activity involving the local community, our Visitors and our corporate supporters to help boost awareness of our unique support service and raise vital funds for the charity. We were delighted to have raised nearly £170,000 during the month from this activity.
The Haven in Wessex Appeal
The appeal finished 2013 on a high with a stunning carol concert held in the prestigious and historic chapel at Winchester College. The beautiful candle-lit service included readings from several celebrities including Julian Fellowes, the creator of the hit TV series Downton Abbey. So far the Appeal has raised £800,000 which has made a substantial dent in the £2.5 million target to open a new centre in Wessex.
A Visitor’s story, CJ
I was pretty proactive with screening because my maternal aunt had breast cancer, but when I asked my radiographer “what do you think” and his sharp intake of breath confirmed the worst, I was totally unprepared for the complete shock I felt. Our adopted boys were then 8 and 11 and my first thought was that I didn’t want to die and abandon the boys – they had already had the upheaval of adoption in their young lives – I couldn’t do it to them again.
Following the initial shock and fear I became strangely calm. I didn’t want the boys to suspect that anything was at all wrong. They needed stability in their lives so until we knew what we were dealing with, I wanted to keep things as normal as possible for them. I got on with telling my close friends and waiting for my treatment. I had a lumpectomy, six cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The cumulative effect of all this made me feel awful. Chemo leaves you very vulnerable to any infections and although I looked after myself and stayed away from lots of people, I just could not miss my sons’ Christmas concerts, so I took the risk and sure enough I caught a cold which put me in hospital for five days.
I picked up a leaflet about The Haven at hospital when I was first diagnosed. I was keen to try anything that might help, so I came in and met the nurse specialist who discussed what support might be most beneficial for me. I spoke to the nutritional therapist who analysed my diet and suggested practical ways that I could improve it; maintain a good weight and even out the peaks and dips in my energy levels. I also had acupuncture which helped to increase my white blood cell count so that I could stay on schedule with my chemotherapy appointments. Keeping to schedule was really important to us as a family because changes to the plan were very unsettling for the boys. I also knew that I needed some help in managing stress on a long term basis and this is where mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) really helped. I went to a class and could see how it would be really useful so I signed up for the Haven course to learn more and I can now practice it at home and it has become a part of my life.
Coming to The Haven has been very good for me. Even just coming in for lunch, to read some books and have a chat with some of the other women going through the same thing is very restorative. You don’t have to explain your situation to everyone – they all just understand.
An update on recent activities, September 2013
We are getting closer to opening our fourth centre
In April we announced our plans to open a new Haven centre in the Wessex region of England. This area, which encompasses Hampshire, parts of Berkshire, Dorset and Sussex, has one of the highest numbers of breast cancer diagnoses in the UK. There is currently very little support available in Wessex to help people face the challenges of this dreadful disease so there is a clear need for our unique support programme. We need £2.5m to reach our goal of opening a fourth Haven and we are delighted to report that we have already raised well over £550,000. It is hoped that the new centre will open towards the end of 2014
Business-men reach the summit of one of Europe’s highest peaks
A lawyer, a banker, a consultant, two property experts, a financier and an IT specialist with a combined age of 350, have successfully climbed to the summit of the notorious Matterhorn in aid of The Haven in Wessex Appeal. Arguably one of the most challenging peaks in the region, the 4,478metre exposed ascent features a twelve hour rock climb and is notorious for claiming more lives per year than any other rock face in the Alps. The group had previously had very little mountaineering experience but trained hard as part of their preparations for the climb. They all made it to the top and managed to raise an incredible £155,000 towards the Appeal.
Helping cancer patients know their employment rights
Getting a cancer diagnosis can have a huge financial impact as people face lengthy treatment programmes and debilitating side effects causing them to take extensive sick leave. The London Haven has introduced a new seminar designed to give patients confidence and reassurance by helping them work out their rights and protections. This includes advice and guidance on: entitlement to sick pay and annual leave, time off for medical appointments, changes to working conditions and rights to privacy and confidentiality.
A short film about The Haven
A short film about how The Haven has helped three women recover from breast cancer was made in time to be launched at the charity’s annual signature event, Blush Cabaret in April. The film tells the women’s individual stories about the impact of having a breast cancer diagnosis but also how The Haven has given them a more positive outlook through its programme of therapies and support classes. The film can be viewed here.
A Visitor’s story, Maggie
“I had an almost inevitable feeling about my diagnosis. I’d found a small and very painful lump which stopped me sleeping in my favourite position and I just knew it was cancer. I was in the middle of a really a really terrible family crisis and I just thought “Yes of course it’s cancer - just one more awful thing to deal with,” though in a strange way it did make me focus more on myself instead of the family problem.
I was dealing with a lot of emotional pain that had nothing to do with the cancer and I also have had ME for about seven years, so was feeling pretty stressed. I knew that stress would lower my ability to cope with treatment and recovery and with so much going on, I knew that I needed some strong emotional support.
I was seeing an NHS nutritionist who recommended The Haven. She said, “They have the fullest information for dealing with all areas of breast cancer care,” so the day after my first radiotherapy session I phoned and spoke to the Haven Programme Manager. At my first appointment we discussed what was available. I wanted to have aromatherapy which had been helping with my ME symptoms for a while and also nutritional advice. I also needed help with my emotional upset and stress.
The individual counselling sessions really helped to get to the roots of my emotional problems and have given me effective techniques for dealing with strong negative feelings and stress. Group sessions such as Emotional Freedom Technique and Mindfulness taught me how to quiet my mind when things are stressful. I feel more secure in my ability to choose the right nutrition to keep me healthy and the aromatherapy sessions were blissful and calming.
All the advice I was given helped greatly and it was all given with calm reassurance and empathy. The Haven is aptly named. It has been my lifeline for almost a year now and I know will continue to be there for me.”
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