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”.
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
Our new Haven in Hampshire
Lymphoedema prevention exercise class
Fitness classes for people with breast cancer