The Haven: Breast Cancer Support Centres
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.”
An update on recent activities, June 2013
The Haven has now helped over 10,000 people with breast cancer
In April we recorded our 10,000th Visitor at The Haven since the charity established in 2000. Our celebrity ambassador Kimberley Walsh, said: “I experienced at first-hand just how vital The Haven’s support was when they were able to help a dear friend of mine. I am glad to say that my friend is now cancer-free and is living a full and active life. More and more people need to know about this amazing charity which offers such an important life-line to people who need emotional and physical help at such a traumatic time of their lives.”
Fight cancer by getting fit
There is growing evidence from research studies suggesting that physical activity can reduce the impact of cancer symptoms, the side-effects from treatment and in many cases reduce the risk of cancer returning, improving long-term survival. UK charity Macmillan Cancer Care recently published a report which underlines the importance of physical exercise. In response to this The Haven has introduced a new class at its London centre which is a gentle introduction to getting fit and keeping fit through a combination of cardio-vascular exercise and strength training.
Why The Haven is needed
We know that a growing need exists across the UK for the specialised help we give; sadly, the rate of incidences of breast cancer is increasing. Statistics released earlier this year showed that in 2010 almost 50,000 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, which equates to 136 women per day. Recent figures have also shown that the number of younger women diagnosed with breast cancer now totals more than 10,000 a year, an unprecedented development. While many women with breast cancer now have a more positive prognosis than ever before, we must be sure that each and every one gets the support she needs so that both she and her family can cope with the tremendous impact of this disease.
New Haven services reach more people with cancer
Our new partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support has proved very popular in meeting the needs not only of our Visitors but also of patients with any type of cancer. Macmillan have provided a substantial grant towards two new posts in our Haven in London: an Information and Support Manager, to liaise with medical and community networks, to increase healthcare and patient awareness of our free services; and a Welfare Benefits and Money Management Adviser, to provide information and advice for Visitors and others with cancer on issues such as entitlement to state benefits and welfare provision. To date these new posts have supported 246 different Visitors by providing specialist advice services. Having to cope with breast cancer and all that comes with it is hard enough for anyone, but for those who are struggling on a very limited income it can seem overwhelming. This new service provision can make all the difference.
Comedy helps raise funds for The Haven
An evening of comedy and cabaret raised a massive £80,000 ($121,556) for The Haven. The charity's signature event, Blush Cabaret, now in its tenth year took place at the intimate Cafe de Paris in the heart of London's West End. After a three-course dinner and live auction, well known comedians and cabaret artists performed for free.
A Visitor’s story, Pat Williams, Hereford
When I felt a small lump in my right breast the size of a pea I didn’t react too quickly because I couldn’t always feel it. With the benefit of hindsight I wish I had. When the hospital confirmed that it was cancerous, panic set in. I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I always felt well and was never ill. I remember going to bed that night and crying to my husband Pete that I didn’t want to die and leave him and my daughter, Victoria who was just eleven. Later, Pete emailed our friends but I just felt numb and I couldn’t talk to anyone.
Our main concern was for Victoria. Should we tell her, how would she react? We decided to tell her and answered all her questions as honestly as we could but without scaring her. She asked if I was going to die and if she would catch it - to which of course our answers were ‘no’.
When I spoke to my breast care nurse and doctor I started to feel a bit better but my first set-back came when I went in for a mastectomy and they found that the cancer had spread to my liver and spleen. As the realisation that I had secondary cancer dawned, I once again felt scared and numb. We decided not to tell Victoria about this latest blow.
During six months of chemo I felt very ill. I suffered with sickness, mouth thrush, constipation and diarrhoea. I felt spaced out and had no sense of taste. I was so tired that I needed an hour’s sleep most afternoons just to get me through the day. I felt desperate, depressed and couldn’t look at anything positively. Despite my supportive family and friends I felt very alone and my outlook on life was very bleak. I was emotional all the time and just couldn’t talk to anyone about it. One Sunday, having dinner at a friend’s, Pete read an article about The Haven in the Worcester County Magazine. The next day he phoned up and booked me in and I’ve never looked back.
At the introduction day I just cried for most of the day. I could barely talk to anyone but one conversation I do remember was with Jan, the breast care nurse who said: “Try to look at having chemo differently. It may not have got rid of the cancer as you were hoping, but it has stopped it from spreading.” Such a simple line but true. It turned my life around and I started to think about things more positively from that point on.
