Support 100 New Haven Breast Cancer Patients

by The Haven
Vetted

         We won a Gold Medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

For the first time ever, The Haven exhibited a garden at the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The artisan garden, designed by nine times gold medal winner Sarah Eberle, was called Breast Cancer Haven and aimed to evoke the feelings that our Visitors get when they walk through the doors of our Haven centres. The stunning garden design, which centres around a willow woven oak leaf ‘nest’, is inspired by The Haven’s uplifting and reassuring support programme. We were all delighted to win one of the coveted Chelsea gold medals. The whole Chelsea experience has given us an unprecedented opportunity to raise awareness of our charity’s breast cancer support programme to around 200,000 members of the public that visit the Show every year.

          Another great London Marathon for The Haven

We had more runners than ever taking part in the London Marathon for The Haven in April. And for the tenth year running, a postman from Hereford, took part in his postie uniform and managed to raise an amazing £20,000. We are so grateful to these amazing people who help raise the vital funds we need to run our services.

         Our service users take to the catwalk

Leading UK premium clothing brand, LK Bennett, organised an evening of fashion and beauty to raise money for The Haven. Six of our London Haven service users took to the catwalk to model the brand’s spring/summer collection. We were delighted that the event raised well over £2,000 for the charity.

          Putting secondary breast cancer patients first

In conjunction with the UK’s leading website for parents, Mumsnet, we have just launched a spring campaign which aims to raise £50,000 to provide tailored support services for people coping with the emotional fallout and long-term treatment for secondary breast cancer.

         A Visitor’s story, Hannie

 “The people at The Haven have been my saviours. They gave me support when I needed it, helped me to understand what’s important and get my life back on track.

I was 29 when I noticed a lump in my left breast. I went to the hospital and they didn’t think it looked too suspicious and told me not to worry about it, but I just knew that there was something wrong. After the lump became larger my GP sent me back for a biopsy and the results showed abnormal cells.

My mother and brother were with me when they told me the diagnosis and they both started crying but I started laughing, I couldn’t control it, I think it was just total shock.  The doctor looked at me and asked if I was alright but I just said I was fine, I then turned to my mother and brother and said it’s alright I’m fine. That same week I had a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant.

I was advised to terminate the pregnancy - they needed to concentrate on looking after me but I told them that I wasn’t prepared to do that and would let nature take its course.  I moved back in with my mum.

Within a week I went in for surgery and as I was 6 weeks pregnant at the time they changed the order of my treatment and decided to give me chemotherapy no earlier than my 2nd trimester.  

 When I started my chemotherapy I was working as a media consultant for a local newspaper and I did this right up until my daughter was due, looking back I don’t know how I managed this .  The weekend after I left work my contractions started and my daughter was born on the Monday.  It was a traumatic birth, I lost lots of blood and later haemorrhaged and they had to rush me back into hospital and give me a blood transfusion.  Because she was premature my daughter was born with a serious stomach condition Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) and was given special fluids and kept in hospital for 6 weeks.   The day that she came home I had to go and have my second round of chemotherapy.   In the meantime my relationship broke up, my partner had promised to support me through my treatment but found he just couldn’t handle it.

I was determined to look after my daughter myself and I think I went into automatic “Mother” mode which just kept me going.  

This should have been the end of it but unfortunately the cancer came back very aggressively. They put me on a new course of chemotherapy drug and said if this didn’t work they didn’t know what they could do but they would help me through it.   My chest was the size of a watermelon but the new drug had an amazing effect, it halved in size with the first treatment and continued to reduce in size with each treatment. I then went in for a double mastectomy.

While all of this was going on I was living at my parent’s home but declined their help because if anything happened to me, I wanted to be the one who had done everything for my daughter.    My scars from my mastectomy were having trouble healing which they put down to my weakened immune system and then just as I was about to start my radiotherapy more lumps came up and so I had to go in for more surgery.   I had my 16 sessions of radiotherapy and that was all fine.    More recently I had a lump come up in my right breast so I had yet more surgery and a further 15 sessions of radiotherapy. The latest scan shows that it has not come back but I feel as if I am in limbo at the moment. I have been through an awful lot but my daughter has been my saviour. She’s 18 month’s old now. I think if she hadn’t been there I would have lost myself. 

Recently one of my friends from work was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and she asked me for advice.   I gave her what advice I could and she told me all about The Haven.  I’m so glad that I picked up the phone and went along.  They have been an amazing support and made me feel so welcome. They really listen which is so helpful especially when there is so much going on in your head.  Sometimes I have to take my daughter and they are always so nice to her, they don’t judge you they listen to you. I wish I had known about The Haven a lot sooner as it could have really helped me as I went through my treatment. I have had various therapies, acupuncture was amazing, massage left me feeling really relaxed and the nutritionist gave me some good dietary advice and recommended vitamins to take.   I’m now looking forward to going to “Mind and Body” session to help with stress.  

I look at the future now more positively, a year ago I had been really scared not knowing if I was going to make it or not but I just want to be here with Grace and watch her grown up.   I really appreciate that I have had 18 months with her and now when I look to the future I think if it comes back, it comes back, I’m not going to get upset about it, I’ll just deal with it. 