After the introduction day I was given my free programme of therapies at The Haven. Acupuncture helped with nerve problems in my hands and also arthritis in my knees for which my knee surgery had been put on hold. Acupuncture kept the swelling down and with an aid of a stick, I am still mobile. I saw the nutritional therapist who helped me to change my diet by reducing my dairy and sugar intake and the medical herbalist suggested milk thistle which helps the liver to function. I have also had reflexology and shiatsu, Tai Chi and counselling, which has been invaluable.
More setbacks came when cancer spread to my pelvis then lungs and more recently my bowel. We decided to tell Victoria and she is coping very well. Once a month I come to the secondary breast cancer support group. It is totally invaluable and helps tremendously. The ladies who attend this group are amazing and give me hope. They are so supportive and fun to be with. They listen, advise and encourage and are a total life-line – one that I wouldn’t have without The Haven.
Three years on, I feel optimistic about the future. My lung cancer has cleared, my pelvic cancer is reducing and my liver and spleen are stable. I’m a naturally positive person but I still have off days and get scared - I don’t think that ever goes away. I make the most of every minute of being with Pete and Victoria, and if an opportunity comes our way, we take it. I have had the most amazing support. My family and friends are so strong and supportive and the people at The Haven are wonderful too – really encouraging and no matter how you feel they can empathise. They help get me through each day.
An update on recent activities, March 2013
Helping more people through the trauma of breast cancer
The Haven has seen well over 200 new Visitors across its centres since January. Breast cancer diagnosis has unfortunately risen in the UK over recent years. While it is great news that people are surviving longer with better treatments and earlier diagnoses, it does mean that there are more and more breast cancer patients out there that need our in-depth and personalised support. We are now embarking on an expansion programme so we can help more people and have already started raising funds for a new centre in the South of England. Watch this space.
Surgery Monday, catwalk Sunday!
Our Yorkshire Haven organised an amazing fundraising event in early March which involved 18 of its Visitors as models for a fashion show at a top hotel in Leeds. The Blossom event celebrates breast cancer recovery and underlines how our help can get women back on track and re-build their self-confidence. Marie Phillips who has had a bilateral mastectomy bravely offered to model some swimwear and lingerie. She then discovered that the final part of her reconstructive surgery was due literally days before the show. She still went ahead and strutted her stuff on the catwalk! We salute you Marie.
Mothering Bunday – making buns to raise funds
The people of Hereford will be going baking crazy for Mother’s Day in the UK which is on 10 March. To coincide with this day when we celebrate and reflect on motherhood, our Hereford Haven is encouraging people to get baking buns and other tasty treats to raise funds for The Haven under the campaign banner Mothering Bunday. The idea has already captured the imagination of the local population with an ever growing social media presence. Please like them on Facebook
Helping breast cancer patients with their weight
The Haven in London introduced a new class after Christmas due to a growing need. One of the side effects of breast cancer treatment is weight gain and once that treatment is over people find it hard to shed those pounds. Our nutritional therapist introduced a new weight management class in January taking place weekly, offering helpful tips, tailored advice and recipes. It has proved to be very popular with our Visitors who are now well on their way to achieving a healthier weight.
A Visitor’s story, Hannah Rains, 26, London
I was originally misdiagnosed at 22 years old, so I had been living with a cancerous tumour inside me for nearly two years. Knowing only a little about cancer and its progression I was sure that it would have spread to other areas of my body but tests and scans later showed that fortunately this was not the case, although it had spread to my lymph nodes.
All of my initial concerns and worries were surrounding my late diagnosis. Once I had CT, bone and MRI scans that showed the cancer had remained local, I began to focus on the surgery and treatment ahead. I decided to move back to my hometown of Leeds for my treatment which meant moving away from my boyfriend of six years who was studying for a degree at the time. Emotionally I started to struggle and physically I was suffering from fatigue, difficulty sleeping and anxiety.
I went to The Haven in Leeds who put together a programme of support for me. It included Shiatsu massage and reflexology which both helped hugely with the physical symptoms and helped me to relax. Just getting out of the house and having somewhere to go at a time when I was at risk of infection was good for me. The Younger Women’s support group was really helpful and beneficial. Although I was still quite a bit younger than the other Visitors, it was so good to meet other people in a similar situation, who understood what I was dealing with. We always stayed after the group to enjoy a healthy lunch at The Haven and continue our chat. I’m still good friends with some of the women I met there.
I am now living back in Newcastle and have returned to work as a Physiotherapist and finished my course of herceptin in June 2012. I recently passed the one year mark of taking tamoxifen – only four to go! The Haven is a wonderful, relaxing and welcoming place to go at any point before or after treatment. Everybody that I met was so friendly and supportive and I can’t thank them enough for helping me through the toughest part of my life.
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