The people at The Haven have been my saviours. They gave me support when I needed it, helped me to understand what’s important and get my life back on track.”


Attachments:

The Haven: Breast Cancer Support Centres

An update on recent activities, February 2015

        Hats off to the new Haven!

In January, a team of builders, donning pink hard hats, started the renovations for the new Haven centre on England’s South Coast otherwise known as ‘Wessex’. The work to the beautiful 18th century building will take around six months to complete and we look to open this new breast cancer support centre in October 2015.Once open the centre will be able to cater for breast cancer patients located around the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth and beyond.

          Tea party craze raising money for new Wessex Haven

Teams of supporters across the South of England have been raising several thousands of pounds for the new Haven centre by organising tea parties. Dubbed the Million Pound Tea Party, hundreds of people from all walks of life have been getting out their best china, baking cakes and inviting their friends for tea, fundraising for the appeal in the process. We are hoping to raise around £50,000 from this campaign.

         All you want to know about Downton Abbey

Lord Fellowes, the creator of the globally popular period drama, Downton Abbey, will be hosting an exclusive lunch for supporters of the Wessex Haven appeal next month. The lunch and a talk will be themed around the TV series and guests will also have the opportunity to ask questions about Lord Fellowes’ life in film and television. Any money raised from ticket sales and an auction will go towards the new Wessex Haven appeal.

         Testing a new service model

It has just been announced that we will be working in partnership with an NHS (National Health Service) hospital in the city of Worcester to test a new Haven service model. For the first time, we will be offering a satellite service from the premises of a brand new, state of the art breast unit in the grounds of the hospital. All Haven services have been available from our stand alone centres since we established in 2000. Having high quality clinical and holistic care under one roof will be the first of its kind in England and if the model is successful we could be looking at replicating the service at other NHS sites across the country.

          Making a garden into a ‘haven’

 Plans are coming on well for the charity’s garden – Breast Cancer Haven – for the highly popular British institution, the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Chelsea Flower Show. The designers, Sarah Eberle and Tom Hare, now have a clear vision of the artisan garden will look. It will attempt to catch the essence of a Haven centre where people feel safe, relaxed and inspired. The show will run from 19 – 23 May and The Haven will hope to scoop one of the coveted awards.

         A Visitor’s story, Kalpana

 “If it hadn’t been for The Haven, I couldn’t have retained my fighting spirit or sanity”

I have worked in many roles from hotel receptionist to sales and market research and in 2008 I was working for TFL when I went for my NHS breast screening.  They discovered I had a lump in my left breast which after further investigation was diagnosed as a stage 2, grade 3 tumour.  When discussing my treatment plan with the consultant, we agreed that I would have a lumpectomy and radiotherapy but I felt I couldn’t go down the chemotherapy route as I thought it would be too much to cope with, whilst caring part-time for my unwell and disabled Mum.

I was preparing to get back to work in September 2013 when I was called back for a routine check-up.   It was Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a Breast Care Specialist nurse noticed swelling on my neck.  I had just thought it was excess fat but the nurse was not happy and organised a biopsy for the next day.   After further scans the news was not good, the cancer had returned and now I had metastases in my lung, liver, skull, right shoulder, and left leg and at the base of my spine. 

A support nurse at St. Thomas’ Dimbleby Cancer Care asked me if I had tried The Haven. So I investigated and immediately found The Haven an uplifting environment and the sessions go hand in hand with my medical treatment.  I have found the acupuncture and reflexology sessions have really helped and the meditation workshop was particularly useful.  I like the way The Haven gives you the opportunity to meet other people includingtherapists, staff and visitors.

At the moment I feel in limbo as I have consented to an 18 week trial of chemotherapy, to keep my tumours in my liver under control. I don’t know how long I have left but I don’t feel hopeless about the future, the Herceptin I am taking has shrunk my tumours and given me time to regroup.  I am very grateful for The Haven, it is such a welcoming environment and they have time for you, which they often don’t have at hospitals.  I appreciate the way in which The Haven recognises the benefits of the integrative approach and through their sessions like meditation and yoga, aim to support your body and mind together.

After the shock of cancer returning, it was comforting to come here. It’s a sanctuary for me where I can meet others going through the same thing. If it hadn’t been for The Haven, I don’t think I would have retained my fighting spirit or sanity.


Attachments:

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.


Attachments:
A warm welcome to anyone affected by breast cancer
A warm welcome to anyone affected by breast cancer

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, Hampshire
Renovation 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 launch
At 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 seminar
Our 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 eating
Historically 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 cancer
Our 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!”

Information and Support at The Haven
Information and Support at The Haven
Our new Haven in Hampshire
Our new Haven in Hampshire
Lymphoedema prevention exercise class
Lymphoedema prevention exercise class
Fitness classes for people with breast cancer
Fitness classes for people with breast cancer
Reflexology
Reflexology

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.

 


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Organization Information

The Haven

Location: London, -London - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.thehaven.org.uk/​
Project Leader:
Hannah Daws
London, United Kingdom
$12,397 raised of $90,000 goal
 
220 donations
$77,603 to go
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